Reviewed by: Max Miller
O Shudder, the fourth album by English prog-pop group Dutch Uncles, develops the band’s propensity for danceable beats and contrasting grooves layered over one another, comparable to artists like Battles and Django Django. Synth lines flicker in and out of existence like pop-up ads on an old Windows 95 PC, and upfront funk-inspired bass lines permeate tracks like “Decided Knowledge” and “Be Right Back”. The band occasionally incorporates classical elements such as the strings on “Babymaking” or horns on “Drips”, although there’s very little conventional about the way they’re utilized.
Despite the danceability of nearly every tune, there is a mechanical quality that recalls English post-punk groups like Gang of Four who sharpened the edges of their grooves with staccato stabs of harsh guitar. Dutch Uncles simply replace the guitar with jarring synths. Vocalist Duncan Wallis often seems on the verge of whispering the lyrics, and possesses a billy goat warble the likes of which have not been heard since Stevie Nicks. The album can be a little monochromatic in style, although “Given Thing” opens with pianos suggesting an imminent ballad before the whole song shifts gears to a soulful number swarming with dramatic strings. “Tidal Weight” similarly creates a sense of melancholy with a bastion of horns moaning like a pod of whales in the background. Overall, however, O Shudder is a poppy, optimistic record that should keep listeners dancing for a good while.