It’s rumored that cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, came from a family of shepherds. Forget space travel and moon landings, the very idea that dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry can live on the surface of Switzerland, opens a universe of musical possibilities. O.M.F.O.’s merging of Eastern folk and Kraftwerkian dub on the Essay label is therefore only as surprising as, say, finding Osama bin Laden in his cave listening to Joe Meek.
O.M.F.O. [aka German Popov] cuts between what sounds like dizzying swirls as pleasantly off-kilter as some of Mr Quintron’s instrumental noodlings, the vodka-soaked high-speed snake charms of a cossack in an echo chamber, goat herding gamers horn-blowing to a “Blue Monday” backbeat, disco for cows, Russian tango, synthesized jaw’s harp, accordians in a dub orbit around jangling Dr Shivago mandolin, fake gunshots, lush snot-blocked vocals on a bed of circus synth-organ and theremin, casio cartoon doodles, mighty space invader guitar, and unfortunately something which approaches the true horror that is… pan pipes. Not all in the same song, thankfully, but in a relaxed way across the entire disc.
The record ends with the stately throb and twitch of “2007 Baran Odyssey”, which could be a reference to the Iranian film Baran. Overall, my tastes would have prefered more space and dub, so at times O.M.F.O.‘s sheer sonic dervishness made me feel like having a lie down. There were though, fleeting moments which almost recall the most genuinely psychedelic piece of music I have ever heard: Marta Sebestyen’s “Repülj Madár, Repülj”.
Let’s not pretend Space is what it once was. As I write, Canadian company Element 21 Golf has paid the Russians for a flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin to hit a golf ball in space, using a gold-plated six-iron, Pizza Hut have their logo on the side of a rocket and the reality of space tourism hasn’t so much dawned, as gone to the gym on it’s way for morning coffee while the rest of us have turned over and gone back to sleep. This is the follow up to Trans Balkan Express, twice plundered by Sacha Baron Cohen for the Borat soundtrack, an association O.M.F.O. may yet regret. He’s unlikely to regret Eva van Dam’s magnificent artwork though, depicting a cosmonaut gazing fondly at a departing rocketship while helmeted sheep gather nearby. The merging of exploration and traditional earthbound concerns is perfection.
Not quite one steppe beyond then, but We Are the Shepherds gets off the ground. Equal parts brilliantly awful and awfully brilliant.