Otobo is a duo (Josh and Justin) who met a couple of years back and immediately connected over their musical interests. They got to work and eventually released a full-length self-titled album Otobo.
Their music is experimental but often contains memorable melodies. There’s a lot going on here so let’s get into it. The album opens with “Dawnbreaker” which is more or less a soundscape. You can hear field recordings with background noise like cars and birdsong. There’s also a sound collage of atmospheric elements and a sudden burst of descending noise. I loved it. The robotic villain-like voice works as well.
“Masterpiece” is up next and is a slow burn but also instills a serenity and calm. I loved the vocals when they showed up. It reminded me of an obscure band called Yume Bitsu combined with a bit of Fleet Foxes. The song contains Eastern sounding percussion as well as psychedelic qualities.
It transitions well into “Sunseeker” which has a little more movement. I was initially reminded of The Doors but the experimental ideas take it to a different level. That being said I did feel like I was in the middle of the desert with hazy and dreamlike imagery.
“Carry On” begins with some classical guitar and vocals. I loved the minimalism here along with the existential lyrics. I’m pretty sure both Josh and Justin were singing on this song. It’s definitely a darker song with haunting qualities. The song blossoms in unique ways and I loved the mellotron type synth.
“The Garden” reminded me of early Animal Collective. It’s also one of the highlights and more epic songs on the album. The song builds with a circular guitar melody and builds with various sounds that have a symbiotic relationship. I loved the use of vocals on this song which aren’t a lead. The song really starts to take off around the three-minute mark with some distortion and just more intensity in general.
“Listen to the Birds” is another slow burn but exceptionally well done sound collage that brings with it a sense of melancholy and loneliness. There are some freeing vocals which transition into this ascending noise which leads to “Wind Song.” “Wind Song” is short in comparison but contains some very cool and unique percussion instruments.
“Sweet Child” is a highlight. There are points in the song where it sounds like it’s melting. It reminded me of the feeling you might get after hearing some bad news and aren’t sure what to do. The distant horns were a nice addition as well.
Some of the best vocals are on “Lazy Star” which contains very loose guitar and piano parts. It was really cool how it would ascend and descend leaving space for the vocals. Last up is “Release” which is a cerebral yet dissonant sounding song. There’s definitely a haunting feeling at points during the beginning but mutates into this cosmic and heavenly soundscape. It felt like such a cool way to end the album.
This album demands to be listened to from beginning to end. Each song makes more sense when listening to the album this way. I thought this was a great album. Recommended.