Album Review: Black Onassis – ‘Desensitized’

Chris Karloff’s new project, Black Onassis, sees the former Kasabian member join forces with NYC musician, Nick Forde, as well as a host of guest vocalists, including Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit, Ben Gautrey of Cooper Temple Clause and Morgan Kibby of M83, and it seems that Karloff is very much a supporter of the multiple contributor approach: “Working with multiple singers makes writing every track a unique experience, a new musical adventure”. And every track on new album, ‘Desensitized’ is indeed unique. In fact, each track is so different from the last that it is sometimes easy to forget you are listening to the same band.

Whilst vaguely reminiscent of the pumping, electro-indie of Kasabian, Karloff’s latest creation signals a definite change in pace, and style. Recorded in New York, ‘Desensitized’ is a wonderfully bizarre concoction of traditional psych-rock with experimental, hypnotic trance. Fusing traces of ‘80s electro pop with the throbbing symphonics of Parisian house and incessant electronic beats, ‘Desensitized’ is an eclectic array of melodic structures, with less of the indie and more of the dancey than we may be used to from Karloff.

‘Desensitized’ is filled with tracks such as ‘Iso’ – intense amalgamations between the heavy industrial rock sound of the likes of Nine Inch Nails, with the electro pop beats of Kraftwerk. At times, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being transported to a banging ‘90s rave. Not exactly my location of choice, but an interesting listen all the same. The appropriately entitled ‘ADHD’ is as intensely energetic and relentless as one would expect, with pounding pieces of Drum and Bass thrown in. Recent single, ‘Brain’, is probably the most Kasabian-esque song on the album with soulful, electro-indie beats reuniting Karloff with his past.

With the majority of the songs on the album throbbing with propulsive electro beats and intensity, more melodic interludes such as ‘TripB’ stand out, for me, as the more listenable and likeable tracks. Juxtaposing an upbeat tempo with the beautiful vocals of Liela Moss, ‘TripB’ is an eerily captivating few moments of tranquility amongst the storm of sounds that is ‘Desensitized’. Likewise, third-to-last track ‘Ether’ is a beautifully haunting, and welcome, come down from the intense energy of most of the album.

Whilst ‘Desensitized’ does lack consistency, therefore, this is to be expected from an album boasting such an array of different guest appearances. It is a unique and generous offering from Karloff, who appears to be sharing with us his experimentations and works in progress, trying to find his sound – Black Onassis have put together an eclectic range of sound bites for us to chew on, and the result is an interesting listen, to say the least.

‘Desensitized’ is out 23rd September on the band’s own label, Minus Man Records.

Mari Lane

Mari Lane

Editor, London. Likes: Kathleen Hanna, 6Music, live music in the sunshine. Dislikes: Sexism, pineapples, the misuse of apostrophes.