Style: Psychedelic Rock
Release Date: 31 May 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | YouTube
A psychedelic rock album from Bangladesh? Yeah, I'm in for finding out what that sounds like! And it sounds pretty good. Oboyob were founded as Chaotic Symphony in 2009 and renamed a year later to the more appropriate Oboyob, a word which apparently means "indistinct form or figure". I like it. With its bonus track, Abirbhab runs just shy of an hour and, even though it's often laid back, it never gets boring. In fact, each listen is more involving.
Ambitiously, it begins with the longest song on offer, Upolobdhi, which at almost ten minutes is certainly an exercise in patient build. Initially, it reminds of Cream's Tales of Brave Ulysses because of how the melodies run, but the overall sound is closer to a relaxed Pink Floyd. The middle section allows for extended soloing over a simple but effective beat. Opening with a ten minute song is a gamble but this one paid off.
While the majority of the album continues to be patient, merely at shorter lengths, the band don't stay there throughout and patient doesn't have to mean quiet or soft. The finale of Ditiyo Shotta is particularly frantic and that opens up with a pondering bass and playful drums, before the guitars join in to make the whole thing playful. The band know how to experiment, but they're comfortable enough doing so that they often make it feel very, deceptively, simple.
What they do best, I think, though, is to trawl the history of rock music for ideas to roll into their original sound. Every time I feel that I know where they got a particular feel, they change it into another one. Ditiyo Shotta, for example, has a Clash-esque punky sound for a while but it moves away from that, into prog territory and even adds a fantastic double bass run to wrap it all up. It builds gloriously, one of the aspects of this album I enjoyed the most.
Oboyob cite many influences, not just the expected prog and psych bands of the seventies or earlier, but more recent alternative names like the Verve, Chris Rea and Porcupine Tree too and it's this mix that helps them find an original sound. 1980 seems to be a real dividing line in influence, with a lot of bands taking their sounds from either side. Oboyob refuse to choose sides because they like both. This is a band who take influence from both Pink Floyd and Radiohead, but shift back and forth between those eras when each particular song requires it.
There's a lot more to their sound though. I heard a lot of Marillion here too, though alternative Marillion rather than overt prog Marillion. It's in certain transitions but it's especially in the vocals with the singer (and I don't know which of the two it is) on Oronne... Kolponay... reminiscent of Steve Hogarth. The bonus track, Shada-Kalo, has an old school U2 flavour with a little of the Pixies' Wave of Mutilation, the UK Surf version. These are clearly alternative in nature.
However, the album also gets heavy at points. Otopor Bastobota begins as a deceptively simple song but it adds in real urgency through a vicious guitar tone underneath the soloing. It's not metal but it and the song to follow, Shadhinota, are as close to metal as the album gets. Shadhinota starts out funky and then adds in a riff that reminds of Symphony of Destruction. For a rock band, they're a pretty good metal band too.
In short, there's a lot that's reminiscent here, sounds that run the gamut from Cream to Megadeth, but it's so mixed together that none of the tracks feel derivative. At the end of the day, Oboyob sound like Oboyob and that's an important thing for a debut album.
What I didn't hear was anything overtly local in flavour. I'm not sure what the band's Bangladeshi influences sound like but when I caught world sounds within songs, they aren't particularly eastern. The first half of Nogor o Nagorik, for instance, feels like Jethro Tull channelling Caribbean music, something I never thought I'd write.
This isn't a problem, I should add, but I'm going to continue to wonder what Bangladeshi psychedelic rock sounds like because this feels like psychedelic rock that merely happens to be performed by a band from Dhaka. What matters is that it's very good psychedelic rock. I'll be exploring this album for a while.