Posts Tagged ‘Christine Ott’

Nahal Recordings – 10th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because detail is important, let’s begin with the parenthesis. The label’s press release announces ‘We teamed up with the extraordinary French ondist Christine Ott to create an unprecedented album entirely made with Ondes Martenot, one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history’, resulting in ‘a cosmic journey of layered waves of sound’.

Maurice Martenot’s invention may not have acquired the popular status of the theremin, but Christine Ott’s instrument of choice is nevertheless significant in the evolution of sound generation as one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history back in 1920.

Chimères begins with a pause, at least metaphorically: ‘Comma’ is six minutes of instrumental hauntology, as the notes trail, taper and quaver into still air and silence. As the album’s title suggests, this is a curious hybrid work, and while perhaps less monstrous than all that, the Ondes Martenot conjures strange, otherworldly sounds that are, at times, quite unsettling as they yawn, quiver, and squelch into seas of reverb. At times resembling analogue synth sounds, and at others approximating strings and even woodwind, the

‘Todeslied’ is the sound of disembodied spirits flittering around in the physical world, a phantasmagorical freakshow of sonic ectoplasm which gradually bubbles its way through a succession of bursts and plumes via something semi-industrial into a tranquil sunlit meadow of sound. Meanwhile ‘Sirius’ brings some deep ambience, while the eight-minute ‘Eclipse’ brings swirl of darkness that’s more of a sucking black hole than a fleeting dimming of light, building to a whupping rotary sound and blizzard of bleeps in the final minute.

It’s a lot to take in, and closer ‘Burning’ is a magnificent if slightly disorientating combination of slow-glooping electronica and orchestral chamber music. It isn’t easy to assimilate, but it is wonderfully executed, and once you can overcome the unfamiliarity of the form, there are some magical moments to be discovered.

AA

a3802769926_10

Gizeh Records – 25th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Although having contributed to various projects and collectives, including a number of independent soundtracks that have appeared through Gizeh, it’s been a while since Christine Ott last released anything as a primary artist. Nanook of the North, a collaboration with Torsten Böttcher, who brings hang drum, kalimba, and didgeridoo to Ott’s diverse array of instruments.

Nanook of the North is another soundtrack to a film which ‘tells the daily life of the Eskimo family living in Hudson Bay. Fights for life, constant shifts, fishing, seal hunting… The spectator shares the life of the family of the far north’.

As a release, this has been a long time in coming, having been first commissioned in 2013 by La Rochelle International Film Festival.

From the first strike of percussion, which sends a low, rippling hum on which eerie atmospherics build in layers like thick mist, the pair conjure highly evocative soundscapes. Pairing piano with non-western instrumentation makes for some fascinating and utterly compelling combinations, with unusual melodies taking shape along the way. Whereas many soundtracks place the compositional emphasis on atmospherics and vague structures, Nanook of the North stands out for its tendency toward keenly co-ordinated structures and definite tunes brimming with chiming melodies.

There are moments of brooding, shade that contrasts with the unexpected levels of light that fill this album, and ‘Walrus Hunting’ balances drama and playfulness through the incorporation of jazz tropes. Elsewhere. ‘Winter’s Coming’ conveys the ominous sense of darkening days and a creeping chill, while ‘Et le blizzard’ is surprisingly calm and soothing as opposed to the tempest one would reasonably expect. But then, the silence of a blizzard can be a strangely tranquil experience.

The range on Nanook of the North is impressive: it’s expressive and conveys such an array of moods and spaces, while at the same time retaining a compositional and instrumental coherence. And while the places these pieces speak of are bone-breakingly cold, the listening experience is most heart-warming.

AA

GZH93DP-Digital-Sleeve

Gizeh Records – 15th March 2019

Christine Ott has graced the virtual pages of Aural Aggravation on a number of occasions, and has been on my radar for a while. Here, she comprises one half of newly-founded Snowdrops, a France-based keyboard duo formed with Mathieu Gabry.

With Yann Tiersen, Tindersticks, Foudre!… as resumé namedrops, the pair have pedigree. Snowdrops is a soundtrack work, composed for Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s film of the same name, which has won several awards including Best Film in the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival.

The press release explains that ‘the Thai film trains a poetic look at the void of humanity through the story of two men, a Thai fisherman with peroxide blonde hair and a nameless stranger stuck in a foreign land and supposed to be a Rohingya of Myanmar, whose continuing persecution is constituting one of the biggest human rights scandals of our time’. And so Snowdrops is a film of extreme importance right now. The world is in turmoil, and while culture is supposedly the most evolved it’s ever been, humans right are being eroded, disregarded. Corporations and governments act s if they’re exempt, and yet they all talk of ‘the will of the people’.

According to the press release, ‘Snowdrops’ soundtrack brings another dimension to Aroonpheng’s movie. The duo was especially focused to build their sound here on a frame of keyboards of different generations (Ondes Martenot, Mellotron, MS2000 or Altered keyboards). The color is sometimes dark (‘The Mangrove’, ‘Losing a Friend to Death’), sometimes surrealistic (‘Lights in the Deep), and in the case of ‘Weird Dance’, a suggestion of romance between the two main characters on the rhythm of a dreamy electronic tune.’

