Band O.O.O always showcases top-notch instrumental arrangements. A masterful stacking of different guitar tones and riffs characterizes the band’s sound, as do the light and candid vocals and catchy melodies. O.O.O has proven this with their first EP, Home. Their second EP Garden does not steer far from what Home has done and shows a struggle to find a pace and intensity that works best for them.
“나는 왜” starts off the album with exactly the kind of guitar stacking O.O.O is good at. The drums provide only the bare minimal, while the bass guitar gives an element of change on which the melody and rhythm guitars can show off their attitude. The attitude gels well with the straightforward vocals, no one sound overpowering the other.
The introductory guitar riff of the second track “혹은 진실” signals an elevation of mood in the album, but the drums soon keeps the speed in check by maintaining the beat in larger chunks. This song is an exercise in finding different points of emphasis, where the complexity of the bassline fluctuates to fill whatever space is left by the vocals and guitars and guides the listener’s attention. The panning of the guitars is also a point to admire.
The heightened emotions culminate in “밤과 마음,” going full on with the attitude. The chopped up drum beats make up for a simpler bassline and laidback guitars, but this structure is soon reversed in the chorus. The reverbs and effects on the vocals at the end amplify the catharsis while still keeping it coherent with other instruments’ sense of space.
A summery blues track “내일 아침” awaits as relief from the previous track’s explosion of emotions. This band always uses a similar set of guitar tones, but this song manages to give them a reassuring feel instead of the typical attitude. Once the intensity subsides, O.O.O’s ability to craft good melodies shines through.
The tension is brought back in “푸른달” with the funky bassline and distorted guitar riffs. The distortion feels uncomfortable with the rest of the instruments though, as if the band is intentionally holding back what could have been a much more intense set of sounds. Maybe the clear vocals and melody did not work well with the intensity, but I am left wanting a bigger explosion in the latter half of the track.
The next track “별” brings the pace down, and the discomfort continues. Listening to this track feels like watching someone run in slow motion, especially during the chorus and instrumental break.
The last track “너의 어젠, 나의 오늘” relieves some of this discomfort by fusing the familiar with smaller elements of change. While the arrangement of instruments is generally similar to what has been tried and true, the soundscape is full of distortions and the composition seeks diversity by drastic changes in pace.
The band had a lot to say in its liner notes about the concept of the album, how this is a continuation of a loner’s journey from Home to the Garden and beyond. While this kind of storytelling approach is appreciable, right now O.O.O’s music feels like someone who only knows how to run is trying to learn how to walk. It can keep going with the intensity that it is good at, or go the more difficult path of mastering other styles. Its next album will hopefully have some definitive answers.