Album Review: Otehi – Noisy Spirit
Posted by Mark/Angel
Having previously taken on one of Cosmic Swamp’s roster before, I was a little more prepared for the fuzz-attack that this release was going to bring, although several surprises awaited as I sat down with Otehi’s début Noisy Spirit EP. Firstly, the band’s name means “negative karma” in the Lakota tongue, an appropriate name for the music despite the band’s Italian origins. Secondly, the strong songwriting belies the band’s lack of an anniversary, having formed in March 2011 and released this EP before the year was out. Thirdly, the DIY production puts much punk and black metal to shame, while the 37-minute runtime outstrips many full albums. And fourthly, their influences stretch across 4 decades and 3 continents. If the souls of Kyuss, Sleep and Fu Manchu (with the obligatory touch of Sabbath) were to telecommunicate between the Aussie Outback and dusty US Midwest, that should paint a good starting point for where Noisy Spirit crashes in.
The opener “Monolith & Monolith” swims hazily into view, one of the two 8-minute bookends that swings from one riff into a brick wall of cymbals and grooving fuzz. Zito’s cymbals are at first irritating, but repeated exposure lessens the harshness and brings out the bass-wielding Italian-accented Mikolajczyk, who recalls Scott Hill (Fu Manchu) with his reverb-effect vocals and Sleep with the thick basslines. Later in the track, Canino teases out a stoner solo before the song dissolves into psychedelia and the real journey begins.
Noisy Spirit’s titular trilogy weaves a path through didgeridoo-esque sounds, fuzzy melodies and miraculously improved drum production, the song cresting and swelling like heatwaves. The latter half of Part II remains the most peculiar, with Canino’s sound effects adding to the marijuana haze. Part III, after some chilled melodic moments diving into heavier and faster climes, peters out rather unexpectedly. The ambient intro that follows (“Leave Your Spirit”) is forgettable, but provides relief before the final two steps.
“Savage Land” follows in similar steps to the opener, although injecting some Tool atmosphere in the intro adds its own diversity. There is a feeling of inaccessibility with the production, as the aforementioned cymbal problems make a grand return, although the rest of the dynamic track leaves little for complaint. The finale, however, is where Otehi really hit the nail on the head. The shamanistic “Desert Rider” slowly creeps in with drums, bass and some wind instruments reminiscent of North American tribes, before the groove and passion flow through a heavier moment. The repeated line of “Open your mind” reinforces the ritual atmosphere, and when the song winds down to a finishing point, there is a sense of completion about the EP and the rite itself.
Putting a label on what Otehi does or achieves is challenging to verbalize, and the Noisy Spirit EP is an experience that is to be heard rather than read about. The production, while occasionally a hinderance, colors the EP uniquely, and adds an intangible quality to the guitar work in particular. It takes time for the band’s amalgamation of styles to fully integrate itself and make sense, but the result is a rewarding half-hour dusty journey, either on a car trip or acid trip.
Check out Otehi on Facebook.
Label: Cosmic Swamp Records