The reference to the heavens above makes a fitting title for this album, as Otras is music for exploring the stars and beyond. David Reeves' first release on the Faxlabel proves to be a worthy one, taking you on a journey and returning you to your listening space after almost 73 minutes of evocative intergalactic synthscapes. Other discs Reeves released on Fax are Otras 2 and "In Starless Space." Another album is also available under his own name entitled "Narcos" on the Discreet Music label (creet 002). What is common to all of these discs is Reeves' particularly cinematic style which maintains a certain vintage analog undertone.
All of Reeves' releases also tend to incorporate the ambiguity of the soundtrack approach, and although there is seldom actual dialogue, each song serves up a musical sub-plot of sorts imbedded in a larger overall storyline. Otras in particular has influences from science fiction and outer space exploration adventures in tracks like "Derelict Fleet" and "1000th Sun" while the seemingly incidental melodies of "In Suspension" and "Auto-Plain" imply those regions where spirituality and technology intersect. The title for at least one track "Scanners Live in Vain" comes from a short story by Cordwainer Smith. I've found that listening to Reeves' material while reading fiction works especially well.
Something like 2001 or Dune is perfect, or even for putting your favorite sci-fi movie onscreen while you listen to the music along with the images. Seldom does he explicitly draw your attention into the music with sudden changes or loud surprise noises, although the songs certainly do shift around in structure frequently enough. Certainly a fine release that would sit well next to S.E.T.I.'s "Pharos" or Aricebo's "Trans Plutonian Transmissions." Incidentally, the artwork on the inside of the booklet is a larger version of the cover photo of Transonic's "Virtual Current." Here are some track descriptions...:
In Suspension - A blinding beginning, there is much ahead of us, role the opening credits. This sounds like background music for alien pioneers surveying something vast and new. Perhaps it's the discovery of a portal or wormhole that will give a strategic advantage over a sinister alien entity. A good starter that whets the whistle.
Scanners Live in Vain - A lone gigantic starship moves slowly, almost imperceptibly, into configuration. What is its purpose or destination? The dusty gray details of the ship's angular surfaces catch the starlight as it hangs high above and surveys the seemingly unremarkable planet below. At around 2:30, the song builds up a simple melody, patient and foreboding. The alternating notes warble in pitch ever so slightly. There's a guitar buried in here somewhere. This track conveys rather well the eerie sense of mystery that deep space can evoke.
973.070 - I've had to play this one on my radio show several times simply for the high novelty value. This sounds like it could be a sample from a movie that has not yet been made. What movie, you ask? William Gibson's "Neuromancer" would do fine. A Jamaican voice crackles over telephone lines, confirming details of some sort of transaction. You can hardly hear the man on the other end, would that be Case? A lo-fi echoing drum pattern serves as scaffolding for more of Reeves' richly textured synth pads. All the sounds are kind of doing their own thing, without necessarily matching the rhythm of the other elements. The conversation continues, though it's now difficult to hear what words are being said. Somethin's goin' down. Near the end, it's clear: "Oooh you're kiddin'...Wot ta piece sa shit....Tell you what to do, I'm at my house. I want you to come pick me up and I will go do it. [Sounds of breathing] ok well uhh... take me back right away now... ok, bye...."
Celestial Entrance - This is the first track of the album with a more coherent type of rhythmic structure that eventually peaks out on the ebb and flow of a System's starry shore. A strange pitch-bending drone conforms to the light, pulsating beat. Flickers of electricity play the role of hi-hats while a ship makes its approach. This track has more of an uplifting effect then some of the others which are more pensive. A welcome contrast for our bewildered protagonist who's entering an uncharted region of the Universe.
The Derelict Fleet - Another more optimistic tune for the ships to make their escape. Starts out with more staticy-sounding hi-hats, and at about 2-3 minutes the melody begins to build, sometimes hitting random notes in the sequence. Looking back, the stars smoothly recede, tracing lines along the periphery. The synthesizers hint at orchestral qualities here, with layer upon layer of shimmering tones flowing like violins. But perhaps that's just the soundtrack aspect leaking back into the picture. Safety at last.
Auto-Plain - After an eerie intro, a cautious melody blends with the randomly-panned sparking plasma effects. Signals burst onto the flight console full of flashing lights, it's time to test the navigation skills. The routine plasma pattern enters again and gradually slows its pace, then falls away quietly. A distant echo of clashing metal surfaces joins the sequence, and this continues nicely for a minute or two.
Tetuan4 - Another piece that starts out quietly and then consistently builds up its melody made of filtered synth pads that bob around the area. The notes form a slow washing rhythm that alternately draws near and recedes as the textures make their subtle changes.
The Flowing Light of the Godhead - A short work with a quick lo-fi synth melody and some backwards-sounding accompaniment. Bleeps and other more sustained notes blend to fill out the sequence, consisting mostly of rhythmic, congealing waves.
1000th Sun - Our story's undetermined conclusion....
(review by no@h)
The primary emotion i experienced last with "Otras" was that of recognition: This is music in an evolved state. Here, consistently mutant melodies, squiggles, percussion, and other themes seem to defy their traditional order and caste. All of "Otras" seems to progress on a very natural level, every track is a potential and precognized whole.
Every element seems to fall into its natural place, creating this chaotically logical composition, considering the general non-musicalness of most of the elements themselves. This seems to be "observation of music undergoing evolution", nothing seems as it 'should' be, and yet continues as the most logical thing in the world...or universe...
