It is, ladies and gentlemen, ten years since Ott released Blumenkraft, the album that carved a firmly independent niche for a firmly individual style of music. We’d never heard anything like it: at the time, Psyreviews said that Blumenkraft “came along and made a whole new genre of music, all for itself” with a style that sounded like “a happy accident of circumstances and herbs that just seems to hang together like a spaghetti sculpture.” Frothy.
Fast forward to the present, and we’ve got a situation where mild-mannered Ott self-releases music, maintains a strong and dedicated following on social networks, and spends large chunks of the year touring the USA. In a sense, he’s the shining example of what a post-digital music artist should be — with no label, Ott is able to be hugely democratic with his music; indeed, the whole album can be listened to for free on the Bandcamp page, with pay-what-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-more-than-five-quid for a permanent download. Spotify folk, worry not — the album’s already there.
And it’s not just digital music economists who will be happy, because the music is very very good. Ott & The All-Seeing I is a proper band, as in with “proper” musicians playing a great deal of it live (compare and contrast any act that claims to be Live when Dick Trevor is playing most of it from a CDJ.) And they are very very good — the live element isn’t a recreation of what was on the record, but an interpretation of it: ingredients get used and rethought, and the dynamic of the band-led sound is wholly different to the electronic-led albums.
And there are some amazing moments. The bass finally dropping midway through Daisies & Rubies, the cheers in the breakdown of Adrift in Hilbert Space before the dubsteppy bit comes in, or the end of Own Stretching Time when Ott can be heard saying thank you to “the bloke at the back with the beard.”
Somehow, also, the live setting opens up the music in a different way. I must have heard the beginning of The Queen Of All Everything a hundred times but here it’s a living, breathing thing with what’s suddenly sounding like one of the most gorgeous chord progressions the world has ever seen. Assuming that the song’s about fatherhood, along with Aubergine Of The Sun, you’ve got two absolutely chilling songs performed fantastically — Ott’s emotion is more raw, more central, and he’s somehow more vulnerable in a stage setting such as this than he is on albums.
And the live aspect changes everything — listening to this, you wish you were there — able to watch the drummer, or the interplay between synth and bass, watching it all unfold on stage. That’s a big difference to many party-based “live” sets, where I often find myself wishing I was anywhere else.
There’s emotion, there’s danceability, there’s comedy and there’s bloody excellent playing. It’s not the same All-Seeing I as I thought it was, which would have been weird, but the musicians are extremely accomplished, tight, and a joy to listen to.
So it all adds up to quite a lot — and for a fiver (or, Spotify slave, zero) it’s a much bigger experience than the pricetag suggests.
What interests me most though is that this is the sound of a Man Who Has Won. In the ten years that he’s been around these traps, he’s morphed from a reclusive audio bod to a reclusive audio bod that has thousands of online fans, sells out tour after tour of the USA, and is an excellent enough Dad to make music about offspring that isn’t a load of gash, and to play it with sincerity and purity.
In the last ten years, the scene has changed an awful lot. Labels folded, money bled, DJs finished law degrees and, well, Skazi. Amidst all this, it was one of Twisted’s also-rans that sits at the top of the heap — doing his own thing from day one, with this live concoction of his electronic ideas being the absolute high-watermark of his musical career so far. Good work, fella, as they used to say in Loaded.
- Release Date: 7/2013