It’s easy for a band or artist to find inspiration from a certain style of music, but how about creating an entirely new genre? That’s what Dorian Duvall did. Under the moniker Onuinu (pronounced on-you-in-you), the Portland-based multi-instrumentalist refers to his music as “disco-hop,” and it’s an accurate description of his sound.
Duvall admits that beats are what centralize his music. He produces these first and watches the vocal melodies and harmonies materialize around them. While listening to Onuinu’s debut album Mirror Gazer, this interesting writing/recording technique is evident. The vocalist sings in an airy tone while faint guitars and percussion skip through the atmosphere, but the beats wrangle these sounds together and push the songs forward, creating funky, dance-inducing tunes.
The record begins with its title track; an ambient, spacey electronic song that immediately grabs its listener’s attention with solid beats and funky, disco-tinged instrumentation. From there, the album floats on to one of its highlights, “Always Awkward.” A jangling, disco-influenced guitar riffs kicks off the song and is quickly accompanied by a drum machine and sharp, stabbing synthesizer as Duvall sings “And I’m always awkward / You did it over night, I think you know it’s right / Always awkward / You think you’re such a star, I know you really are / Always awkward,” a fitting anthem for most Portlanders.
From here the sound takes a bit of a turn. The short, instrumental interlude “A Night With…” transitions the record into “A Step In The Right Direction,” a dark, crunching, bass heavy electronica/new wave-esque track, and the sultry, auto-tuned R&B ballad “Last Word,” before resituating itself for its final three songs.
Mirror Gazer ends with its two singles, “Ice Palace,” and “Happy Home.” These tracks are arguably the most upbeat, infectious of the collection and implant their melodies into the listener’s ears. It’s rare for a band to end a record like this, but for Onuinu it works.
With so many “chillwave,” or “electro-pop,” outfits around, it’s refreshing to hear an artist that puts a different spin on the sound. At once Duvall both pays homage to past eras and creates a style all his own—a feat that is hard to accomplish these days. As long as he continues down this innovative path he has paved for himself, Dorian Duvall and Onuinu are names we will be hearing a lot more in years to come.