Album Appreciation: Saturn by OZO

Ok there’s going to be two versions of this:

Version 1:

This album is sen-fucking-sational!

Version 2:

Sometime you hear something and it’s just what you need at the time. Coming off the back of what has seemed like a dark winter, the shoots of spring are beginning to emerge… renewed energy beginning to come back and more light every day.

As you may have guessed this winter has not been the best as far as I’m concerned but I’m starting to look forward to the future again, and this album seems to have caught my mood perfectly.

Perhaps it’s the fact that OZO are themselves a band that have emerged from the break up of other bands, such as the peerless Blown Out, and Drunk in Hell. But they have emerged in a way that I would not quite have expected.

That’s because I think its fair to say that I didn’t expect the emergence of a free jazz space doom funk megalith, well you wouldn’t… would you.

So while such as Blown Out was like ramming your way through a black hole in a well travelled, yet sturdy, freighter… this is something else altogether. Yes the bass-lines still feel like they are made up of the very fabric of life itself, and the guitar swoops and soars around the tracks like eddys in the space-time continuum, but there’s something more liberating going on here… as if a weight has been taken away and something new can be tried.

A big part of this is the use of the sax in this music, and that is evident from the opener ‘Lifeship’ which sets out the band’s intentions from the outset. They say that this is for fans of Pharaoh Saunders and the Coltranes, and who could argue with that as an aim… free and easy, but heavy as fuck!

After that ‘Saturn’ is an absolute revelation… put together all the ingredients so far and add in a big dose of funky danceability… man I’d like to hear this one live… boogie on down and set your pacemakers to stun! Sensational track!

Arguably, you’re never going to follow that… so rather than more of the same ‘Nuclear Fuel’ takes a more studied approach…. more like the molten lava through butter approach leaving heavy sediment in its wake. The sax seems absent but you gradually hear it coming to the fore as if it needed to take a break from the previous track… when it does re-emerge is seems to transform the music again… without really changing anything.

‘Slide Way’ is so short it could be released as a single, and has a wonderful heavy smoothness to it as if a layer of honey was sitting on top of a tempestuous sea… yet gradually absorbed by it as it becomes increasingly angular and fragmented. I really like how it does seem to almost slide into madness… a terrific four minutes!

Last up is ‘Centuries’ with is ominous beginning signalling something geological may be about to happen! I found myself thinking this until well into it before realising that it was already happening. Central to this are the drums which pound away through most of the track in a free-style which encourages the rest of the band to do the same… there is a sense of stasis… of never quite solidifying in anything tangible, and yet at the end there’s a feeling of completion… the journey rather than the destination being the key… and if you’re going to call something ‘Centuries’ then it’s not exactly going to have a beginning, middle and end is it?

I really liked this album because I had already felt that Blown Out had probably gone as far as they could with their sound. This album offers something different both from that, and within the set itself. There’s a degree of variation here that makes this a very satisfying listen, and acting as an excellent prism through which to look forward… long live free jazz space doom funk!

‘Saturn’ is released by Riot Season Records on 7th February 2020, and is available to pre-order here and here.



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