Kat O1O (Ouano) is a pianist, keyboardist, and beat-maker born in Philadelphia, living and working Oakland, California. She graduated from Berklee, where she met her bandmates in the popular Bay Area hip hop band, Crown City Rockers.
She has just put out her first solo album, titled Natural Phenomenons on ((O1O)) Sound. Her music is best described as classically-influenced experimental electro-jazz.
(Quannum Projects Press Release)
It takes a certain type of person talented enough to release a 17-song instrumental record as her solo debut, Natural Phenomena (out DATE on Quannum Projects). Not everyone, however, is Crown City Rockers’ keyboardist Kat O1O, from which follows that not everyone is able to make an Eno-meets-Pink-Floyd-meets-Madlib trip to a universe very similar to ours – but also very strange – with such ease and aplomb.
Album titles can, if they’re good, help give a basis and direction to the music contained, and there has perhaps never been one so fitting as Natural Phenomena. Each track name plays on a term for an actual occurrence, a seemingly otherworldly event (as Kat explains, the bubble-like pouches of the mammatus cloud, the spontaneous combustion of eucalyptus tree, the bright flash of a bolide, phosphorescent plankton on the sea) that comes out of something wholly biological. Similarly, though the songs themselves are wet and spacey, with instruments that squelch and twist in ways that you’d never expect, they never stray too far to feel overwhelmingly abstract, too unattached to reality.
This is partially because of the Fender Rhodes, one of Kat O1O’s favorite keyboards, and its warm, earthy tone is the foundation of all the tracks. Analog and digital synths are layered on, effects are added pre-production and post-, homemade samples are stretched and looped, but there’s an organicness about it all, even if it’s hard to describe exactly what it is, or to tell exactly what’s making it (for example, in “Geminids And Perseids,” which has a beat built from the stuttered rhythm of a printer reloading, what sounds to be an ethereal woman’s voice is in fact a Theremin).
But there’s also, even in the more experimental of pieces, a structure to the Bay Area musician’s compositions, an understanding in the beauty and importance of a hook, of a melody. “My Mirage,” which begins with a Daedelus-like opening, builds into a something that could easily fit into any forward-thinking pop song, and, while “New Moon At Perigee” has a beat Diplo might covet, it ends up feeling more relaxing than anything you might find in the Baltimore clubs. The songs’ titles inform their composition, but the associations aren’t forced. “In A Cosmic Tornado” references its name, with a keyboard line in front of the pulses and swirls, but doesn’t go overboard; it succeeds as a musical piece, regardless of name.
Recorded, written, produced, and performed nearly entirely by herself (Crown City Rockers bandmates Woodstock, Headnodic, and Max MacVeety contributed some drum programming, mixing, and drum breaks, respectively), Natural Phenomena is a look into a world that few people are lucky enough to have, quite literally, at their fingertips. It’s that mixture of left-coast sun and trippy beats, music that doesn’t need words because it’s the instruments themselves that have the conversations, but that still, in a very real and concrete way, speaks to its listeners. It’s a rare person who can claim that ability. But then, again, not everyone is Kat O1O.
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