On an otherwise normal weekday evening, we gathered at this intimate theatre in Athens in order to listen to the new sonic offering by OTHON and Owen Pratt. Little did we know, that what we were about to witness would be a sort of personal procession through sound that both musicians would be creating for all of us.

The performance started with a mantra that facilitated our entrance into a state of creative calmness. A hallucinatory OTHON live photocircular design (courtesy of Dan Hillier), the de-codification of which still puzzles me as I see it again and again on the LP’s cover, ‘dressed’ the mantra that we were listening to, visually. Owen was first to come out on stage dressed in black, while OTHON, who was welcomed with a warm applause, followed a few minutes later, in a white outfit that took inspiration from the clothes of Buddhist traditions. A skull necklace, a sort of ‘memento mori’ and of power over oneself, placed his overall presence into a realm beyond what was perceivable at the time. The concept of dualities, was already very clear as far as the aesthetics of this performance were concerned. The performance seemed to have been divided into four parts (one for each of the tracks that was performed) and all of them followed a trajectory that lead to different levels in one’s soul. The album is also divided in five parts, five meditations, leading at the end to a state of meditative consciousness, or Samadhi (the title of its last song). Everything, the pauses, Othon live photothe ways OTHON’s hands were touching the ‘keys’ and were being lifted off them, the way Owen approached the bow to the chord, the way they both moved with every subtle change of tone and rhythm, had a gravity…because everything was a ‘step’. In his cryptic and esoteric novel ‘Ascetic’, Kazantzakis treats every little moment of one’s life as a process of overcoming something much greater than them. He manages to incorporate in his poetic verse the elements of struggle, spiritual hallucination and even emotional desperation that follow the realization that everything is a struggle and that someone can never truly reach…a destination… OTHON’s performance, his body language, his reactions and movement, were giving off glimpses of a Owen pratt live photosimilar spiritual ‘ascension’. The first piece had stronger electronic experimentation than the rest, while the second piece began with a tribal chant before this gave way to a mesmerizing piano solo. Tribal rhythms and chant have often been incorporated into OTHON’s work especially after 2012 and his encounter and fascination with the Shamanic way of life and traditions. It is within the elemental aspect of this way of life, which is in direct contrast with the one we are all familiar with in this part of the world, that OTHON has found some answers regarding the spiritual and corporeal existence; and this seems to be the reason, that he embarked upon a quest to creatively juxtapose the Othon live photoseemingly ‘classical’ aesthetics of his music with their (also seemingly) direct opposite. His work in the recent 7 years consists of different ways of exploring these contradictions, with the aim of revealing different possibilities from the ones we are all familiar with. In London, this gig included a preparatory stage for anyone who would be willing to attend. This was a brief meditation, a circle, that would attempt to leave out of our minds, the pressures that were being applied by all external stimuli, so that everyone would let the music, alter their perception about it and about themselves in a meaningful way. There was also be complimentary vegan cuisine available. Even though these elements were not part of the performance in Athens, the music incorporated a big part of their dynamics.

I often found myself with closed eyes as this helped me navigate faster into different directions and I enjoyed the ‘trip’ more in this way. Others around me, just seemed to have been utterly magnified by the melodies and the rhythms. There was complete silence and every piece was followed by warm applause as everyone seemed to be ‘floating’ on a different sonic cloud. The faces were in awe, the attention to everything was absolute. There was sonic magic in the air. OTHON was talking to us in between the pieces, introducing each track by talking about its energy.

This piano song has a very special significance for me in so many levels and it is a journey to be appreciated from the beginning to the end. May you swim in its cosmic waters and see, through it, the real me… the Othon that is beyond time and space and form.. and maybe see your true self also, the one that is equally timeless and formless. Let’s meet in the junction between the heart & the mind where our soul resides. See you on the other side of the rainbow.”(OTHON about the single ‘Samadhi‘)

There were moments where the rhythmic flow had qualities that took the mind into the soundscapes of Philip Glass  and others during which the stroke of the keys was done in the dramatic way that nodded to and is associated with Rachmaninov’s sound. There were also moments when the use of wind instruments, disrupted what was expected in terms of sonics. Owen was ‘interrupting’ these seemingly linear sonic paths OTHON live photowith brief electric drum sounds, lengthy bow strokes and other hard-to-define sounds, lifting this whole sonic experimentation into the level of a spiritual/emotional exploration. All this was being unveiled to us, while Othon was ‘conversing’ with entities above and below himself as a response to the melodies he was creating. If you have ever seen pianists perform live (mainly in a classical, orchestra setting), you would have rarely seen them responding to the melody in a dramatic way (Amanda Palmer is one of them). But this was not a classical concert, OTHON has transcended the genre and its characteristics from the very beginning of his career. Throughout the duration of the four pieces that were performed, the mandala-type of design was staring back at us, inviting us to interpret it or be absorbed by it, based on the impact the music was having on us. I kept going back to it but it did not manage to absorb me; now I am looking at its ‘negative’, the white sleeve that envelops the clear vinyl. It has a stronger impact…for some reason…I am still trying to find out why.

Everything is symbolic in this new album, ‘The God Within‘. Everything represents different possibilities for everyone. This is the only way, that someone might approach their God within after all, by passing through and above levels of consciousness, by exploring the different ways of being, by adopting different interpretations about things, that would question and clash with any preconceptions about the world.

The soundscapes that OTHON and Owen created, are elegant sonic paths with fierce conceptual qualities and possibly, dramatic existential outcomes. They are fascinating sonic journeys that, touch upon the primordial and minimal in order to approach the axiomatic. They are a philosophical book which contains notes instead of words. At the end of the concert, they greeted themselves in a mutual gesture of appreciation while the audience’s applause was becoming stronger by the second.

‘The God Within’- The momentary creation of a circle 

OTHON had announced that after the performance he would be at the foyer, signing records. Soon I realized that I had specific expectations about the number of people who would stay for this part of the evening. Everyone stayed! I have been in many gigs in Greece and elsewhere and nowhere have I seen such support. People would normally rush out and leave, but the music had had a profound effect on OTHON live photothem, so much so, that everyone showed an unprecedented level of support to the musicians. The first set of LPs was sold within the first five minutes and everyone around was discussing the performance in small groups. When OTHON joined us carrying a few more LPs people just rushed to congratulate him in person and take one from his arms as soon as he arrived. In the small queue at the till, people who did not know each other before, were discussing the record and the music. I have not seen this level of engagement with an artist’s work for a very long time. It was remarkable, like a magnet…one was almost struggling to leave. A mediative circle, might not have been opened at the beginning of this performance, but it had been created as a response to it and now it contained everyone who was present.

Thank you OTHON and Owen for presenting this ‘book’ to us and for inviting us to ‘read’ it…The effect of this performance will accompany us to the end of this year and inspire us for the beginning of the new decade. As we exited the theatre, Athens felt less rough, less ugly, less…real.


Review: Blaue Rosen box

                                                                                                                                          photos: Olga K.

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