Corrode is available at:
December 23rd, 2015
FOLLOWING a rather exhaustive review of London-based Reggae artist…
Natty: I now find myself assessing an act at the other end of the spectrum. Just starting their life in music; their progression has just begun. Whilst Oxygyn have a little bit of information on social media, it is their new single that will do the explaining- I shall come to this later. Before I do, I wanted to discuss the Pop end of the market; acts comprised of siblings- completing with a bit about international sounds. One of my biggest disappointments from last year was the lack of genuinely impressive Pop music emerging from the scene. When it came to the mainstream, there was really not a lot to recommend. Although they are seen as mainstream favourites- and influence my featured act- the likes of James Bay and Ed Sheeran were still being played to death. Whilst I appreciate those artists have cache and respect: I find their music to be as flimsy and unspectacular as any around. Not delving deep and offering anything original and enduring; it was quite a fallow year for the Pop artists. Away from those examples, there was a bit more luck. In the underground, a few great acts emerged: Likely to translate to the mainstream soon, there was a little bit of hope. Away from the solo artists of Pop, I find duos and (Pop) bands to be more effective and nuanced. Perhaps capable of creating more depth and quality in their music: I feel there will be a shift towards these acts this coming year. Whilst 2016 has started quite promisingly- a lot of great new artists to see- the past year was a little bit ho-hum. Pop is a commodity that is always going to be a staple of radio and the charts: It accounts for a large market share and appeals to younger music lovers. Whilst Pop may be losing some of its past glory, if you dig hard enough, you can find some terrific acts. I think what is lacking- with regards the vague and meagre Pop artists- is they stick to the same subjects and do not really expand their horizons. Whilst the majority still concentrates on love and the vicissitudes of life- drawing from their personal experiences and day-to-day- it is the vocals and compositions that trouble me most. So few voices out there stun you and offer anything more than a mouthpiece for their words. The compositions occasionally stray into ambitious territory: Predominantly you have music that does not stick in the mind and seldom demands repeated listens. My featured act is a young proposition that play the good side of Pop. Whilst they have influences like Bay and Sheeran: Their sound has more in common with Daughter and Broods (much more credible and quality-assured artists) that has interested me hugely. Before I bring up a new point, let me introduce them to you:
Oxygyn is a band composed of sibling duo Kurt and Katia Abela. The songs released by the band are written by Kurt and composed by Janelle Borg. They are inspired by the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Daughter, and Broods; due to the intense emotion they portray using their music. Their dream is to share their experiences and emotions through song and this band is the medium through which this process will occur. Follow for info about upcoming new songs, music videos, and more.
Emotions and intensity are words that can easily be applied to the music of Oxygyn: A stunning duo that has a great sound already crafted. Whilst they are at their sapling stage, I can hear the promise there and how far they can go. When encountering them- their composer Janelle Borg brought them to my attention- I was fascinated by the brother-sister bond. Few Pop acts have siblings among their ranks and it got me thinking. From Kings of Leon to the Maccabees: Music has quite a few recognisable bands comprised of siblings. I have mused on the subject before: When looking at duos I stated those in relationships/were close had a truly unique sound. Maybe it is that natural understanding and closeness that results in stunning music. Compared to other duos/bands- that do not feature loved ones/relatives- you get something a lot more intimate and engaging. Oxygyn not only have a stunning sound already formed: Kurt and Katia have that simpatico and history that translates into their music. Whilst it can be a hard dynamic to sustain- some bands go the way of Oasis when it comes to bickering and turmoil- it can also galvanise the act and ensure long-term success. Whilst sweethearts and lovers (in a duo) may split and go their separate ways: There is a more indelible and secure bond between siblings. From the faux-siblings of music- The White Stripes for instance- to the mainstream players like First Aid Kit; there are some wonderful examples to be found. In previous reviews, I have been lucky enough to take my sights out of the U.K. and investigate some tremendous artists. Whereas most of my non-U.K. reviews take me to Canada and the U.S.: Now I have an opportunity to go to Malta and the musicians emerging there. Over the last year, the likes of Dana McKeon and Cryptic Street have come under my radar. One of the most compelling up-and-coming music nations in the world: More attention and respect needs to be directed towards Malta. Perhaps the media has its hands full with British and American artists: If they took a chance to expand their horizons they could discover some wonderful music from less-than-obvious sources. I am not sure what the music scene is like in Malta- compared to here in Britain but there is a great connection and bond between artists. Keen to support one another and promote the country at large: You have a nation that is producing some of music’s most scintillating artists. Those Pop wonders- like McKeon and Surrey-based Chess Galea- are now joined by Oxygyn. The duo’s new single sounds like a science formula starring to develop: Oxygyn and Corrode have a scientific basis and the music offered forth mixes combustibility with a chemical reaction that is hard to ignore. I know the duo is going to be planning gigs into this year- let’s hope they get to London soon- and it will be fascinating to see how they develop and expand. With an assured and hugely memorable song under their belt: It is only a matter of time before the siblings are planning an E.P. or album. I find too few Pop artists go that extra mile and strays far away from the pack: Oxygyn have no such issues and have that early promise that is so rare these days. With instant appeal and filled with atmosphere and intensity: A perfect unity that marks them as one of the acts to watch into 2016.
