1. Do you like being annoyed?
2. Do you constantly find yourself listening to music and thinking, “Ah, man, this is pretty good, but I sure wish this band would knock it off with these well-written songs, forceful riffs, and wistful melodies and just meander on for ages with a minimum of interesting ideas”?
3. Have you ever hoped beyond hope that all the visceral thrills of waiting for hours at your local DMV – a treat for all the senses! – could be concentrated and distilled into pure audio form?
If you found yourself answering ‘yes’ to two or more of the above questions, well, friend, Cor Cordium may be just the album for you. OvO is an avant-rock/whatever duo playing either an artform too advanced for mere blighted mortals (such as your humble scribe) to comprehend, or they’re the soundtrack to your next massive headache. Depends on your predilections. The general template is clattering yet mostly simplistic drum shenanigans, thick single guitar tones masquerading as either riffs or drones, and an impressive though frequently annoying range of hideous female vocals.
My esteemed colleague Jordan Campbell may have alienated a select portion of the more obtuse readership of our fine website when he quipped that, and I quote, “no one actually listens to Hawkwind” (this being the same portion, I imagine, that frowns at an Iron Maiden concert and despises general levity). So sure, I’ll bite: I don’t actually listen to Hawkwind; I listen to Space Ritual. Try this one on for size, though: No one actually listens to Merzbow, and no one actually listens to Hella or Lightning Bolt or Orthrelm or any of that other spastic netherworld between overdriven indie skronk and avant-metal. No one actually listens to that stuff. Or, if they do, it’s infrequently, and without great excitement. But hey, if you’ve just puffed up your chest at those last few sentences and felt the sharp stinging arrows of my liberally-applied snark with mortified indignation, then by all means belly up to this bar of screwball no-fun noise rock and drink your righteous fill.
“Lungo Computo” is two minutes of a dull drumbeat and dry twiddly guitar fuckery, topped off with straining guttural vocals that bring to mind Diamanda Galás with emphysema. “Nosferatu” is slightly more successful, seeing as it features a semblance of a guitar riff, but like so many of these songs, it just carries on far past the point where it should have had the common decency to fizzle out. “Marie” is very much a spiritual (though inferior) successor to the title track from Jarboe’s Anhedoniac, with the exact same vocal phrase repeated over and over with dozens of different intonations. “La Bestia” is a bit of a bright spot, both for being the album’s briefest song and for inspiring me to go listen to Melt-Banana instead. On some level, I can respect what’s going on here, and would even probably enjoy OvO as a live proposition, but if they insist on continuing to pursue a style of music that intentionally restricts itself to a few spare ideas per song, then I will insist on continuing to not listen to them. This focus on a handful of ideas works for genres with fairly well-delineated stylistic conventions (say, grindcore), but when waltzing headlong into the territory of the avant-garde, I have little patience for such purposeful self-straightjacketing.
This observation seems borne out by the fact that it’s the longer songs on the album that actually work, giving the band the time to stretch out and pull in a wider variety of textures and ideas than the frankly obnoxious tedium of the two-minute shots that adorn the rest of the album. “Penumbra Y Caos” starts off brash and drum-tastic, but then slinks into a nice drone and noise midsection that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Skullflower record. “Smelling Death Around” would be a sparsely effective mood piece, too, if it weren’t for the distractingly-fake vibrato on the vocals. “The Owls Are Not What They Look Like” is the album’s best experiment, with woozily oscillating guitar and bass tones setting the stage for odd whistling, back-masked vocals, and an efficiently martial coda. I would listen to an album full of those ideas gleefully, but Cor Cordium is not that album, and I have not been made gleeful.
So, clearly I’m not giving Cor Cordium a glowing recommendation, but chances are you’ve already figured out if you’re the target audience anyway. Though on second thought, what do I know? No one actually listens to music critics.