Whenever I receive a copy of an album from a different country than my own (USA), it is always met with enthusiasm and buoyancy. While I have become generally accustomed to music derived from the United States, the UK, and even Australia since childhood, it brings a smile to my face whenever I hear a new skillful band from distant countries like Japan, Spain, and France. The reason for this is the pure exotic nature of listening to an interpreted art from a group of individuals who were raised in another part of the world and grew up in a different culture. Even if such artists sound just like their western counterparts, there are usually at least a few enjoyable quirks to be found that makes their foreign distinction all the more enjoyable. Sorting through the mail a few days ago, I found it to be the common lot of magazines, bills, and promos from a few aspiring American bands. I was perfectly content, as mail from any type of band often makes my day. However, under the typical pile was an envelope with a few German stamps. I realized at that moment that perhaps I would be greeted with that new “exotic” flair, as my knowledge of German music was somewhat limited to the genre of Krautrock. In fact, apart from influential Krautrock legends like Faust and Kraftwerk, the only contemporary German act that came to my mind was the infamous Milli Vanilli; the German duo that got busted for lip-syncing in 1990, fourteen years before everyone’s favorite Ashlee Simpson incident.
The German band that I happened to stumble across goes by the interesting name of The Beauty of O.K. They are based out of Hamburg and though their official web site and press kit are entirely in German, lead vocalist Sven Weiss appears to have an impeccable comprehension of the English language. After learning that “schlagzeug” means drums and “gessang” means vocals, I decided to take The Beauty of O.K.’s debut four-song EP for a spin. Initial comparisons on the first two tracks, “A New Apart” and “Cluster”, were quite apparent. It was obvious to me that the common music critic would listen to the first minute or so of each song and jot down a few comparisons to lush, emotionally driven western artists in the group of Starsailor, Coldplay, or Travis. While others may be perfectly content with such baseless babble, further exploration into each song reveals a band that values complex layers more than most of those popular aforementioned acts. In every song contained on the EP, their intricately layered backing instrumental compositions are on the verge of breathtaking. The six-minute “Cluster” is built up in epic proportions, reaching a near post-rock status as the four-piece shows their instrumental prowess in an excitable blend of brilliantly layered guitar progressions and rhythmic comprehension. While The Beauty of O.K.’s expressive melodies and hooks may not be as noticeable as global superstars like Coldplay, the subtle ability that each song has to grow on the listener is astounding.
More in the vein of OK Computer-era Radiohead, The Beauty of O.K. incorporates an eclectic mixture of guitars, bass, piano, and percussion. If you are finding my Radiohead comparison to be too conventional for its own good, take a listen to the fervently exceptional “Some Larger Epic”. Containing a similar chill-inducing factor to that of Radiohead’s “Lucky”, The Beauty of O.K. weaves the simple strums of an acoustic guitar into Weiss’ gracefully powerful vocals. Accompaniments of Matthias Abel’s piano and Torsten Rehder’s drums integrate themselves into the beautiful composition shortly thereafter, leaving a lasting impression before the song even hits its conclusion. “A blink of an eye,” Weiss sings with an eminent passion. “And it’s gone away, so far away.” As the ambiance of a crowd is heard underneath the instrumental layers, the atmospheric tension suddenly hits in with a rush. Moments like these are flawless demonstrations of The Beauty of O.K.’s melodic talent, grabbing the listener by the heart in a display of genuine emotion and pure musicianship. Though Weiss has a slight but very stylistically effective German accent, I bet you would not be able to find many people who would have the ability to distinguish The Beauty of O.K. as a German band after their first listen. In fact, he occasionally sounds like a proficient version of Matthew Good.
Even with their lack of native qualities, such foreign distinctions hardly matter for a band of The Beauty of O.K.’s qualitative nature. Regardless of any western tendencies, their four-song EP is one of the most impressive debuts I have heard all year. Even better, you can download the entire thing for free off of their web site. An EP that is actually enjoyable being released for free? That is certainly something you do not see every day.
The Beauty of O.K. – Some Larger Epic[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/beauok-som.mp3]
The Beauty of O.K. – A New Apart
You’re right about the Radiohead comparison. “Some Larger Epic” is definitely reminiscent of “Lucky.” The similarities aren’t completely salient, but they’re definitely there.
By the way, I’m loving TBOOK already; thanks!