Dusted Reviews

Momus - Ocky Milk

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Momus

Album: Ocky Milk

Label: American Patchwork

Review date: Nov. 12, 2006

Momus devours and resynthesizes ideas with the kind of voraciousness that has made him – for American listeners at least – a tricky artist to get into. Literariness in and of itself is not necessarily a turn off for American listeners, but only inasmuch as this term applies to the Ray Carver/Bukowski/beatnik axis. Nick Currie’s music and lyrics belong to a territory that’s wholly divorced from the ideas of authenticity that circulate around the cult of hard-livin’, hard-drinkin’, busted-down and deeply sentimental writers: here’s a musician and writer that makes art out of digesting his influences. Further sins against accessibility include the fact that he’s a postmodern Marxist, a moralist and, at his most off-putting, an unabashed orientalist who goes so far as to advocate its practice.

In his early work, he seemed intent on jamming with Brel and Brecht against a patchwork of faux-baroque flourishes, churning out crisply contoured satirical vignettes and character studies with alarming acuity. It’s tempting to claim that Ocky Milk, Momus’s latest album, differs from its predecessors in that it forgoes this articulate, ludic approach in order to privilege texture over readability. In the nature of things, however, this is the kind of false binary that pops up conveniently when progressive art is made. (Check out his ‘theory v. feelings’ narrative that recently tried to make sense of Scritti Politti’s latest.)

What’s immediately striking about the album is its quietness. Momus uses space and silence to great effect throughout the album, and his approach clearly bears the mark of “Summerisle Horspiel,” a collaboration he completed with French artist Anne Laplantine shortly after moving to Berlin. This recent relocation, which he has diligently chronicled on his blog, is doubtless a major catalyst in Ocky Milk’s construction. Momus is, in an important sense, a transgressive artist: his early music was as much about scandalizing English/Western sensibilities (a track off his first LP, Tender Pervert, describes angels who “pump their cocks” while spying on human acts of self-destruction) as making good, smart pop music. The incomprehensible war in Iraq, along with the global environmental effects of generations of exploitation, normalized as rational self-interest, is as responsible for the album’s ‘benign sobriety’ as Momus’ own displacement: Ocky Milk feels like a reaction against bling society just as much as it feels like him settling into a new space intellectually.

“Moop Bears” stumbles through the gate with vertigo-inducing stereo channel ping-pong. By the time it starts to cohere and articulate a recognizable melody, things start to sound like the Animal Collective was commissioned to write the theme music for a TV show targeted at awesome Japanese 8-year-olds. The next three songs anchor the album while preparing the listener for the mistier grounds that follow. “Frilly Military,” one of the first tracks leaked from the album, has the kind of mellow velocity that allows Momus’ voice to take up our attention in a way that it hasn’t before – in a compressed, near-whisper voice with a judicious amount of vocoder thrown in for aural geometry (think a less voracious version of Cher’s “Believe” bionic double), Momus spiels out lines that don’t seem to quite match up, switching between personae and narratives in a way that he hasn’t committed to before.

The album bears out its genre title of “Absurdist Asian Torch” on centerpiece “Nervous Heartbeat,” on which heart-wrenching strings lifted from Sublime Frequencies radio scans segues into the minimal electronic sequencing as Momus intones incomprehensible and yet wholly relatable glossolalic truths that seem to be about love. “Hang Low,” however, may be the album’s defining track: Momus sings the song’s descending melody in a voice that is always just on the cusp of lapsing back into air as a busy guitar figure indexes abstract squelches. While the album’s politics may be primarily textural, this doesn’t prevent the song from voicing its underlying concern: “hang low/ hang low/ and do no evil.”

By Brandon Bussolini

Other Reviews of Momus


Read More

View all articles by Brandon Bussolini

Find out more about American Patchwork

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.