Post Medium, the new album by OTHERM out on Holloway Tapes, is a gorgeously fragile affair which offers nine cuts of ethereal pop that unwind like a dream, coalescing into a sprawling epic of tangential logic that is filled with unexpected twists and turns. It is a sound which OTHERM explains is rooted in baroque pop acts such as Beach Boys or the Beatles, a classic sound which has been refracted through the lens of a diverse sonic palette that brings together elements of new age, darkwave, ambient, noise and dance music to produce something very special. And whilst the sound, characterised by the artist as “purposely dense”, has strayed quite far from its vaporwave origins, there is an undeniable familiarity which fuses the aesthetic sensibilities of hypnagogia that characterised the beginnings of the genre with something more contemporary.
However, contrary to this focus on “the contemporary” the songs featured on this release are not new but rather date back as far as 2011. In many ways this release chronicles the development of OTHERM bringing together a collection of music which spans the project’s eight year history. In doing so, Post Medium offers something intimate which weaves together memory fragments of deep emotional and personal significance into a musically cohesive whole that shrouds its vulnerability in a fractal constellation of sound . For me, this balance which hangs in the balance between human intimacy and technology’s propensity for abstraction is manifest in the vocal treatments which feature throughout the album. The voice, singing through all the joy and heartbreak of life as if life itself depended on it, is filtered and glitched, broken into pieces and brought back together to form a fractured whole which is underscored by an essential humanity that seems unbreakable. A powerful symbol which I feel is a highlight of this album because it really forges a strong connection between the artist and audience producing an emotional depth not often seen in music associated with the vaporsphere.
And it is in through such notions of reinvention and remediation that this album really finds its place, embracing the central themes of recycling and rebirth as a musical methodology through the painstakingly detailed reinvention of old material. A process which was motivated by more than its inherent poetics as OTHERM strived to ensure “that these songs were treated properly, that they were given the attention they deserved, and that the would become the songs the could be and should have been”. A mission which has been more than achieved in the humble opinion of this writer. In fact, listening to the end result it is difficult to imagine that many of these songs started out as “just simple chords on a guitar” or a basic MIDI track. The pieces that appear on this record have a very strong sense of rhythm with the interplay between bassline and drums creating a foundation upon which a lush assemblage of electronic textures has been carefully crafted to really bring these songs to life. This layering of sound extrapolating upon the song structures which underpin each track, mutating their undeniable pop sensibilities by folding the familiar into the otherworldly. In achieving this texture plays a huge role to an almost visceral degree, as more traditional instrumentation such as organs and synth leads are mutated into a glitching seething mess of sound which somehow never loses its sense of melody no matter how far it wanders into the uncharted territories of noisy extraterrestrial experimentation.
As OTHERM explains, a crucial element to developing the sound on this album was the enlisting of Angel Marcloid of MindSpring Memories and Fire-Toolz fame. Famous for pushing the boundaries of genre to extremes, Angel was initially brought in to mix and master the record at a crucial point when, following many unsuccessful attempts to assemble a final mix, OTHERM was willing to admit defeat. After the initial mixes were completed however Angel’s role in the project was expanded and she was asked to co-produce the songs, adding new layers of sound and encouraging OTHERM to go deeper and take more risks in order to push beyond the the creative comfort zone that had been holding record back. In the artists own words:
“She really brought the cohesive relationship between the songs to a whole new level. She also kind of helped me realize a more solidified idea of what my interests were sonically. A lot of ideas were really broad, and she kind of forced me to pinpoint certain aspects and details that I otherwise would probably gloss over on my own.”
And in doing so helped establish a more cohesive relationship between the songs and taking the end result to, as OTHERM puts it “a whole new level”.
Have a listen here…
And if you like what you are hearing keep an eye out for the cassette release – dropping very soon on Holloway Tapes.