Originally an offshoot of the experimental rock madness of the Boredoms, Yoshimi P-We's multicolored song explosions with OOIOO grew exponentially into their own fearless amalgam of boisterous pop and trail-blazing experimentalism. Gamel is the band's seventh album since they began their studio existence with 1997's self-titled outing, and their first collection of new material since 2009's Armonico Hewa. Where other albums have been heavily edited and processed studio affairs, Gamel aims to harness the power of the band's live show, going for a more direct sound on its 11 brazen tracks. OOIOO have taken considerable inspiration for Gamel from Javanese gamelan music, a centuries-old style that often employs large ensembles playing a din of percussion instruments in unison. The band seems moved not exactly by the sounds of traditional gamelan, but by the spirit of many people working as one, and the singular Wall of Sound it can create. Though many of the songs do incorporate the interlocking bells, gongs, and chimes of gamelan, these ancient sounds co-exist with OOIOO's frantic vocalizations, crazed guitar sounds, and shape-shifting impulses of rock, tribal prog, and mutated chamber pop. The best moments of Gamel happen when all these frantic musical perspectives meet on an unexpected middle ground. Compositionally brilliant tracks like "Jesso Testa" manage to be graceful, threatening, and disarming at the same time, blending caustic guitar tones with playfully child-like vocal melodies and a blur of gamelan bells fluttering in the background like a swarm of happy hummingbirds. Epic album-opener "Don Ah" slowly builds from a rush of group vocals and cascading bell patterns into an almost funky prog-like riff, mutating into tribal psychedelia with blasts of noisy electronics and communal vocals before the song abruptly melts into the album's next selection around the ten-minute mark. Gamel is a frenzied and ecstatic experience, and one that ends up being brilliant in its bizarre combinations of sounds and ideas.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas