Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Bad Cop Bad Cop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic
Newcomer Dorian Duvall is recognized for his futuristic electro-funk and hip-hop blend, a genre he has deemed “disco-hop.” But as is the case about half the time, the product supersedes its title. Slightly mislabeled, Mirror Gazer’s sound is more a layering of live percussion beats, slick chillwave synths and an occasional effected guitar that lies deep in the mix, subtle and pleasant when found. It’s funky, but more electronic than hip-hop.
The boundaries between popular and alternative music have always been more than a bit hazy, and in our current musical moment, indie artists are channeling their top-40 influences into a variety of creatively twisted reinterpretations. There is the ghostly lo-fi R&B of How to Dress Well, steeped in the ‘90s sounds of groups like Jodeci and Shai; buzz-worthy acts like Purity Ring and AlunaGeorge owe a considerable debt to hip-hop production innovators Timbaland and The Neptunes; and Grimes has named Mariah Carey as a formative influence on her otherworldly electronic pop compositions. To this list of mad pop scientists, we can add Portland’s Onuinu whose Dorian Duvall combines the feel good dance grooves of Thriller-era Michael Jackson with old school rap flourishes and nods to European electronica for a sound that Duvall describes as “disco-hop”.
Just when it seemed that the atmospheric, synth-driven pop that dominated early-2010s indie had run its course, along came Dorian Duvall's Onuinu project. While Duvall called his music "disco-hop," it had more than a few similarities with chillwave, particularly in the nostalgic beats and warm, washy synths that appeared on nearly every track of his debut album, Mirror Gazer (it's hard not to read that album title as a commentary on just how insular as well as dreamy this kind of music can be). Yet much of his work has more substance and focus than that of his airy contemporaries, especially "Mirror Gazer" itself, which suggests a blend of Toro y Moi and TV on the Radio in its hazy sounds and up-front vocals.
With big artistic streaks and a whole lot of technical expertise, Portland’s Onuinu hands us a formidable reason to take disco-hop seriously with debut album Mirror Gazer. As a whole, the record produces a constant floating sensation. Take outer space, compress its vastness as much as possible, and churn it through beat and rhythm-making machines.