Writing about Otti Albietz it’s hard to avoid mentioning his impressive bohemian credentials. It has been a long road to Hastings for the musician. Born in Malaga, he spent his youth travelling Europe and Morocco, living in Spain, Germany and Switzerland, before familial connections, and the pursuit of his musical ambitions, brought him towards our little corner of the world.
Having branched out to pursue a music career in Germany and Switzerland for a time, Otti claims “it didn’t feel like a fertile place to do it”, the music scene being -broadly speaking- more firmly based around classical and jazz. “Hastings, is now- well it was when I came over- growing. But it actually feels like its flowering now. There are little groups, little musical tribes forming.”
When pushed Otti describes how “I like a lot of Hastings bands, the trouble with naming any of them is I’ll inevitably leave someone out”. Nonetheless he makes a valiant attempt, praising amongst many others, Eyes that Kill, The Kid Kapichi, Tim Hoyte, Ceyote, Tom Williams and the Boat, and Geoff Leigh.
Otti’s own songs mix the poetic with intense realism, the sorrowful and profound with light hearted and comic lyrics, resonating sounds with more stripped down acoustic pieces.
Having released his first album, ‘One’, on the Little Village record label in 2011, and ‘Bubbytone II’ in 2013 with BBE (Barely Breaking Even), the release of the self-titled ‘Otti and the Voices’ marks for Otti the completion of a body of work. Describing the three albums as a trilogy, he explains that having constantly intermingled gigging and recording since the first albums release, they’re “linked because I pretty much went at each one as soon as I could after each other,” thus encapsulating them with that period of his life.
Although he considers “the three albums form an initial statement that I can now move on from”, this moving on doesn’t seem to mark any departure from material, style or direction, just a feeling of “a packing up of that era of songs”, alongside perhaps the era of his early twenties.
Living and learning from experience, Otti considers his style will now “not necessarily evolve but particularise. I’ll still dance around the same old ideas. Any album coming from now on is just going to have learnt from those”.
The recording of the new album certainly belies a solid confidence in the dynamics of the project. Recorded within three days, “about half to a third of the new album is first takes,” with no lead vocal overdubs, “one song we hadn’t even rehearsed.”
Although not dismissive of the recording process, Otti admits with this album “I did want to get closer to live performance. That’s one thing I learnt from ‘Bubbytone II’, that as much as I like constructing a brain-world for the ears in a studio, I missed the ability to play it live, and to actually capture and write arrangements that could be played by a minimal amount of people.”
For Otti, ‘Bubbytone II’ strayed uncomfortably close to being too polished, too lost in its instruments. With the third album he cites a certain freedom; “there’s a lot of shabbiness to it, but I can live with that because our main decision point on whether it was right was just whether the take felt right, and that felt really empowering.”
A powerfully emotive force on stage, Otti unpretentiously mentions the importance of the electricity of live performance, the fact that “you always get a different energy and reality out of people- real people, there, at that time.”
In its present incarnation, the regular additional members of the project are bassist Thad Skews and drummer James Gulliver, forming a closely knit group, united by general banter and a similar sense of humour- something that comes across strongly in their videos. Intriguingly mixing the dark, bizarre and comic, these very unique videos are ‘inspired by the songs, but also trying to avoid being literal with them. I’ll come up with the idea, then go to Thad’s and make them better, much better’.
These videos have so far featured some pretty fearless fancy dress- with geisha like getup, squirming blue devils, and giant papier-mâché heads- “monstrous versions of ourselves”- leering through the deserted alleys of the old town.
In much the same vein of this seriously playful approach, the albums launch featured, alongside two nights of live music, a mock press conference attended by “representatives” of The Times and Vogue (more accurately described as some delivery men, a friend, and the gallery owner.)
For Otti and co there are tours on the horizon, spanning out to Spain and middle Europe, returning to England for ‘End of the Road’ in Dorset in late August, and ‘Alternate Escape’ in Brighton.
Despite his travelling past, Otti has never been on the road gigging for more than six days in a row, saying that although he likes the “sunsets and new towns vibe” of travelling, he prefers having a decent place to sleep.
Speaking to Otti, a clear focus on the future of his project is apparent, he’s confident of his style, the project, and its potential.
From the solid basis of the completion of the first three albums, he certainly stands in a position of strength, and it appears we can expect more great things from him, and the project yet to come.