Album Review: Ontologics – Something to Needle Over

I had a musical experience occur to me recently. I was searching through Bandcamp last week, and an epiphany struck me like a lightning bolt. I noticed that the majority of what I have been finding and listening to have been bands that are independent, unsigned, or small-time artists. Despite the basically non-existent presence these bands have in relation to the entire music industry, I believe these artists and bands that I’ve been listening to are churning out higher quality, more thought-provoking, and simply more interesting albums. Because of this epiphany, I’ve decided that I want to give more attention to such bands, the ones that are out there making awesome music despite their status. I feel it is my duty to help these bands out in such a dog-eat-dog industry.

With all that said, this first band’s music is what I was listening to when this epiphany occurred. I think it occurred because of the absolute experimental sound they have, and is the first band that even steps as far as being considered “hip-hop influenced.” Not too many bands get me to listen to that far out of my comfort zone, but the band Ontologics did just that, and I thank them for it.

All the way from Rhode Island, Ontologics is Ian Campopiano on vocals/guitars/synths/keyboards/samples/bass guitar and Matthew Walshe on drums/percussion. These gentlemen have come up with the most interesting sound I can possibly imagine, a combination of progressive and experimental rock, jazz, electronica, and hip-hop. I imagine this band is the result of bands like Gentle Giant and Tool having a child with the Beastie Boys. Let’s just call it “progressive hip-hop” from now on, ok? Nonetheless, Ontologics’ latest release “Something to Needle Over” is something to… well, needle over.

Ontologics Matthew Walshe
Photo by Ontologics (Flickr)

Everything about this album is unique, a completely contemporary twist on the word “progressive.” Using a number of synths, keys, machines, and other modern sound effects, the entire album is one massive pushing-of-the-envelope for an already extensive genre. The programming and work done by Campopiano borders the production and sounds of bands like De Facto and 311. The songs “Lions To Go” and “The Clever Cat Kills Another Friends” show the collective use of these modern gadgets, and creates a sound that Money Mark would be proud of. I thoroughly enjoy the genre of “acid jazz,” and this album satisfies those cravings.

Besides the more modern instruments, these two also play every other traditional rock instrument. Walshe is a beast on the drums, creating a very snare-heavy sound reminiscent of reggae and jazz beat styles. The songs “From Then Until Now” and the title track “Something to Needle Over” provide the greatest examples of Walshe’s rhythm and flair. I can’t help but think of the percussion in Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s side projects when I hear his amazing drumming. In addition to the marvelous bass lines and keys, Campopiano provides the vocals as well, a slightly-less-than-rap style that reminds me of Anthony Keidis from Red Hot Chili Peppers. With a poignant delivery, I am easily moved by Campopiano’s style and lyrics.

Despite all the contemporary sound instilled in this album, my favorite thing about “Something to Needle Over” is the subtle but incredibly groovy lead guitar. Throughout the album, the guitar is heard by the listener, but plays a much smaller role compared to most progressive rock albums. From the heavy guitar intro on “Storm the Gates,” the tremolo-laced guitar in “From Then Until Now,” the rhythm/lead work on “Dug Until The Rest Could Drink,” and the almost improvisational lead in “Soundscape,” the listener can hear the multi-faceted Campopiano at work. I absolutely love the many moments of guitar brilliance on this album.

I was able to contact Oncologics, and hold a mini-interview with Ian Campopiano:

Keno: What are some of your musical influences?

Ian: We’re influenced by different genres of music such as prog-rock, hip-hop, jazz, and metal. Growing up, bands like King Crimson, Tool, Beastie Boys, Peter Gabriel, and A Tribe Called Quest were influential for sure.

Keno: How did your band start up?

Ian: Ontologics formed in 2009 with lineup Ian C. & Matthew W. Prior to Ontologics, we played together in a prog-rock band, MOI (2000-2004).

Keno: What was it like recording “Something to Needle Over” in the studio?

Ian: Recording our first LP, “Something to Needle Over” was an 11 month process. Now we are working on our new LP (title and release date TBA), which has been more condensed. We really dug in and recorded most of the album in four weeks.

Keno: Any recent Ontologics news worth sharing?

Ian: “Something to Needle Over” broke the Top 30 for four consecutive months on the Jambands.com Radio Chart and is Featured in Relix Magazine in their January 2015 and March 2015 issues. The album also became available on Pandora radio earlier this year and our follow-up record may feature 311 bassist, Pnut, on a track.

Ontologics
Photo by Ontologics (Facebook)

If your musical taste buds are looking for something new, I definitely recommend you listen to Ontologics. They’re the perfect band to fuse friends of hip-hop and friends of rock music together. Please support this band by visiting their Bandcamp page, or by following them on Facebook and Twitter for news and announcements. I can’t wait to hear their follow-up album, which I can only assume will be another experimental masterpiece.

Check out a complimentary listen of “Something to Needle Over” from Bandcamp below:

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