New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Arctic Surrealism From Christine Ott and Torsten Bottcher

The 1922 silent film Nanook of the North was a  patronizing noble-savage docudrama that foreshadowed similarly dubious explorations of indigenous cultures by the BBC and PBS. Christine Ott and Torsten Bottcher’s pointillistic, keyboard-based new soundtrack – streaming at Spotify – seems to closely follow the original narrative  This music is much more surreal than you would expect. Digeridoo, tabla and steel pan in a story about Eskimos? Fans of both Philip Glass and Terry Riley ought to enjoy it.

The soundtrack begins with gongs and then whistling bowed bells, a surreal Asian snowscape particularly appropriate for its milieu. The protagonist’s theme is hypnotically circling, minimalist piano over white-noise washes, followed by a lively if repetitive, surrealistically tiptoeing electric keyboard melody.

A rippling open-water kayak tableau and a return to echoey, distantly uneasy electronic piano, with what sounds like a muted ukulele, provide a brief beach scene. Bells and delicate upper-register piano underscore the fragility of Eskimo infant life, followed by muted steel pan alongside bell-like, stealthy, jazz-tinged piano.

From there the score segues into Walrus Hunting – yeah, those adorable creatures are food, that far north – with its grim crescendos over a loopy tabla pulse. The onset of winter signals a hypnotically oscillating, increasingly agitated piece with toy piano and that digeridoo.

The score’s most epic theme, part Fender Rhodes soul, part Japanese temple bell music, concerns igloos. A fateful morning comes tiptoeing in with an eerie, Satie-esque minor-key vamp, then the piano spins around with an elegant, precisely articulated angst. The score closes with the big blizzard portrayed via Satoko Fujii-esque extended-technique piano variations. Of all this year’s movie soundtracks, this has to be one of the most original.

A Searing Live Album From Heavy Psych Band Holy Grove Disappears Without a Trace…and Then Returns

Holy Grove‘s Live from the World Famous Kenton Club is the latest example of why more great bands should make live albums. Who wouldn’t want to see these heavy psychedelic monsters after hearing it? Live, they’ve got one of the slinkiest rhythm sections of anybody in the heavy arena, and they sound a lot bigger than a mere four-piece. Frontwoman Andrea Vidal’s darkly bluesy vocals instantly give this band one of the most distinctive sounds in metal and heavy psych.

Drummer Eben Travis’ flurries add cynical energy to the first track, Blade Born, a slowly swaying early 70s-style riff-rocker. Bassist Gregg Emley holds the song together with a slow boom as guitarist Trent Jacobs sears through a thicket of triplets, then takes a turn toward Sabbath menace and finally a hallucinatory nitrous hailstorm.

Death of Magic is more of an early Led Zep style number, Vidal’s resonantly ominous vocals emerging above the circling, growling riffage. Jacobs finally hits his wah and shreds; this band sounds much larger than a mere four-piece.

Caravan has a galloping, chromatically evil Sabbath groove, phaser guitar and an unhinged, squirrelly solo out. “All right, guys, we’re gonna do a Grateful Dead cover,” Vidal deadpans, cutting loose with a raw, sustained, wailing intensity over the band’s slow, twistedly crescendoing chromatic drive in the eight-minute Nix. They close the album with the even more epic Cosmos, Emley finally turning off the fuzz. “Nothingness again,” Vidalwails, Jacobs careening with his wah and heavy vibrato over the steady, menacing bassline.

There was also some mystery concerning the album…namely, where to find it.  Holy Grove’s Bandcamp page had it for awhile as a name-your-price download, then it disappeared. Now it’s back up at youtube.