1. In Suspension : "Otras" begins with this perfectly composed masterpiece. Powerful, regal waves of sound vibrate again and again, creating a membraneous wall of sound. These intensifying dronings are soon joined by a subtle precursor of percussion, that will gain importance as the track evolves. An empowered, astral feel is dominant here, feeling very liberated and expressive.
This theme characterizes the entire cd. As the track begins to feel it's finally come together, a perfected percussive section breaks in to give rhythmic structure to the ether. This percussion is also indicative to "Otras"'s rhythmic theme: subtle, powerful, mutated, muffled beats provide rhythmic texture to the tracks, instead of presenting themselves right out. This track continues, constantly evolving in its perfection for several more minutes before receding back into its initial regal waves...
2. Scanners Live in Vain : Whereas the first track presented itself directly, this takes over 5 minutes to start to take its form. A lengthy, minimal soundscape of samples begins to describe itself and evolve on its own. At 6 six minutes, the story begins to disclose itself. A somber, cryptic theme instantly provides a subtly epic feel. This track progresses more like a story, themes continuing while constantly undergoing small but highly important change, and new elements presenting themselves. This track becomes an alien mass of treble, shimmering melodies, underlaid with more mutant percussion, synth solo and samples. This novel-esque track continues to evolve itself for about 17 minutes, never a single repetition the same, until the sudden end. Incredible, raw, and beautiful.
3. 973.070 : This is one of the more simplified tracks on the album. Its heavily beat-oriented composition gives it a more energetic feel. The percussion is electric-feeling, but vital and tribal at the same time. This binary rhythm is continually played with by a constant sample of telephone conversation. This track explores the potential random rhythm in all sound, the sonic signature of the voice always coinciding interestingly and unintentionally with the progression of the beats. Once this has been established and explored, a simple and powerful synth repetition provides the epic feel, again also very liberated and fearless sounding.
4. Celestial Entrance : A dark-sounding, tribal beat fades in to introduce a noise that sounds like some divine insect. Quickly evolving, the buzzing ether is soon combined with popping, droning percussion and washes of subtle bass. This rumbling texture is then combined with more abstract melodic swells, until the track is an oddly dischordant but perfectly conjoined mass. The title is relevant, the music emotes a feeling of a hole in space, pure emotion with an absence of reason, a beckoning portal....
5. The Derelict Fleet : Calm, staticy beats fade in to join with a growing melodic theme. The two merge and are dramatically combined with a simple three-chord melody that again creates a simple, epic feel, the feeling of some sort of continuing journey. The percussion here is slightly more prominent, clicking and hissing along in the sub-levels. This track (and much of Reeves' work) has a sense of being led along rather than exploring the sound. This coincides with the notion of "music in evolution", you are simply an observer to the splendor, the creator sets the elements in motion and they are given free reign to evolve on their own, creating consistently unnoticed patterns with each other. The regal feel is here again, this time with a more comforting edge. This sounds like the dream-state of a being in perfect confidence. The blissful but mysterious work slowly dwindles until it returns to the initial washes of static and dissolved beat elements, giving a solo look at the constant texture under the melodies.
6. Auto-Plain : This track seems to be a relative to "Celestial Entrance". They both attain this status of perfect mass, but this time this mass is colder, more brittle and much less vital. The track opens with treble washings and rhythms, presently combined with more mutant synths, garbling in universal fashion. There becomes a delicate contrast between the thin, layered percussion and the more powerful bass tones, this constantly and dramatically changes in nature in another liberated sense of composition. Without regard to traditional melody and structure, this music speaks its own voice seemingly without control of the maker. Soon it drops down into more controlled synth passages and gains control at its end.
7. Tetuan4 : This track seems to complete the abstract trilogy between itself, "Auto-Plain", and "Celestial Entrance". This time an odd, foreboding introduction (which continues throughout) starts off. Then in comes a very off-putting and perfectly weird "melody". This structure falls into the natural "continuing observation" of before. This is the third and final appearance of the regal, powerful waves, emanating themselves in abstract but commanding beauty. The epic feel is again produced, this time more trance-like in its nature, pulsing energies envelop. Deep percussion explores the roots of the energy in a dream-like state while the mysterious, secretive melodies drone on, searching...
8. The Flowing Light of the Godhead : The shortest track on the cd, this is one of the most ordered pieces. This track abandons much of the former epicness and seriousness for a much more lighthearted composition and theme. Pressing progressions of bright, stretched synths provide a highly energetic melodic flow, with happy, robotic beats that don't change all that much in the 3:28. This is an odd, unique track that some may love or hate, but is definitely interesting. Sort of an abstract dance.
9. 1000th Sun : This is possibly the most abstract work here, the first 10 minutes of the total 14:20 being comprised of a non-melodic crawling of evolved elements. Garbling acidic squibbles and ambient drones talk to themselves, disclosing potential but fragmented energy, never to come together very coherently. After a time, percussive textures and calmer bass pulses with abstract noise provide more structure to this rambling track. These freely evolve on their own until the whole is drawn down into a serene envelope of ambient drone, energy coalescing and then dispersing, to be left with a drawn-out landscape of static that leads out the album in ultimate, subtle effect!
"Otras" is a very imaginative, free, and artistic work. Very easy to emotionally relate to while being completely alien. Quite abstract and non-musical at times, continually thought-provoking and compositionally intriguing. The simple epic feel recurs overall, with raw hyper-detail of texture that i find constantly rewarding and amazing.
(review by Auraphage)