Review: ONO – Kate Cincinnati
National Music Reviews
American Dreams Records
ONO = Ministry + Black Midi
In Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno, a sign at the gates of Hell reads, “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” After listening to ONO’s reissue of their 1982 debut, Kate Cincinnati, and pondering the 40+ years since its initial release, I give the same advice for those experiencing this record for the first time: Once you enter ONO’s world, there will be no rescue.
Kate Cincinnati is a masterpiece composed by the trio P. Michael Grego (keyboards, electronics and percussion), Ric Graham (mostly horns and guitar) and travis (vocals). I’m being conservative in assigning the trio’s musical contribution because all three give you the kitchen sink, and travis’ vocal onslaught consists of everything from blues to gospel to subtle opera turns and whatever trick the band decide to pull out of their sleeves. travis’ vocals exist somewhere between a snake oil salesman, a possessed, doomed preacher and a late-night cabaret entertainer.
More than just chaos and aggression, there is beauty in Kate Cincinnati. ONO uses slow jazz with Pink Floyd–type synth vibrations and space-age static to lure you into safe places and a warm blanket of comfort. Some tracks use a gentle, quiet and haunting horn, beautiful, barely in the background percussions and sounds that resemble the soft rattle of very long chains. These soft patches exist in pockets all over Kate Cincinnati. “Now I wonder why these are the good times,” travis sings on “Oppenheimer.” “These are the good times / These are the you and the me times.” The calm never lasts. travis makes sure all hope and happiness gets sucked out like the last remnants of a soda pop in a cheap paper cup.
The tracks on Kate Cincinnati are soul gutting—no sunshine allowed. The ONO experience is like getting handed a cone of cotton candy in the middle of an active, stage-5 hurricane. The album tilts from obliteration to slivers of catharsis and back to obliteration so fast your teeth hurt. Equal experiences would be a David Lynch late night, an L.A. noir film or reading William Burroughs at the height of his drug use.
Don’t listen to Kate Cincinnati as a reissue, a piece of nostalgia or a 40+ year old record. Dive into this ONO gem headfirst and let it consume you; Experience it brand new. Hanging out with Kate Cincinnati is what happens when reality shifts gradually and all at once. This record left me exhausted and disoriented with nothing to hang on to and grabbing at air for balance—the way music should make you feel. –Russ Holsten
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