by Katie Hanford
A band with as many revivals as releases, Ovlov’s latest full-length showcases their versatility within the current influx of ‘90s-inspired spacey slacker rock. Despite a five-year hiatus, Ovlov have returned to the scene with a similar approach - fat guitars amounting to a punkier version of shoegaze’s wall-of-sound – albeit in a more refined manner than their earlier releases. On TRU, Ovlov manages to contain the noise so integral to their sound in a dynamism that blends the guitar musings of gazey greats (MBV, Lush) with the slacker rock sensibilities of indie darlings (Pavement, Dinosaur Jr), amounting to a record that pays tribute to its influences while maintaining a fresh identity.
Though lead singer/main mastermind Steve Hartlett has had a knack for arranging space throughout Ovlov’s catalogue, the production value on TRU brings this dynamism to another level. On “Stick,” soft guitar twinklings and driving basslines swell to massive barrages of noise in an instant, crashing back down into the groove as soon as they began. Although seemingly random at first listen, careful examination proves that these bursts are calculated and purposeful.
TRU’s innovation lies in the quality of the noise; whereas past Ovlov tracks fall into a more brash/lo-fi side of the modern indie world, TRU’s production is crisp and concise: the guitars wash without bleeding into the rest of the mix and the reverb on the drums is present but contained, with consistently tight basslines to hold everything together underneath. The beauty of Ovlov’s dynamic mastery lies in their ability to transition between the obvious and the subtle in a moment’s notice. Unlike the sudden attacks of noise in “Stick,” the sleepy arpeggios of “Tru Punk” barely change throughout the track. Yet a simple adjustment in the drum presence provides ample transition from verse to chorus and back again. And, unsurprisingly, the track finishes loud, building to a whirling buzz of guitar-driven insanity before coming to its abrupt close. Despite unabashedly borrowing sounds from past innovators (the guitar drones at the end of “Best of You” could have come directly from Loveless), their amazingly executed dynamism keeps Ovlov away from being pigeonholed into a ‘90s rehash or a shoegaze nightmare.
Overall, TRU sits at the best of Ovlov’s output, straddling the line between ‘90s indie nostalgia and shoegaze dreams without compromising their own creative identity. Here’s hoping this time they’ll stick around for a while.