Penrose Winoa, the debut album from Oro Swimming hour (Oliver Wilde and Lucky Shivers’ Nicholas Stevenson) is a charming yet gloomy slice of inspired lo-fi pop.
The half-minute long “Cardinal” opens with mid-tempo acoustic guitar chords and Wilde and Stevenson beginning what is perhaps the closet-to-the-mic singing you’ll hear all year. A serene slide guitar lick joins in, almost Hawaiian in timbre, before the song abruptly finishes to the sound of faint voices speaking in the background; over and out in the blink of an eye. This pretty much sets the tone for the entire album, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable as a full body of work.
“Marshmallow”, like many of the songs here, sounds as if it’s been recorded on worn-out tape, causing the pitch to fluctuate and create a dreamy, albeit slightly unnerving listening experience (file next to Magic Potion.) “Lip” instantly recalls the lo-fi melancholia of bedroom composer Alex G, with it’s detuned acoustic guitar strums, soft vocal harmonies and neat call-and-response guitar licks.
“Marshal Arts Washing Cars”, featuring Bristol artist Nugget, contains the album’s most stunning harmonies, as well as a very inventive use of that sound caused from frantically rubbing your index finger up and down your lips whilst blowing. This may sound like an awful idea on paper, but Oro Swimming Hour somehow turn it into the most interesting pseudo-synth noise put to tape in recent memory.
Perhaps the main criticism of Penrose Winoa is that some of its best songs are simply too short. And yet whilst most of the songs here may be sonically repetitive (likely due to the self-imposed limitations of it’s DIY recording process), Oro Swimming Hour have developed a style that suits them perfectly, and their exploration of such a sound is what makes this album such a cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Penrose Winoa is out via Art Is Hard Records on 28th July. Catch the special release show this Friday (21st) At The Well Laundrette – details and tickets here.