Review: Obey Cobra ‘Oblong’

Hailing from Cardiff in South Wales, Obey Cobra are shrouded in mystery, or at least thin on the ground for a researcher to get their teeth into, but appear to have been crafting their sound for the last two years or so and were highlighted by Wales’ Buzz Magazine at the start of the year as ‘ones to watch’ with their diligently crafted brand of experimental, post-punk electronic, stone, doom, psychedelia.

Obey Cobra ‘Oblong’

Essentially a Welsh super group fronted by Inanna Meets The Dawn front woman Kate Woodward, the band has been born as a combination of Boris A Bono and Oblong (band) blending electric ambiance and doom heaviness.

Released earlier this year, their debut album Oblong is a statement of intent in nine tracks that ebb and flow, almost like a journey rather than a set of songs than you can pick out and dissect. Music is an emotive art form, whether it’s the string strings of something like Vangelis, or the brutal bludgeoning of Cannibal Corpse, Oblong is far easier to describe as an emotional experience than to try and break it down into individual elements.

The opening 7 minutes that is OK Ultra is densely atmospheric and moves between light stirring strings, that could almost be a film score, colliding with shoegaze as it stretches ethereal, orchestral like arrangements with choral vocal effects.

There’s a kind of slow weeping melancholy and beauty in the considered sombre start that fades into giant riffing, in a somehow muted yet powerful manner. Like all good instrumental musical pieces, it relies on the cunning ability to recycle and return to motifs, changing and expanding, whilst still topped off by vocal effects making the second half to the piece darker and dream like.

This dream state is crashed by the almost industrial stomp of Capita which brings the first real sharpness of the post punk influence. Part Riot Grrl attitude, part mechanised insanity and part Garbage like pop, the track jars against the gentle beginning with screaming buried in the mix to unsettle and set you on edge.

Barely pausing for air Sunflowers is almost a gentle indie track that shows off Woodward’s voice as the centre of a considered plodding piece of droning intensity. On the surface it feels quite benign, but as it evolves, particularly on the chorus, there is something unsettling about the whole thing. Like a scratch at the back of your brain you can’t quite ignore, the seemingly innocuous nature of the title dragged down by a bleak synth.

Obey Cobra have produced a melting pot of styles, made an album that sounds modern and yet manages to invoke the past…

The first really standout moment comes with Sophia Can’t Walk, a pulsing piece of beat poetry over a low key guitar and drum shuffle sounding like a cousin of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control that spirals into savage delirium as the music teeters on the edge, and the addition of horns makes it seem even more off kilter.

The said horns then form the segue into the opening of Intermission, which itself seems like two tracks as the honking stops and the second half of the first track is revisited with choral effects, pounding instrumental and the addition of chanting lyrics.

The second half of the album definitely has a darker, moodier feel, like the gothic phase of Chelsea Wolfe’s material, with Dim Break being a notable highlight as Woodward shrieks and wails over walls of heavier, cavernous droning walls of doom. The album fades on a stuttering electronic note with angelic vocals almost sinking into quiet peace.

Oblong is a cinematic experience as I suggested. It exists in a space designed to evoke a feeling, rather than give a sense of cathartic release. It’s clear from the press surrounding them that they’re tipped for big things, they even have a (albeit Spartan) page on BBC Music, every piece of writing I have found on them boasts gushingly about their genre straddling output and they supported Pigs x7 and Acid Mothers Temple back when the world seemed comparatively normal, okay when we were allowed to do things at least…

Personally I’m a little more restrained but Oblong is an extremely well executed album. Obey Cobra have produced a melting pot of styles, made an album that sounds modern and yet manages to invoke the past. It is not always an album that demands your attention and some of the ebbs and flows means that your attention can wander, which is why it’s important to have moments like Dim Break to yank you back in.

In some ways the ability to manipulate your interest is sometimes the whole point of the genre, for example it can be argued that the glacial tones of Jesu aren’t meant to captivate you for the entire running length, and Obey Cobra have crafted a sonic story that takes many twists and turns along the way.

Definitely an album of layers and repeated listens draw them out to make for an improved listening experience.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden