One of the best oddities of this years Eurovision was the utterly discordant misery pop of Conan Osiris. His song ‘Telemoveis’ for Portgual, which was met online with fanfare but flopped in the semi-finals, introduced me to a musical curiosity. Earlier this year Conan had released his latest album (without the aforementioned Eurovision track) and its an experimental, detuned party.
Opening with ‘Body HMMYES’ we are introduced to Conan’s style. Simple basslines, Eastern percussion, Brazilian and Latino woodwind motifs and very strange samples. This track features coughing as a synth. It works really well and between the coughs and flutes, there’s a weird playoff again each other. Conan Osiris doesn’t sing on the tune either. He leans into his phrases so he is always between notes. On the following track ‘MissingU’ it works really well as the reggaeton beats and South American percussion roll around him. Its constant stumble around its chords and melody is an acquired taste and it creates an anti-anthem. ‘Quinoa’ is probably the most straightforward track to try yourself out in with dog bark patterns, Eurobeat synths and a catchy woodwind and drum section.
Once you tune yourself into Conan Osiris you’ll find that he sticks to a similar theme and sound and production but mixes up the country influences. ‘Majin BQQ’ feels like we’ve gone deep into a tribal jungle feel. The breakdowns and vocal calls really push you forward over the animal noises and claps. ‘Atowa’ is like a creepy out of tune FKA Twigs whereas ‘Exame De Pastelaria’ takes raj like balafon sounds and creates an Indian sounding slow-motion drone. ‘Baba Yaga’ is like a cross over of rainforest dances and zaps from a ZX spectrum FPS shooter game. For the second half celestial keyboards slide in to balance the dance out only for ‘1OVNI’ to go nuts like a Dance Dance Revolution euro rave track… with cheap accordion synths. To say this album is barmy is an understatement but this is about the only track that didn’t work for me.
As the album enters its final quarter, Conan Osiris shows no sign of calming down. ‘Senpai’ starts off calming before exploding into waves of jangling zithers. Conan takes little notice of their tempo and sings at his own tune and passion over the top. ‘Yalla 50 Angels’ goes into Turkish dance with heavy bass drops. Throughout the album, a lot of Conan’s English lyrical snippets feel utterly random and here he declares ’50 Gods in this bitch – 50 angels in this bitch… endlessly!’ I genuinely don’t know but it’s still a bop. I think my favourite track is the penultimate track though. ‘Coruja’ brings all the craziness and discordant sad dancing together in a slower throbbing pulse. Conan’s voice hits all the right minor keys, the chants and percussive loops build the track into an oppressive anthem of sadness. The album ends with the dramatic piano-laden ‘Same’ which is played at speed classically over heavy ethnic drums and wavy synths.
Quite frankly, Conan Osiris misnamed his album. This is anything but normal music! If you get drawn into this weird and unusual world of crazy sound samples, obtuse lyrics, complex beats and worldly instruments though you’ll find it strangely endearing, comforting and hedonistic. Approach with caution but be prepared to say ‘I’ll give that one more listen’. Plus or minus 1.5 from the review score if you like or dislike music designed to be slightly detuned. I found it great.
Recommended track: Coruja
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