If you are new to Oxygyn then it is hard to compare Corrode with anything else: This is their first cut and their fledgling steps into music. Whilst they are inspired by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Daughter and Broods; the duo very much have their own sound and merely employ faint shades of the aforementioned. If you are inclined towards any of the above artists you will find a lot to enjoy and recommend. Broods are a New Zealand that gained acclaimed from their 2014 album, Evergreen. Bringing Indie shades into their agenda: The album’s textured vocals and brother-sister bond struck a lot of reviews: Many noting how the emotional lyrics and nuanced sounds appeal to those who want music that is more than skin deep. Whilst a lot of their contemporaries promote wafer-thin compositions and no depth: Broods managed to create an album chock-full of stunning compositions and personally relatable themes. Oxygyn have that same connection, artistry and sound that the New Zealand duo create. Daughter and Ed Sheeran are other influences. Daughter- especially on their sophomore album, Not to Disappear– brings in more assertion and articulation to the fore. The songs- compared to the debut album- have cross-genre appeal- Indie and Alternative sounds gave the album edge and depth. Oxygyn have a similar make-up when it comes to their songs: You get the layered sound and personality burning through in addition to sounds that are not just confined to the Pop market.
It is best to use these guides and examples as just that. Judge Oxygyn on their own merits and discover a duo that is (actually) quite hard to compare with anyone else. It is clear the duo will be planning an E.P. and it will be fantastic to see what direction they take. Whether they expand and mix genres together will be anyone’s guess. What I do know is the quality will be consistent and they will explore new themes and ideas- keeping their core sound intact and ensuring they do not lose their focus.
Starting with an emotive and stately piano: The listener is at once stood to attention and offered something quite haunted and still. Possessing beauty and passion, Corrode begins with plenty of purpose and directness. When our heroine comes to the microphone, you get words from a troubled soul. “Skin grew tired” from voices coming and “creeping in”. Whether referencing herself- and some internal turmoil that leaves it marks- or someone else I am not sure. When the words “across my chest” are brought in; the song has that first-hand and personal nature to it. In these early phases, there is some obliqueness and indirectness with regards the lyrics’ origins. Whether a relationship has broken down or friends have betrayed our heroine, it is hard to pinpoint an exact paramour in the early exchanges. The story starts to unfold and you get some vivid images and stark emotions. It is thanks to Katia’s soulful and impressive performance- few Pop vocalists have the same ability and sound as she does- that gives Corrode such a huge weight and sense of purpose. The subject matter does not stray too far from the emotive and scarred arena: It is a song that would sound cheap and insincere were there any false emotions and needless light-heartedness. Because of the raw nature of the song- and the stunningly real performance laid out- it is impossible not to be affected and enveloped by the song (in a good way). Backed by that intense and gorgeous piano sound: You have a song that sends chills to the spine and gets inside the brain. As our heroine tries to light a flame- looking for gasoline she comes away empty- you get the impression of a young woman that is struggling to move on and gain what she wants from life. Perhaps overcome by anxiety and heartbreak; each listener will have their own interpretation and speculate as to the true nature of the lyrics. Joining with her brother, you have a duel vocal that adds intensity, breathlessness and additional shivers to the foreground. Having loved like soldiers at war- the scars are bleeding and the wounds fresh- you have big statements and images from a duo that want to make impressions and leave a mark. While some of the lyrics may stray into the tried-and-tested side of things- other artists have used the same metaphors and ideas- the way Oxygyn present them stands them aside. Not only are their vocals and performances more impressive and resonant: It is the way they deliver their lines that give Corrode such an intensity and depth. Whereas peers of the mainstream- the fly-by-night Pop acts emerging- have clichés a-plenty and a lack of grit: We have a duo that has the credibility and talent of the best Indie acts out there. Ghosts are on the mind and there are memories that are hard to forget. I get ideas of love and romance as the song starts to move along. Still plagued by sadness and suffocation- our heroine tries to speak but her lips will not part- you are dragged ever-deeper into a song that recounts a very bleak occurrence.
