Who needs vocals?
In what’s my last column before I disentangle myself from Charlottesville’s loving embrace and head west, I’d like to urge you to do something I’ve urged you to do a couple of times in the past. You must go see Ostinato.
Though the Tokyo Rose no longer nabs the big small names of indie rock, Ostinato, who rock out under the sushi bar every month or two, deserve to be one of those names. And while they consistently pull in a small and loyal audience, they deserve bigger.
Ostinato’s sound owes a lot to the technology of pedals and amps that yield one-third of their whole, a guitar tone that shimmers and echoes somewhere between Neil Young and U2’s the Edge. Depending on gizmos for a large part of what makes you sonically unique could be a gimmick, but not in these hands. It could also get boring if you’re more concerned with gadgets than songs, but that pitfall also gets nicely sidestepped.
Simply put, there’s too much vigor, velocity, and musculature to the guitar playing for any sort of viscosity to slow things down. It can be pretty stuff, but the fact that it’s music that’s perfect for a moon-lit drive on winding roads has more to do with the dynamics, the way the open spaces of reverb downshift powerfully into metal chords and back again, and the way feedback kicks things into another gear not for the sake of freakouts but for the sake of the song.
In a trio, though, there’s not much room to hide. Luckily, bass and drums do anything but. If you can’t help but move to their music, it’s because of the nimble bass lines that form the backbone, strobing and bouncing and ensuring the omnipresence of forward momentum. Drums get used as punctuation, marking peaks and valleys with authority, placing explosive charges in increasing proximity until the next moment of release.
All this without much in the way of vocals, which would be redundant here— there are enough singular voices already. And though Ostinato is artful, they take the fartsy out of artsy. They sound smart, but it’s the wisdom of instincts and reactions. It’s the most powerful, physical music you can regularly hear in town. One of my favorite things, and something I’ll miss, is hearing their music coming up out of the Rose’s basement, and feeling absolutely incapable of not going downstairs. Try to make it one of yours.
Ostinato performs with Maserati, and the Mensa Select at Tokyo Rose Wednesday, April 10. $5, 10pm.