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Otowala - 2011 - "Otowala"

(59:16, ‘Liquid Moon’)


1.  Sock 5:08
2.  Hydroplane 4:46
3.  Crocodile Smile 4:15
4.  Halo 7:15
5.  All Too Human 4:58
6.  Autumn 91 5:26
7.  Alphabetical Order 4:03
8.  Dear Ndugu 4:36
9.  Autumn 05 4:19
10. Shatabdi Express 6:15
11. With Intention 8:15


Michiro Negishi – keyboards 
John O'Reilly – bass 
Stephen Zieminski – drums, mallets, tabla 

Prolusion. Otowala is a US based trio that consists of musicians "of different generations and backgrounds" as the band itself describes it. This self-titled CD is their first album, and was released on what is presumably their own label, Liquid Moon.

Analysis. Otowala describes their music as experimental and progressive, applying the word rock to further describe their stylistic orientation. And indeed, there is a fair amount of rock music tendencies and quite a lot of experimental features in their excursions, more than you might imagine by a band whose members are credited as playing drums, bass and keyboards respectively. But as far as stylistic expression is concerned, I do feel that their exploits reside much closer to a rather different subset, namely jazz. What we're dealing with here is experimental compositions throughout, many of them improvisational in nature, at least partially. The occasional harmony based melody does appear now and then, mostly in bits and pieces, and expected traditional rhythms have their place on this production too, although not often. But if you're fond of unusual tonal ranges, refined, quirky rhythm backdrops, instruments playing on a side by side modus with a third instrument more or less successfully managing to act as the combining element or even excursions that appears to have more of a distinct free-form orientation then Otowala is a band you'll enjoy. They have plenty of ideas and are eager to explore them, and just as eager to show off some instrumental skills just for the heck of it. At least that is my impression that Otowala is some sort of creative free zone for the musicians, where they are free to explore parts of their musical and instrumental repertoire they can't utilize elsewhere, with room for individual instrument runs on most of the pieces. And despite the challenging and at times fairly inaccessible nature of this production, I'll have to admit that I enjoyed quite a few of the items at hand. Autumn '05 is the most interesting of the lot to my ears, with a subtly dissonant symphonic tinged backdrop with something of a decaying character to it, combined with plucked string details, the latter element then combined with a bass solo with the symphonic textures replacing the strings again at some point before revisiting the original constellation with variations of these elements then explored until the end, all of it executed in just over four minutes of playtime. On the other part of the scale I'll admit that Halo is the best example of the part of Otowala's repertoire that strayed furthest away from my comfort zone, the instruments hardly ever interacting directly during the just over seven minutes of this, to my ears at least, very challenging number. A construction that to my ears rely on indirect associations and a mind able to fill out the gaps for this composition to be enjoyed to the full.

Conclusion. Challenging music that can be described as jazz, jazz-rock or possibly fusion is what Otowala provides on their self-titled debut, a production rather void of common rhythms, harmonies and melodies, but rich in experimental flavours. Jazz and fusion enthusiasts with a taste for the uncommon should be something of a target audience for this CD as I regard it, alongside avant-interested progressive rock aficionados.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 21, 2013
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