A soundtrack’s function must always be to enhance the movie it accompanies, and to add depth and dimension. But my initial response to any soundtrack release is ‘does it work without the visuals?’ And while immersing myself in the work, I ask ‘what visuals, what images does this conjure? What mood does it convey?’ Soundtracks which are reliant on the film they accompany are fine, but are better not release independently. And I’m doubly not a fan of those ‘OST’ works which feature snippets of dialogue or scenes intersected with songs. 20 years ago, it was maybe cool. In fact, it was. It was the way soundtracks were, and showcased classic dialogue that would pass into postmodern parlance. But listening back now to the CD of Pulp Fiction, it sounds somehow naff. And the Trainspotting soundtrack albums aren’t soundtrack albums, but compilations. Has the world changed or have I changed? Perhaps both: there’s an entire generation coming through who haven’t even heard of Trainspotting, let alone its vast cultural impact. Culture has a short memory, and it’s depressing.

Snowdrops’ soundtrack to Manta Ray is very much a musical work in its own right, designed to compliment the film. It isn’t glitzy, it isn’t mainstream.

Sonorous, rumbling pulsations sound out into the depths on the first piece, ‘Introduction / Gemstones in the Forest,’ before soft, delicate sonic lacework begins to drape its semi-abstract from over the fluid framework of the composition as it drifts in a loose, languid form.

‘The Monologue’ may have more solidity for French-speakers, but the mumbled utterances, delivered against a backdrop of distant piano, played as a dolorous, single chord motif, whispering contrails and melancholic atmosphere speaks beyond language. And indeed, language and its abstraction shapes a large part of this album’s organic feel. It bubbles, mellifluous, and isn’t an easy work to grasp any sense of tangibility from.

Much of the album consists of muffled dissonance and unintelligible murmurings, and these work well in the way they conjure deep, dark atmospherics. They do little to convey any sense of filmic narrative, but in context it’s hardly a problem. Manta Ray is abrim with subaquatic abstraction, subterranean, swampy sounds, and exists within a sense of itself. 

AA

Snowdrops

GIZEH – 16th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Tabu, the film, was released in 2012 to a roundly positive critical reception (Rotten Tomatoes shows an accumulated score of 87%). The scale and scope of Christine Ott’s live soundtrack, which she’s toured as a cine-concert in mainland Europe are immense. Led by delicate piano pieces, Tabu is very much an album that’s dedicated to subtlety, to remaining in the background. This is very much the mark of a successful soundtrack: a well-considered and well-crafted soundtrack does not seek to take the foreground, but to provide an almost subliminal backdrop to the movement on screen.

I write as someone who grew up in the 80s – when soundtracks were a mix of classically big John Williams scores, and fairly lame generic electro / rock soundtracks headlined by a major theme tune performed by one of the headline acts of the day, often in the form of a power ballad. Think Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’ and Huey Lewis and the News’ ‘The Power of Love’. Equally, the Bond films of the period, with A-Ha and Duran Duran delivering the title track. I came of age in the 90s, the decade of the way-cool soundtrack. Imagine Trainspotting, The Crow or Natural Born Killers

With wibbly bass tones and tremulously mournful violins – and / or is there a theramin squealing an eastern-influnced arabesque in the mix? – Ott creates a haunting atmosphere on ‘Hitu, la Grande Montagne’, a piece which is evocative and moving even when removed from its cinematic context.

‘Sorrow – Lover’s Dance’ is the first of two long pieces, and while hushed and sparse for much of its eleven-minute duration it manages to incorporate myriad cultural elements, with Kyoto motifs and finger cymbals chiming in the distance, slowly forging an eerie, minimalist kind of krautrock, an insistent rhythm fading to the horizon.

Musically , it’s an exquisite work, and while it’s visually evocative, appreciation is in no way contingent on having seen the film.

 

Christine Ott - Tabu

Gizeh Records -GZH66 – 20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnbor

On her first album since 2009, Christine Ott presents eight pieces which touch on a range of moods and emotional states. While the piano is the central instrument, the multi-instrumentalist calls on a host of additional players to incorporate strings, drums and harpsichord to create a suite of music that’s beautifully detailed. In some respects, Only Silence Remains resides in the neoclassical bracket, but equally, there are elements of post-rock and avant-garde here, and ultimately, it boils down to being music. Exquisite music, at that.

Indeed, what’s perhaps most striking about Only Silence Remains is just how subtle yet simultaneously deep it is. That most probably sounds like a contradiction, but in a time when so much music is very much geared toward instant gratification, the hook, the immediate grab, and even orchestral works are so often centred around a certain hook, whether or not associated with a major film – and more often than not, they are associated with a major film, earning endless airplay on Classic FM – Only Silence Remains is an album which requires time and contemplation.

Only Silence Remains is certainly of a standard that would sit comfortably on any film soundtrack, but in many ways, it’s above that kind of mass-market reduction of anything that’s vaguely classical in its form to ‘soundtrack’. Only Silence Remains is a magnificently singular work, and is also, in its own right, simply a magnificent work.

‘Raintrain’ moves from a sad, lone accordion to a woozy, strolling jazz-informed double bass via a delicately dropping piano. From mournful shanties to pastoral hues, Ott evokes life, in all of its colours, expressing ups and downs and myriad in-betweens.

The nine-minute ‘Tempête’ begins dark and haunting, before a chorus of, inhuman strings rise, shrieking against scribbling insect walls of sound, plunging into unseen depths down, down, into the bleak ‘Disaster’. Featuring a narration performed by Casey Brown in a cracked monotone, until finally, a lone piano drifts into silence.

Skipping lightly from twinkling wonderment to brooding drama, she demonstrates a musical intuition that’s truly exceptional. To describe or define the ways in which the music reaches in and touch the listener’s soul is nigh on impossible: it simply does.

 

 

Christine Ott

Only Silence Remains at Gizeh Records Online