DORIAN DUVALL is one of those individuals who seem to dwell in a constant state of creativity. The Cleveland native—and the dreamer of Onuinu's unique sounds—is the product of a musically fertile family and household; he started out making acoustic music before expanding his efforts to include electronic tools and compositional experimentation. Once he relocated to Portland—a city rife with musicians, though not of the synthetic bent—Duvall found himself in hot pursuit of an original sound.
With inspiration from genre-bending acts like Flying Lotus and LA's Odd Future, Duvall describes his penchant for innovation, beyond the re-creation of any one style. "I'm always working on new stuff," he says. "Even if I'm not actually making it, I'm conceptualizing what I want to do. That's the first step in the process: just thinking about it, and trying to understand what direction you want to go with it."
While he began recording and performing prolifically, releasing some early tracks via local label Apes Tapes, Duvall says his efforts remained on the verge of actualization. "There's kind of this weird period where you're trying to make what you're envisioning, then you hit a wall. It's kind of painful."
From this point of limbo, the tracks that would be collected on debut album Mirror Gazer were almost never laid to tape. "I was at this point where I didn't even really wanna record those songs. I was kinda like, 'Man, I've already made those... I just want to make a bunch of new songs." Thankfully, a friend gave him some sound advice: "'Put it down, and then move on.' So I was like, all right, I'll put them down."
Duvall worked with engineer Jeremy Sherrer to capture the effects and energy that make his music so captivating: atmospheric layers of synths, samples, beats, and intriguing vocals, which serve as anchors while simultaneously remaining aloof and elusive. Among the nine tracks, the different styles become distinct: Some songs are sizzling, hypnotic, and club friendly ("Forever," "Ice Palace"), while others evoke anthemic hiphop jams ("Always Awkward," "Happy Home"), and ambient interludes ("Lost," "A Night With...").
The album's aesthetic is united in what Duvall has found to be the undercurrent of music in this time and place: pop. "There's so many pop bands in Portland—I think that's why I made this album," he says. "I guess I felt like that was what I should come out with, just being in this environment." The accessibility and appeal of pop serves as a common thread for Duvall's music in a scene that is often associated with rock 'n' roll archetypes. Still, Onuinu has developed deeper kinship with other local electro-leaning acts like YACHT (for whom he recently opened on nationwide dates, performing as a trio with two other live musicians) and Starfucker, who will be tourmates for an upcoming month of shows.
The band stands to reach growing audiences, thanks to some national press this summer, including a blog post recommending the band from Time magazine: "I just woke up one morning and was like, 'What the hell is this?'" says Duvall. "The fans grew substantially... I guess people know who we are now."
The acclaim has had other positive effects, as well: "I think my parents have a little more faith in my music endeavors, after seeing that."