I was not expecting this, but damn if it’s not exactly what I needed to hear right now. Oui Ennui is an artist and producer from Chicago and until now, I’ve really only been familiar with his more beat-oriented work. His description of Virga/Recrudescence (and really, all the write-ups on his page are great and insightful) talks about how he’s always wanted to do a residency somewhere, so he decided to do a residency in his own apartment during quarantine and these two pieces are the opening and closing live performances. I love the whole concept and, with all that in mind, it adds another layer to the immersive nature of both pieces.
Opener “Virga” eases out of the blocks with grating synth drones and ethereal, piercing undercurrents. Dense yet cathartic, he builds things slowly and lets the electronic swirl gently cascade into an auditory ainbow charging through grey clouds until it hits a wall about 15 minutes in. Each soft metallic clink is another piece of armor falling until massive bass tones finally break through, pushing everything into orbit. It’s excellent and in the context of a live performance makes total sense with its peaks and shifts that form a sonic narrative.
To close things out on “Recrudescence,” birds holler while marimba-like tones move rapidly through the translucent aural haze. Hiss blankets everything, sanding edges and eroding jagged surfaces when bouncy arpeggios give way to late night beats. This middle passage reminds me of previous Oui Ennui works, but has an airy freedom to it that lets each moment breathe in its own space. Bob your head and move your body, though, because these neon jams are just a setup for the disparate paths the rest of the piece takes. From library-esque explorations to kosmische sequences cut by heady, catchy leads, Oui Ennui’s range on Virga/Recrudescence is incredible.
When I first heard this release, I was shocked. Hearing Oui Ennui in this context was new to me, but after a few listens and time to really digest the concept and his ideas, it makes sense. I hope he continues to explore his practice through these long-form, exploratory approaches because it works really well.