It’s easy to like Quio (pronounced “kee-oh”) even before the first synth squelch of “Gliding”, the first track on debut album Like Oooh!, seeps out of the speakers. She’s not afraid to look vaguely like an awkward teenage boy on her album art, complete with thick-framed glasses and a white 2 Live Crew “Me So Horny” t-shirt. She has an affinity for close-ups of stuffed animals. She used to be known (and still sometimes refers to herself) as MC Looney Tunes. What’s not to like?
Not much, honestly, as this easygoing, truly individualistic aesthetic translates nicely to the music on Like Oooh!. Quio is based in Berlin, but her flow is largely in the neighborhood of dancehall, as she twists words and syllables to whatever skewed beat she finds behind her, usually with a thick Jamaican-ish accent. Most of the production is done by AGF, and most of that is pretty excellent as well—it carries the minimal vibe of grime, but it’s a little bit too steeped in cut-up to land specifically in that genre. Elements of drum ‘n bass, breakbeat, and laptop noise are all thrown into the mix, rendering the sound here pretty much unclassifiable. There’s not much in the way of melody, but the inventive nature of the beats more than makes up for the lack of catchiness. In other words, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I dare you to not nod your head to it.
Quio is at her best when she gets to freak out a bit, as she does to fantastic effect on “Masterpiece”, the second track on the album. There’s a fairly typical bell-tone based beat in the background, setting the stage for Quio to take center stage with a style that specializes in non-sequitur: “Years back I would have looked for the missing link / Now I slide on my belly in an icing rink” is nifty imagery, typical of Quio’s couplets. Add in a few frustrated curse words and an odd chorus that repeats the phrase “Can’t mingle with you,” and we’ve got five minutes of decidedly odd fun. Other tracks, like the battle-flavoured “Bah Fangooh!” (“All plants will bow when I come along - so step back!”) and “Gazon Gasolina”, which appeared on the first Quio 12-inch, put her skill at wrapping semi-sensical words around awkward beats on display, even going so far as to toss off a couple of Das EFX-style iggedy-interjections.
It seems, however, that when you’re looking for the perfect syllables to go with the broken beats, finding something coherent to talk about is a bit too much to ask. A few listens make it increasingly obvious that there’s very little to be found behind the surface, and Quio uses her status as a goof to glide by on silly rhymes and a thick accent. On this note, opening track “Gliding” sticks out like a rose amongst daisies on Like Oooh!—featuring the surprisingly mature voice of a 15-year-old known only as Lise, the track would fit in nicely on a downtempo compilation. It has strings, a beat that’s not too awkwardly skewed, and Quio and Lise actually sort of making sense, eventually concluding on the thought that “Love is what we need, love is what we fight for”. It sounds like a mission statement, but such a statement is too easily forgotten about in the wake of wacky hijinks.
The extent of the oddity is such that the many skits on Like Oooh actually fit in well with the actual songs. Unfortunately, this is an indictment of the quality of the songs rather than a rare sighting of quality skits.
Quio comes off like the infuriating classmate who seems intent on proving that charm alone can pass classes—sure, she may often be right, but what will she have accomplished? Like Oooh is a fun enough way to get the Quio name out, grab a little publicity, and maybe even land a spot or two on some high-profile compilations, but it’s difficult to see the album as something that people are really going to care about a month after they hear it. As much as I want to endorse an MC that busts into Depeche Mode’s “People are People” without warning, and as much as I want to endorse production wizardry that works in a Ren and Stimpy snippet or two when I least expect it, I can’t find praise more effusive than “eh, it’s kinda cool”. It is “kinda cool”—“kinda cool”, and nothing more.