Human Ottoman — Farang
(Bandcamp no#, 2015, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-04-03
This Oregon trio first came to my attention when they landed on the bill of the Seaprog festival. Their instrumentation is as unusual as their name: cello with effects, drums, and vibraphone with effects. Yeah, neither bass nor guitar, though obviously the cello can handle the low end. Farang is their second release, and it presents their “polyrhythmic rock” in eight cuts of energetic music balancing complexity and mayhem. “The Infernal Mechanism of Commerce” features a beefy, distorted low end with a grinding riff, pounding drums, and chanted singing. “Falling” gives the vibes a more prominent role, with the cello functioning much like an upright bass, and a sweet vocal part — though there is a middle section where they amp up the energy. “Nth Degree” has a cello part that’s a bit like a warped, distorted folk fiddle tune, at least for some sections. And in case you hadn’t noticed a connection with math rock, there’s a track called “3(5)+4” — which concisely describes its metric pattern. Overall, while Human Ottoman is a rock group, the attitude is clearly jazz-inflected, with composed parts approached in a spirit of improvisation. I’m sure these tunes sound a bit different every time they’re performed. As to the three musicians… while the cello and vibes provide the harmonic interest, it is drummer Susan Lucia who ends up stealing the show. Her playing is busy but not show-offy, solid and inventive even in the less aggressive sections, where she hits the rims and sides of drums instead of the heads. She is clearly an equal partner in the enterprise, not just a timekeeper. Matthew Cartmill’s cello has a monster sound, filling the roles that both bass and guitar would handle in a more conventional band. Sometimes a pure, natural tone is used, either plucked as a bass, soaring upwards like a violin, or sawing away rhythmically. At other times the tone gets downright nasty, with massive amounts of fuzz. The vibes are played by Grayson Fiske, sometimes sounding like what you expect from the instrument, sometimes functioning very much like a Rhodes electric piano, especially when augmented by various effects devices. I’m pretty sure an octave doubler is used to allow the vibes to play bass notes at times, and there are also some weird swoops that could be produced by any number of devices, giving a synthesizer-like impression. The bottom line is that Human Ottoman is one of the most original bands going, and lovers of avant-rock owe it to themselves to check out Farang.
Related artist(s): Human Ottoman
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more