Otso – “Dendermonde”

I apologise for not writing many reviews of late – my day job has turned things upside down with an increase in my hours and I was struggling to fit in the time required to sit down and actively listen to an album. However, time is once again in abundance – it never rains but it pours.

The album I have selected for this review is Otso’s “Dendermonde.” On Dendermonde, all tracks are composed and mixed by Otso Lahdeoja, a Finnish audio pioneer – alongside additional recordings by Janne Wrigstedt (Moog, Drums) & Alexandre Berthier & Karl Otto von Oertzen on Harmonicas. “Dendermonde” was recorded at Avatar Studios Quebec, Canada & Stern Studios, Switzerland but Mastered by Nicolas David at Studios M.A.R.S., Paris.

The multiplying layers on each track glitch in and out of consciousness like an oriental fever-dream. This is an impressive body of work that I have become progressively enamored with.

Dendermonde by Otso teaser from Elli Records on Vimeo.

Otso Lahdeoja is a Finnish composer, guitarist and omnidirectional researcher of all things to do with sound. The music of this album is at the interchange of ideas between electric guitar and underground Glitch-Hop, an almost un-colonised area of music & dare I say it, almost Blues Music.

Yes, there are the BB-King-esque lamenting guitars – but there is also a great deals of electronic know-how to the album that I am struggling to piece together retrospectively as a producer in my own right; however, I think it is best to let a magician have his tricks and keep them in secret, I will not pry.

el03_frontOtso is a man of many places – yes, he is of Finnish nationality but as the recording credits of the album testify, there is a pan-European sound to this. His works include musical ensemble, solo and group albums, multimedia projects, music-poetry, installation art and music for dance performances. He lives and works between Finland, Canada, Belgium and France, in addition to which he has toured around Europe as well as in the USA, Korea and India.

The album, Dendermonde, contains music for phantoms and ancestors. Otso composed it to invite these entities, so that they can help him recreate a continuity between his current life and the past ones. The bear mask comes from the need to have an intermediary bringing that music to the ancestors (by the way, “Otso” means “bear” in the ancient Finnish language). If music is a way to access transcendence, Dendermonde has been conceived as a project proposing a sort of “technological shamanism”.

As such, it is a nomadic album: it has been recorded and mixed between Québec, Switzerland, Belgium, and Finland. It is a mix of acoustic and electric components, conceived as a search to find a place where these two aspects can be combined, to create a unique material.

This is ‘colouristic’ music, almost visual, almost a case of Synesthesia. For Otso, color represents the most interesting aspect of music composition, before melody, harmony and rhythm. I feel this album is also a search for some kind of electronic blues: in this record there is no blues itself, but it is dirty and cranky somehow. There are breaths and noises in every track, as well as noisy field recordings.

Dendremonde is a work of art.

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Release date for Dendermonde is November 24th 2016 – please Elli Records for more information.

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