TTW#32 - Othon - Silky Hands of a Rough Piano Boy
Cassette only - limited edition of 200 copies
A1: Behind the Veil Behold the Liquid Light!
A2: Felix Mendelssohn, Songs Without Words, Op. 19, No. 6, “Venetian Gondola Song”
A3: Frédéric Chopin, Étude Op. 25, No.1 in A-flat Major, “Aeolian Harp”
B1: Kali Dances
B2: Digital Angel 000
A1, B1 and B2 composed by Othon Mataragas. Kali Dances, the poem, is by Jeanne Ellin. Piano: Othon Mataragas. Voice on Kali Dances and Digital Angel 000: Shona Watson. Alto Flute on Kali Dances: Clare Jefferis. A-side recorded by Simon Wallace, May 2011. B-side recorded live at Blackheath Halls, June 2006. Mastered by Zachary James Watkins.
Linocuts - Dale Cornish
Just before releasing “Impermanence”, his long-awaited second album and brainchild of his PAN multi-genre concept, Othon has come up with an unexpected limited-edition tape release. As the title suggests, “Silky Hands Of A Rough Piano Boy” centres on Othon’s life-long companion, the piano. On the A-side Othon returns to his soloist roots performing his new work “Behind the Veil Behold the Liquid Light!” together with two gems by Chopin (“Étude Op. 25, No.1”) and Mendelssohn (“Venetian Gondola Song No.1” in G minor from “Songs Without Words”). On the B-Side Othon is releasing for the first time two of his oldest and most adventurous songs to date. “Kali Dances” and “Digital Angel 000” were both recorded live as part of the composer’s final recital at Blackheath Halls while still studying at London’s Trinity College of Music, back in 2006. “Digital Angel 000”, though not included on Othon’s debut album “Digital Angel”, was originally one of the first songs written for the eponymous song cycle. Both songs on this tape are sung by dramatic soprano Shona Watson, while Clare Jefferis plays the alto flute.
Othon Mataragas is an eccentric pianist, a nonconformist composer and a radical songwriter. Born in Greece, he gave his first concert there at the age of five and won several national piano competitions and awards. His passion for music brought him to London to study piano at the Royal College of Music with Chopin expert Dr Peter Katin and composition at Trinity College of Music with Andrew Poppy, as a scholar. Though he enjoyed his formal studies, he felt like an outsider both as a musician and a thinker. He realised that academic musical studies can be both a blessing and a curse and soon after graduating from Trinity he vowed to discard the intellectualism of many contemporary composers and follow his heart.
Othon’s creative journey has been extremely varied and colourful. In 2006, he began a long-term collaboration with singer/actor Ernesto Tomasini. The groundbreaking and unorthodox duo Othon & Tomasini have performed in prestigious music venues in London, such us the Roundhouse and Queen Elizabeth Hall, in addition to theatres, churches, museums, art centres, clubs and major festivals all around Europe. Othon has composed for film, including Bruce LaBruce’s shocker “Otto; or, Up with Dead People” and a new live version of Derek Jarman’s “The Angelic Conversation”, the latter a collaboration with one of the composers of the original Coil score, Peter Christopherson. He has written and played for performance artists such as Ron Athey and Dominic Johnson and was the first composer to conceive and write music for a pianist wearing boxing gloves. Othon’s music has been featured in fierce comedy shows such as “Dave’s Drop In Centre” by David Hoyle and art exhibitions such us “Gay Icons” (National Portrait Gallery), and his songs have been broadcast by radio stations in Europe and the US. Othon composed music for fashion films for Komakino, and Sophia for Filep Motwary’s and Maria Mastori’s A/W 09/10 collection, and performed at Nasir Mazhar’s catwalk installation at London Fashion Week. Othon has collaborated with Marc Almond, Current 93, the Elysian Quartet and many other distinguished musicians.