Keeping events level-headed and hopeful- it is never too depressing or heavy-handed- it means Corrode will have listeners coming back for more- trying to get to the bottom of the lyrics. Our heroine has had her heart manipulated and thrown away: It seems like a particular man has led her astray and taken a part of her soul. Ensuring that ‘hero’ is given a dressing-down; the lyrics are impressively mature and memorable. Having been written by Kurt; it is impressive to hear a male writer pen a song for a female voice. If you did not know who wrote the lyrics you would assume it was scribed by a female: The fact the lines have such authority and reality are a testament to Kurt’s lyrical abilities. That said, there is a universality that means both genders- and all ages for that matter- can extrapolate and appreciate the sentiments being poured out. It is when the duo combines in the chorus- and the soldiers of love’s wars lead a charge- you get the biggest emotional hit. Eliciting the qualities, directness and emotion of Daughter and Broods- two acts that are influences of Oxygyn- you have a track that surpasses the efforts of the majority of the Pop market. Keeping that composition simple and background- allowing the vocals to reign and pervade- Janelle Borg has written a backdrop that perfectly highlights the “struggle for survival” and the ghosts that swirl around the song. Leaving her soul behind: your heart goes out to the heroine as her voice keeps its composition to recall a part of her life she’d rather forget. Every second that elapses sheds new light and revelations: Keeping those lyrics open-ended enough- simple phrases that have plenty of effectiveness- you have a song that could be documenting struggles we all face. Making sure Corrode is not too personal- thus pushing some listeners away- there is that universality that all great songs are made of. The glass heart- that one suspects is shattered- is showing its age and the skin is fatigued. You cannot escape the suffocation and intensity from our heroine: The way that voice looks for comfort and answers among a gentle and tear-dropping piano line. Oxygyn are at their strongest and most compelling when their voices are married together: The siblings’ tones complement one another and provide different shades that fully exploit the lyrics’ meanings. By the closing stages, you still wonder who has caused this umbrage- if it was a former lover or a friend that has been dishonest- and no listener will be able to suppress emotions when they hear the song. Being a first single, one suspect Oxygyn will expand their sounds and subjects on further releases: Bigger compositions and bring in new instrumental elements. On a debut release, you need something that has simplicity and honesty to it. Oxygyn have created a song that could soundtrack a million broken heart moments: There’s relatability and personality mixing with passion and the quest for closure.
Ensuring Corrode does all its title promises- a heart and soul that is depleted and damaged- the lyrics, composition and vocals all have to be just right. The production polishes the song without making it soulless and mass-produced. Those vocals are allowed to sit high in the mix and ensure none of the lyrics pass the listener by. That said, the composition does not get mixed too low and is given an opportunity to impress and seduce. Congratulations must be given to Borg for penning a composition that has great familiarity: Pop and Indie lovers will find much to admire in that mix of grandeur and bare-naked emotion. There’s depth and wisdom in the notes: Spades of fearfulness and yearning that gives the lyrics the rudder and backing they require. Kurt Abela’s lyrics provide a great and new perspective on the capriciousness of love and the deceit effects: The way a heart can be damaged beyond simple words and easy repair. While there is universality in the lyrics, they also have a distinctly female perspective. Few male writers have the ability to write like this: Being Katia’s brother, it is hardly surprising he can write a song that reflects his sister’s pain. Maybe the song is a passage from Kurt’s life- he is the one who has experienced the troubles- but that is the beauty of the song. Katia’s lead vocals have an atmosphere, occasion and heartbreak to them. Sounding completely dedicated to the subject matter: It is one of the most singular and impressive vocal performances I have heard for a long time. Kurt provides evocative and supportive vocals in the chorus to augment that urgency and intensity. What you have here is a duo with a very bold first step: A song that shows a lot of promise and quality from one of Malta’s best up-and-coming duos.
