The London-based duo of baritone saxophonist Joseph Henwood and drummer Tash Keary – release ‘SLICE’ their first EP, on Speedy Wunderground on 24th November 2023.
Coming hot on the heels of last November’s debut single “OGO” – which won enthusiastic support from Stereogum, Loud & Quiet, DJ, NME and Rough Trade – Slice is a four-track snapshot of the duo’s first two years of existence. “Slice” and “Grouchy” turn sax and drums into pneumatic patterns of riff and rhythm that draw from the muscular viscerality of metal and the dancefloor dynamics of build and drop. “Moon”, meanwhile, snakes a limber saxophone line through a variety of dub production styles. And the closing “ATM” takes up a familiar melody with subversive intent, repurposing it into something that swings from beauty to rage and back again.
Says Tash: “We played loads of gigs before we ever got in the studio, so we had lots of tracks to choose from. We picked these four because they’re all quite different from one another, while showing off all the styles we like to play.”
The pair recorded the EP live with Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey at his South London studio. Following the recording, the three subjected the tracks to an array of post-production tricks, making full use Carey’s enviable selection of vintage dub production units. “Dan’s got a full collection of spring reverbs, tape delays, digital delays, bucket brigade delays and plate reverbs,” says Joe. “We don’t see ourselves as a dub group or anything like that, but we both really love heavy, bass-driven music, and none of this stuff would exist without King Tubby.”
As the circular simplicity of their name suggests, O. are a true self-contained unit. They formed in London during lockdown, when Joe and Tash – both veterans of a string of London ensembles – found themselves in a bubble together. When they started jamming, it was with no preconceptions: don’t overthink it, just play and see what happens. Before long, though, they were augmenting live instruments with effects – Joe routing his saxophone through a pedal board, Tash treating her drums with reverb and delay. As their sound grew and grew, it gradually became clear there wouldn’t be space for anyone else.
- played their first show at Brixton Windmill, and the venue’s booker Tim Perry invited them back to support Black Midi. Immediately after their set, Black Midi’s Morgan Simpson invited them out on tour around the UK and Europe – a true trial by fire. “I think our fifth gig was at Alexandra Palace – it was terrifying,” remembers Tash. “But the main thing we learned was that we can be as weird as we want to be. Black Midi’s whole approach is that it’s OK to be playful. We both really liked that, because there's a playfulness to our music, too.”
It was this experimental urge that saw Joe and Tash run their own nights, O Zone, at Brixton Windmill – collaborative live sessions that saw O. improvise onstage with luminaries including Nerija’s Rosie Turton, Edna from Goat Girl, Melt Yourself Down’s Pete Wareham and Steam Down’s Wonky Logic. Following a tour with Dublin’s Gilla Band, though, O.’s music has just been getting heavier, louder, more intense. “People have come to see us and said they’ve enjoyed the fact it feels about two centimetres from falling apart,” says Tash. “With two instruments, you have to push yourself, physically, right to the edge to keep it interesting. But we enjoy that challenge.”