What’s in a band name? I personally think that the name of a group can have direct influence on said musicians appeal to the listening public. Singular entities such as Queen and Radiohead seem monolithic and mysterious, while collectives such as Arcade Fire and Polyphonic Spree are inviting and joyous. A tendency towards pastoral ideas can be implied with an animal name like Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear, or a feeling of intensity and edge in the case of Nine Inch Nails. All of the aforementioned musicians have attained some sort of fame, and I would surmise that many casual listeners have been enticed by the words that these artists have chosen to represent their singular ideals. Because of these stated feelings about the importance of band image and language, I find it difficult to become entranced by a musician titled oOoOO. What is the meaning of the o’s in the name? Why are some capitalized while others are lowercase? Are they zeros instead of letters? These are all questions that run through my mind as I began to absorb oOoOO’s most recent record, Without Your Love.
Falling into the category of ‘Witch House,’ a genre of music that I have heard of but never intentionally sought out, oOoOO is the creation of Christopher Dexter Greenspan, a San Francisco based artist. In checking the Wikipedia page describing ‘Witch House’ I was intrigued to discover that is an avenue of music not only associated with occult subject matter, but also chopped and screwed hip-hop beats. The page also suggests that ‘Witch House’ artists oftentimes use symbols or strange characters in their band names in order to make them more difficult to Google or find information on (perhaps the reason for the seemingly random string of o’s that serve as Greenspan’s moniker). With these genre signifiers and ideals in mind I returned to Without Your Love listening specifically for eerie lyrics and off time rap beats.
This new ear approach to the album most definitely served me well, as tracks like “Mouchette” and “The South” snapped into focus within the aesthetic of the aforementioned ‘Witch House.’ Both tracks in particular could easily be utilized as the basis for hip-hop songs. Later on “Misunderstood,” Greenspan even adds some catchy guitar to the synthesizer and sampled female vocals that are present throughout the record. It is definitely the album’s most immediately striking song, and warrants repeated listening for full appreciation of the array of sound being played.
In the end, my listening experience with oOoOO was a surprisingly pleasant one. Although I still find the name of the project to be somewhat ridiculous, and difficult to type, I definitely understand how the music of Christopher Dexter Greenspan fits within the ‘Witch House’ genre. It is at times formless and sonically uninviting, yet occasionally there are glimmers of groove and beat to pique the interest of the listener.