One of the best things about reviewing is looking at artists that are just starting out: Helping to support those initial steps is rewarding and exciting to see. Not being the biggest Pop fan in the world, I am always filled with trepidation when faced with a Pop act: What to say and how to approach the review can be quite challenging. Whilst it is perhaps the male solo acts of Pop that elicit the weakest response in me: Thankfully, the duos are bands are creating stronger and more immediate music. Injecting that necessary atmosphere, emotion and diversity into their sounds: What Oxygyn provides is something a lot stronger and nuanced than the majority of their peers. We need dispensability and throw-away- my words rather than anyone else’s- when it comes to music: The trouble is there’s far too much of it on the current scene. Too many artists come in safe and into that mould: Sounds that could score a Heart Radio playlist or fill column inches in Q Magazine. The trouble is; music consumers- those who appreciate great music- want something a lot more daring and adventurous than that. I appreciate the likes of Bay and Sheeran have their audience but that does not mean the music is going to be any good. I am a fan of Daughters- an act that inspires Oxygyn- and gladly our Maltese duo has that necessary passion and quality. I am seeking Pop acts that reappraise my cynicism: Corrode is a song that is got inside the head and ranks alongside the most promising tracks I have heard all year. The connection and understanding of Kurt and Katia Abela- with composition by fellow musician Janelle Borg- results in music that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. Not just confined to pure Pop fans- that like things more comforting and familiar- there is plenty to recommend here. I wonder whether the duo will go and record an E.P. this year: I can see Corrode being a lead-off track and setting out the stall quite wonderfully. That will be down to Oxygyn but it remains: This duo is going to be making a lot more music to come. It is so rewarding being on the ground floor with regards an act’s career: Looking at those early songs and seeing how they are likely to progress. The duos market is throwing some fantastic possibilities into the music centrifuge. The relations and connection between the players mean the ensuing music has that strength, understanding and closeness to it. I never get tired of seeing the stunning two-pieces we are witness to: I always come away (from reviewing them) with a bigger sense of satisfaction and hopefulness. Few brother/sister duos are evident in new music, so it makes Oxygyn a revelation and rarity.
I would urge media outlets, reviewers and radio stations to play close attention to music emerging from Malta. It may not be the most obvious source for great music, but that would be short-sighted: So many of our future heroes are playing in the country right now. Maybe Malta- the radio stations and media- is not as extensive as here in the U.K. I find a lot of Maltese acts are coming to the U.K.: Reviewers assume (therefore) they are British are do not often look at the country they came from. Boasting some of our best and brightest Pop artists; there holds a consistency and range that has deeply impressed me. There are Internet radio stations- Channell Radio among them- that are doing their bit to promote music coming out of Malta. I guess it is hard to focus on music from every country: You have to draw the line and focus more on what is coming out of your home territory. Let us hope Oxygyn change perspectives and inspire more people to think more clearly and widely with regards their music choices. Not just because of their origins but the music they are providing. Corrode is a track that will not rust or tarnish in any sense: It blends honest and everyday emotion with plenty of depth and originality. In a market where they are ruthlessly efficient artists- keen to tick boxes and fit into marketing surveys- who reveal debts and dues to other stars: It is refreshing to see an act that is very much looking for respect. Too many musicians have that X Factor-esque sound that is cloying and anodyne: Artists that push the envelope and broaden their scope are always going to gain more approval and adulation. Let’s hope this year sees more acts like Oxygyn emerge: A brother-sister force that have plenty more songs in them. Corrode has been played across 89.7 Bay (a Maltese radio station) and is doing great business in Malta. Garnering some serious views across YouTube; you have a sound that has serious clout and a lot of promise. I hope they manage to translate across to the U.K. and U.S. this year as their sound mixes elements of Daughters and Cryptic Street- country-mates that have a tremendous sound- into something wonderfully pleasing that stands up to multiple plays. Check out this Mosta-based act and a Pop act that are worthy…
OF a long and successful career.