First of all, allow me to introduce the band.Here's the short bio I wrote for their entry at Prog Archives:
Päd Conca of Switzerland and Dirk Bruinsma of The Netherlands are the duo that makes up Otolithen. Conca plays electric bass and takes care of the effects and foot triggered percussion. Bruinsma plays soprano sax, electric guitars, foot triggered percussion and does the vocals. The mention of foot triggered percussion means that their feet essentially act as the drumming part in their music, creating the rhythms. And this is what this band is about - to bring out the most in themselves as musicians limited by the boundaries of playing as a duo.
And how do they overcome that? By getting their different limbs act as different members of the band. Their feet are the drummer and their hands and mouths are the guitar, bass, sax and vocals. This is the basis for the band. Now comes the essence that fills it - and the filling is in the flavour of RIO a-la Skeleton Crew, with complicated music structure and multiple and sudden rhythm changes. Comparisons have been made to U-Totem and Henry Cow as well. Their only album called S.O.D. ( ) was released on Cuneiform Records.
Now to my review of their album:
Potential not fulfilled
What is impressive here is that there are only two musicians playing and the rhythm section, meaning the percussions and drums are operated by their feet. They built a system by which they can operate the drums and percussion by moving their feet while leaving their hands free to play on the other instruments. That system is not the only thing they improvised; they also built a string instrument, which they named “homebuilt string-thing” and it’s a pity there is not picture of it, cause it makes me curious to see how this works. Given that they alone operate everything, it is quite remarkable to listen to the tracks and hear how they manage to lead the whole track in such a way. However, the tracks have mostly a feel of discontinuity to them which is the result of the lack of a proper percussionist and drummer. However, this night be precisely what they wanted to create. It remains to be guessed whether a drummer’s presence would have changed the ultimate outcome and the final sound of the music.
The tracks sound as a slower, less energetic and less complex Thinking Plague, and highly disjointed with unusual rhythms. I think they have undertaken too much by playing all instruments by themselves, and I feel this took its toll on the album’s quality. This is a shame since this does have potential. The tracks lack flow and mainly have this repeating rhythm which can become cumbersome after a while. The saxophone part is as disjointed as the rhythm section and it too sounds recycled from track to track, especially on the aptly named track “Recycled Pipedream”.
But not all is bad. The musical ideas presented are interesting; however, they could have used much more experimentalism, more of an adventurous approach. I feel they repeat the same pattern of developing a track over and over and it loses my interest after a while. I can’t seem to understand if this is due to a lack of vision or because they were bounded by the multi-task playing. There some tracks here which do seem to be more daring and more exploratory such as Geldkette, Omnium and Ro. But the main bundle of compositions is repeptitive in sound and style and does not progress. There are also tracks which seem like plain filler like “Seethe” and they make me wonder why they were included instead of including some other more interesting piece or simply removing it and making the album shorter than its over one hour length.
I hate to write this criticism, as I am sure they put much effort into this and it is really easy to write harsh words about it, while composing and performing such a thing is an altogether different thing (I am talking from my own composing experience). But I can’t help but feel that this would have sounded much better had they added a third member that would be in charge of the drums and percussions as a first step; and then apply a more imaginative and bold approach towards what they composed.
This duo has the potential to make interesting avant-garde music, but this album showed me that they were maybe too ambitious and did not give enough attention to the content and too much attention to the exterior; meaning the sound and the instruments. Therefore, I think this deserves only 2 stars. It may be of interest to certain RIO/Avant-garde fans but nothing more.