Saturday, December 30, 2017

Cassette Review: Otto Rollo "Road To Blue Dream" (Dark Circles Records)

In 2014, I posted a review for "Robert's Trip" by Otto Rollo.   It was one of my first cassette reviews and since then I also have reviewed "Choice Path".   I've been looking back at my life a lot this year, and Raised by Gypsies especially, and it's just kind of funny to me how this has been this ride for however many years and I've made friends along the way, learned about new music (because that's really what it's all about), but in some ways, it just feels like Otto Rollo has been along for the ride this entire time.   I feel that is an accomplishment if only because when I look back to the earlier years of my reviews, a lot of those artists I was writing about don't make music still. 

"Road To Blue Dream" starts with these acoustic type strums.    It has a certain warbled melody to it that might be the cassette or might be on purpose.    A voice comes on and tells us to relax.   It is December 1999, which isn't too far off because it is December.    There is something hypnotic about this.   It's relaxing in a way, sure, but it is also troubling.    The voices tell you everything is going to be okay and on some level you want to believe them, but at the same time there are these undertones which make me believe otherwise.

The next song has the same sort of acoustic sounds where I'm wondering if I need to clean my tape deck or if it sounds this way on purpose.   There is also singing to go along with these strums and sort of bell tones.    Now the interesting thing is that on these first two songs, the Bandcamp page has the "featuring" artists listed, such as on the second song "Tending A Garden", Quinn Tsan provides the vocals.   "Parting Ways" is the third song and it is the first fully instrumental one, so also the first without a guest spot.

I actually counted it out and of these twelve songs, seven of them feature guests so it's something like just over half of them, but you can still say there are guest vocals more often than not which, in some ways, I don't mind artists exploring.   If you're an artist who is primarily known for instrumental music and you have an idea for a song where you want to add vocals (or if someone contacts you and says "I'm a singer, can I add these vocals to this") I think it'd be foolish to simply cast those ideas aside because you want to stick true to your instrumental roots.   In some ways it's kind of like censoring your art. 

Through this stretch of three instrumental songs, there is this vibe, this groove and though it is somewhat acoustic still in its nature it also has these electronic elements coming out.   There is almost this funk at one point where I feel like we're going to go on a car chase with Shaft.     This turns into something much darker, mind you, with these vocals coming out like "Paint It Black" or something equally trippy on "Hurry Home".    There are actually a trio of guests on this song, and the vocals seem to be battling each other in some aspect, such as the voices in your own head trying to sort out what is real.

We continue with these songs which at their core can still be acoustic, can still be filled with bliss, and yet there is this FNL feel to them as well, which is not something I really find combined in this way these days.    The songs feel desolate but with a slight hint of hope as Side A comes to its end.    Acoustic strums and hums pick up right where we left off on the flip side.    It has this almost winding, western type of feel to it that without the acoustic strums in place as they are I would say is more at the forefront than anything.

From the instrumental we go into these songs of soul where the singing is just without compare.   I'm not sure how Otto Rollo got the artists he did to lend vocals to these tracks, but they really do stand out in the best of ways, all connected by the music they are singing with.    "(Stay In)" is definitely a stand out single no matter what genre of music you listen to regularly.    There is no denying its doo-wap power, its soul or it standing out more than songs by artists who create entire albums (even careers) around this type of music.

A sax blares as the rhythm of the acoustic guitar takes us through a journey that has this steady pace to it yet at the same time it's feeling like drone on some level as well.   The mood turns from urgent to relaxing.    By the time we get to the end of this cassette, with "you know" being sung a lot (Though I more enjoy the line "It hits us like a wave" and "How far are you now") there is a certain calm that you might not have found in the other songs, but as I hear it unfold from start to finish, yes, now I think I am ready to finally go to sleep. 

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