As throughout their history, Oxbow grapples with channeling man’s most primal urges through a framework of meticulous, cultured, and cerebral instrumentation. But the unadulterated electric roar and percussive barbarism of their past work wasn’t as wholly satisfactory as it had been in the past. Other flavors were deemed necessary and called into play, both to slake unnamed thirsts and to suitably fit the Thin Black Duke’s lyrical themes, but also to explore the further reaches of Oxbow’s studied approach to tension and release, structure and dissonance, and melody and abstraction.
Consequently, the attentive ear will notice recurring musical phrases and motifs throughout Thin Black Duke. Noticing such details isn’t necessary to absorb and appreciate the album, but as Wenner suggests, “I think I’m not the only one that finds a visceral satisfaction when you can look into something you like deeper, and deeper, and find more and more there.”
Oxbow’s principle duality can be seen in the conflicting creative strategies of Wenner, who serves as the band’s highly disciplined composer and arranger, and Eugene Robinson, Oxbow’s imposing vocalist and lyricist. Wenner is prone to discussing the specific process behind the songs, the co-production duties shared with Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, Frank Zappa, Morrissey), and the operas that seem most congruous to Thin Black Duke. Robinson, on the other hand, begins the discussion of the album by saying“lucre and cash, the twin fuels that fund all of our excessive shames and glories undergird a terrible kind of amoral economy that helps you make total sense of why you might be murdered for $100.” While Thin Black Duke’s elaborate compositions were years in the making, Robinson’s vignettes about “the places where all that glitters IS gold, and evil is a quaint concept born of a moral framework in a place that is shorn of morality” were born over a decade ago. Written without any song structures in place, the sordid details are howled, bellowed, growled, and spat out in a manner that seems to defy the rigorous order of the music.
If there was a battle between disciplined reasoning and base instinct waged within Thin Black Duke, it ultimately seems like the animalistic impulse won. “I remember hashing through the elements of some of these songs, aware of the urges which inevitably come up to make the stuff sound like things you’ve done before, or things you like now, or things you have always loved,” bassist Dan Adams says of the writing process. “Niko steadfastly pushed, repeatedly saying things like ‘you just need to give in to what feels good.’ Greg (Davis, drummer) had a mantra: ‘look, whatever we do, it will be an Oxbow record of Oxbow music, meaning a lot of people probably won’t like it. And that’s perfectly fine.’” And while it’s true that the conflicted nature of Oxbow may not yield the most immediately palatable contributions to pop culture, it is nevertheless an intriguing journey.
“It is a great luxury to let yourself be part of an organism which just does things as it does,” Adams says in summary, “Though, in Oxbow, ‘doing’ is extraordinarily inefficient, convoluted and anything but effortless.”
20-04-2017 Futurum Music Club, Prague Czech Republic w/ Sumac
21-04-2017 Doom over Leipzig, Leipzig Germany w/ Sumac
22-04-2017 Dude fest, Karlsruhe Germany w/ Sumac
23-04-2017 Roadburn festival, Tilburg Netherlands w/ Sumac
24-04-2017 Magasin 4, Brussels Belgium w/ Sumac
25-04-2017 The Dome London, United Kingdom w/ Sumac
26-04-2017 Brudenell Social Club, Leeds United Kingdom w/ Sumac
27-04-2017 Patterns, Brighton United Kingdom w/ Sumac
28-04-2017 OTB Night @ Gibus Live, Paris France w/ Sumac
29-04-2017 La Grange A Musique, Creil France w/ Sumac
01-05-2017 Magnolia, Milan Italy w/ Sumac
02-05-2017 Bronson, Ravenna Italy w/ Sumac
03-05-2017 Le Romandie, Lausanne Switzerland w/ Sumac
04-05-2017 Feierwerk, Munich Germany w/ Sumac
05-05-2017 Cassiopeia, Berlin Germany w/ Sumac
06-05-2017 A Colossal Weekend, Copenhagen Denmark w/ Sumac
18-06-2017 Supersonic Festival, Birmingham United Kingdom