Thursday, April 15, 2021

A breath of Fresh Air: Oxygyn - ‘Mercy’

Mercy, a slick, electrified, reggae-driven tune, released earlier this month from deepest Mediterranea, is the latest from the quartet Oxygyn and is a great example of punching above one’s weight. Not just for Eurovision but for Maltese pop.  

Kurt and Katia Abela, are the siblings and singing duo at Oxygyn’s core, whose wonderful support from guitar-guy Zack Walters and a certain Funky Monkey, who produces the music for their pieces, make this combo something to be enjoyed. The punching part comes when you discover their unranking reality: it was difficult to find any comprehensive information on the project. Perhaps they’re part of some counter-SEO movement. Whatever the case, after some perseverance I came to learn that they’d formed in 2015 as an acoustic and piano outfit only to evolve into a more polished, indie-pop genre two years later and that they’ve enjoyed great popularity on the islands since.  


Mercy is electronic-heavy, pulsing on a trancey, synth-reggae off-beat, whose dreamy textures and intelligently plotted dynamics build the tune into something quite compelling. In a simple ‘AAB’ format, Katia declares the main acapella theme, with the support of a brilliantly syncopated rhythmic figure. 

This goes full-ensemble for the third section where Walters contributes some catchy, well-placed phrasing over dirty layers, then drops out for the cycle to begin again. Soaring in Adèle-like melancholy, sister Abela captures themes of anger and vulnerability in a performance that is as technically accomplished as it is heartfelt; propelled by the production’s subtle momentum, expertly constructed into its final stages, where, before a sole, nose-diving note from Walters’s whammy bar, it vanishes. 


There is nothing particularly ground-breaking in Mercy, but there is something intangibly authentic about it; something beyond what are the sounds and rhythms typical of its indie-pop genre.  It is produced with elegance and clarity, expressing Oxygyn’s genuine tunefulness, and as such, breathes life into what can otherwise sound formulaic. This is a mark of talent, and a talent in which Malta can take pride and listeners can indulge in through this latest track.

David Adamick


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