Music review: Oliver’s “Full Circle”


Oliver’s Full Circle.

Oliver’s “Full Circle”

If there’s one thing most bands look for when they collaborate to make a song or album, it’s cohesion. In the case of the electronic scene, the best of the bunch bring their combined efforts to the table in a way that transcends the individual members; one may not know Thomas Bangalter or Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo on their own, for instance, but mention the name Daft Punk and everything just makes sense. 

Los Angeles-based DJ duo Oliver have attracted comparisons to the French house legends since the beginnings of their career, but members Vaughn Oliver and Oliver Goldstein transcend these descriptions by integrating elements of modern electro alongside the 1980s disco and synthpop styles that their forerunners brought back into vogue with 2001’s Discovery.

True to its name, their debut Full Circle sees the band take their previously single-focused work in a direction more in line with the longer works that inspired it. The group frames the album with instrumental sequences at the ends of individual tracks, and thematic opener “Ottomatic” sets the tone with a sonic journey in line with previous singles “MYB” and “Light Years Away.”

Lead single “Electrify” has earned 2 million Spotify streams and a coveted spot on the soundtrack to last year’s FIFA video game, and it’s as good an introduction to the duo’s style as any, with a pulsating bass rhythm and a memorable vocal from Scott Mellis of the Brinks.

The album brings collaborations beyond Mellis as well, including New York indie pop singer MNDR on two tracks, “Falling Back” and the addictive single “Chemicals,” fellow LA funk duo Chromeo “Go With It,” and Aussie crooner Sam Sparro “Last Forever.” 

The duo uses some of these to keep the listener on their toes, too. “Heterotopia,” made with French pop outfit Yelle, has a smooth lounge feel that brings the listener back down to earth after “Electrify;” while the hazy-yet-heavy Elohim collaboration “Wherever We Are” would be right at home on the LA singer-producer’s own self-titled EP, and the De La Soul-assisted “Heart Attack” switches out the disco influences for a Long Island classic hip hop twist.

It’s easy to go into Full Circle thinking that Oliver is one person rather than a band, and that’s largely because the duo focuses on developing a singular identity through its music and neon aesthetic. The album adapts the band’s signature style into a cohesive whole, with a sense of scale all too rare in the electronic scene. Disco fans and bass heads alike will find plenty to love. 

Highlight tracks: “Ottomatic,” “Electrify (ft. Scott Mellis),” “Wherever We Are (ft. Elohim)” and “Chemicals (ft. MNDR).”

Full Circle is out now on Interscope Records/Pulse Recordings.