To say that Ô Paradis, in the twelve or so years since its inception, has become one of the most genuinely interesting and innovative artists in the realm of post-industrial experimentalism is perhaps only beginning to shave the upper layer of a gross understatement. Led by Barcelona, Spain native Demian Recio, Ô Paradis has long developed a unique style that has remained unrivaled in its strange allusions to distinctly Mediterranean romanticism/sensuality and increasingly psychedelic tendencies, and this latest release, Personas, only works to firmly mold those characteristics into place. That said, like most Ô Paradis releases, this album is a unique work in itself, standing separate from the artist’s previous catalog and, from the label’s own description, those which have yet to be manifested as well. Regardless, Ô Paradis’ very recognizable sound certainly still exists here, and for that reason, any fan of the band should already know what to expect within reasonable assumptions; that is, abstruse Mediterranean folk-flavored electro-pop with a sense of both novelty and antiquity.
The word “Personas” here is meant more as the direct translation from Spanish as “people” rather than the aspect of someone’s character in the English language. That, along with the album cover’s tenebrous but familiar forms, as well as the brief explanations of each track in Spanish on the inside, hints at a theme that peers into Demian’s subconscious and reflects memories, both joyous and melancholic, of those whom he’s met along the way; memories that are undoubtedly influenced by his own blurred perceptions, recollections, and perhaps hallucinations, and are inevitably projected outwards as fragmented visions of himself through love, guilt, and contemplation.
The strange rhythmic qualities on Personas is, more or less, the only constant throughout the album. The opener, “Los Demás”, or “others”, is an instrumental track that opens up on a subdued ambient / dub note before dissolving into a chaotic tribal electronic percussive spasm. “Las Distancias Infinitas” or “Infinite Distances” takes on a different, more melodic and melancholic sound that is an especially emotive effort on the part of Demian’s vocal approach. From here, the album progresses into the ethereal phasing and post-punk atmosphere of “Noches en Tokio” to the mysteriously foggy, sea-themed, trip hop stylings of “Guardar el Calor”. The climax of the album is easily “Cuando te Alejas” and “El Espejo de la Culpa” — the former being another emotive track with a complex arrangement that, along with a moving bassline and an unexpectedly subtle percussive backbone, utilizes vibes and ethnic instrumentation for melodic resonance and another brilliantly sombre vocal effort. The latter track is the closest to industrial that “Personas” comes, and those elements are mixed with modest doses of pop sensibilities.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Ô Paradis has never seemed too concerned with making music geared towards intellectualism. Rather, he seems to aim at the heart, looking towards the core of human emotion that every listener can identify with, while still maintaining that post-industrial edge of his artistic roots and the romanticism of his occidental surroundings. Beautiful and strange, Personas is indeed all too familiar, like the translucently veiled skeletal faces that haunt the still realm within the artwork.
01) Los Demás
02) Las Distancias Infinitas
03) Noches en Tokio
04) Destellos de Cristal
05) Guardar el Calor
07) Cuando te Alejas
08) El Espejo de la Culpa
10) Caminando por la Calle (Gipsy Kings)