Othon’s debut album “Digital Angel” was released in December 2008 by Durtro/Jnana. His second album “Impermanence” will be released in November 2011 by SFE/Cherry Red. “Impermanence” features performances by Marc Almond, Camille O’Sullivan, Ernesto Tomasini and Justin Jones (And Also The Trees) and will be the first official manifestation of Othon’s unique musical expression, which he calls PAN.
Aquarius Records (US):
One of four new releases from UK weirdo tape label The Tapeworm (three this list, the 4th on the next), and as always, a baffling selection of sounds, this one from an entity/artist known as Othon, and the label description makes it seem like we should know Othon, this is in fact the first we've heard, and it's hard to tell if this is indicative of his usual sound or not. The A side, as the title might suggest, is solo piano, and is quite lovely, the original is dramatic and dynamic, slipping from lilting and melancholy to bombastic and intense. The side finishes off with two interpretations of pieces by Chopin and Mendelssohn.
The B side features Othon's oldest recordings, captured live during his final recital at London's Trinity College back in 2006, and features a super dramatic bit of operatic bombast, with Othon on the first track pounding away, unfurling dense flurries of notes on the piano, accompanied by fluttering flute, and all supporting some super intense operatic vocals, while the second track is more hushed and low key, but dramatic in its own way, but here you can hear the crowd, camera shutters clicking, feet shuffling, adding a strange bit of ambience to the very intense musical drama playing out before them.
Othon should be familiar to compulsiononline regular readers. His debut release Digital Angel, which featured guest contributions from Marc Almond and Current 93's David Tibet alongside Ernesto Tomasini received a glowing review. Silky Hands Of A Rough Piano Boy is a limited tape release from the Touch affiliated label The Tapeworm. Silky Hands Of A Rough Piano Boy shows the more classical side of Othon's work. That's hardly surprising. Othon, a Greek-born London-based composer is classically trained, and an accomplished composer and pianist. Pierced and tattooed, he is anything but conservative. He's provided soundtracks for Ron Athey performances and contributed to the soundtrack to the Bruce LaBruce film Otto or Up With The Dead People.
The opening instrumental “Behind the Veil Behold the Liquid Light!” features a rich piano score tumbling into dramatic discord of bashing chords and tinkering notes and back again to melodic piano. There's a comic, ecstatic finale to the piece which is befitting of the surreal grandeur on display here. A further two tracks, showcasing the romantic, classical side of the performer, feature Othon's interpretation of the works of Mendelssohn and Chopin. It's obvious from these that he is a virtuoso on the piano.
Flip the tape over and you're met with some deranged operatic histrionics from a 2006 performance. Over a barrage of piano notes and chords Shona Watson's dramatic operatic voice sweeps, soars and shrieks. Only the alto-flute on “Kali Dances” is restrained, everything else is exuberant and chaotic. The only thing that even comes close for comparisons is Dorothy Lewis's operatic appearances with Coil and particularly with her son Thighpaulsandra. The second live selection, again featuring Shona Watson's powerfully rich vocal, is “Digital Angel 000”. This track was originally conceived as part of the Digital Angel suite of songs that appeared on Othon's debut album. Much more reserved than the preceding track the emotive piano score builds into a flurry of notes picking up on the recurring “Left Behind” lyrical motif captured in Watson's high register tones - and originally sung by Tomasini on “Digital Angel I: The Union” from the more experimental cycle of songs from the album.
Silky Hands Of A Rough Piano Boy is released in an edition of 200 copies and showcases other facets of this supremely talented pianist/composer not captured on Digital Angel. Impermanence, Othon's new album on Cherry Red side label SFE, featuring ongoing-collaborator Ernesto Tomasini, alongside guest vocal contributions from Marc Almond and Camille O'Sullivan, is released in November 2011.
The Wire (UK):
Pleasant recital by this Greek born, London based pianist who has worked with David Tibet, Marc Almond and others. The A side features a couple of classical standards and an original in the same vein. The flip, recorded in 2006 as part of a recital at London's Trinity College of Music, features what sounds like a flute and soaring female vocals for accompaniment (reminiscent of Cathy Berberian's work with Luciano Berio.) That side's blazin'.