Christine Ott: Only Silence Remains
That French composer Christine Ott plays the Ondes Martenot, the early electronic musical instrument invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928 and made famous by its inclusion in Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, is the natural hook for her first full-length album since 2009 and Gizeh Records debut. But Only Silence Remains is far more than a one-dimensional showcase for the instrument's alien sonorities; in fact, Ott's acoustic piano playing is more prominently featured on the eight-setting set, which impresses as much for the quality of its compositions as its distinctive soundworld.
Having worked with artists such as Yann Tiersen, Radiohead, Tindersticks, and Oiseaux-Tempête, Ott brings no small amount of experience to this solo outing, and her gifts as a multi-instrumentalist are effectively documented; not only does she play piano and Ondes Martenot, she's also credited with harmonic tubes, harmonium, percussion, vocals, Jupiter8, timpani, and tubular bells. It's not entirely a solo affair, however, as Ott is joined by a guest or two on several tracks. Stylistically, the material falls into the category of modern classical with an experimental, even avant-garde edge, and Only Silence Remains manages to be eclectic without sounding contrived.
The combination of the Ondes Martenot's warble with Ott's elegant piano and Justine Charlet's harpsichord at the album's start immediately promises that Only Silence Remains will be something special; the pairing of the electronic instrument with the piano on “Sexy Moon” is perhaps even more striking during those moments when they're the only sounds featured. The material's classical dimension moves vividly to the fore when Anil Eraslan's cello and Olivier Maurel's vibraphone augment Ott's piano during the live performance of “Szczecin,” the piece's chiming melodies at times suggesting a Tiersen influence. Never is her classical piano playing more affecting than during “No Memories,” a lovely solo spotlight she executes with great sensitivity to pacing and dynamics. Still, not everything is so controlled, as shown by the frenzy generated by Eraslan's cello and the wildness Ott coaxes from the Ondes Martenot on “Tempête.”Adding to the recording's distinctive sound design, the wheeze of Ott's harmonium introduces “Raintrain,” after which drumming by Francesco Rees and double bass playing by Jerome Fohrer nudge the material into free-floating improv territory. The eerie character of the Ondes Martenot repeatedly aligns with the vision Ott presents on the album, which receives its most provocative articulation during the closing “Disaster” when Casey Brown recites a text about post-apocalyptic devastation. As dark as its content is, Only Silence Remains is not weighed down by tragedy; if anything, the tone is generally more celebratory than despairing.