Ollie Howell reveals his true identity
Self Identity Ollie Howell (Ropeadope) the considered, conceptual flare that marks Howell’s evolving compositional prowess.
The drummer has a canny talent for writing vapourous, lead-horn lines that spiral and shuffle, exerting a sharp, visceral rhythmic tug and an emotive winsome sentiment – none more so than teaser single Shadows.
There is more than a hint of Brad Mehldau to the reflective, rolling piano chords of Balancing Stones, courtesy of keys man Matt Robinson.
Rise and Fall does exactly as it suggests, building from a delicate, dreamy ballad to Ant Law’s fusion guitar assault and back again. This template is repeated time and again, arc-like takes building and cresting with artful considered poise.
This is, of course, a drummer’s record and the rhythmic telepathy between Howell, Robinson and bassist Max Luthert – who were featured on his 2013 debut Sutures and Stitches – betrays a deep musical bond.
Also returning from that assured earlier effort is subtly cerebral saxophonist Duncan Eagles, whose most muscular work is delivered on the frenetic Moving On, which also offers Howell a chance to pound the skins with a brief closing solo, fading into the rocky, drum n’ bass- influenced strut of Knew.
The level of musicianship is exceptional throughout, yet no voice holds court – every note is sounded in service of the song, not the player. In its best moments, Howell’s tunes are simultaneously introspective, groovy, virtuosic and fun.
Rich and rewarding, Self Identity is a record to be felt, not thought about.