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. This is what Onuinu seems to have attempted, resulting in a kaleidoscope of futuristic, celestial sounds of its own sub-genre.
Multi-instrumentalist Dorian Duvall shapes all of the space on Mirror Gazer. The title track opens the door to an expansive world of synth-pop and funk before warping into the finest track on the record, “Always Awkward”. The sounds of lo-fi guitars and Duvall’s light vocals permeate throughout the song, all over a thumping hip-hop beat. This tide-like progression of pause and crash continues with instrumental “A Night With…” and the sultry “A Step in the Right Direction”, remaining consistent through Duvall’s airy artistry.
Duvall calls his creation disco-hop, but Mirror Gazer is a little more complicated than a clean crossbreed. He is clearly inspired by hip hop: the beats provide the backbone to his songs, every other layer aiming to keep things sultry. On the other hand, the record also features little bits of prog-rock (“Mirror Gazer”), New Wave (“Last Word”), and light rock (“Happy Home”). Duvall’s talent comes from the liberty to take from his predecessors and mesh them into something new in his technically adept hands.
Duvall is proactively creating a new genre, but it’s no question that he’s simultaneously making enjoyable music. That’s why disco-hop works: It collides two worlds with other sub-genres to meld into a cool palette of celestial sounds.
With Mirror Gazer, Onuinu resembles the stereotypical cool kids of Portland: a little bit nerdy in some ways, but too coy and fun not to enjoy. More importantly, Duvall has confirmed that he is far from the musical equivalent of a novelty item. The talented and intelligent Onuinu – and his disco-hop – is here to stay.
Essential Tracks: “Always Awkward”, “Ice Palace”