Noise Pollution: OTTO Beams in & Mirah Makes 20 Special

Noise Pollution returns with new music from Otto, Zayland, and more.
By    August 7, 2020

Will Schube is not the same, he is a martian.

OTTOWorld Greetings

Like so many producers of the new generation, OTTO sounds like he was beamed in from an alien spaceship. He plays with juke, trance and house structures, but manages to squeeze in pop formats and some ambient underpinnings as well. He’s the sort of artist for which rules don’t apply, and a governing tenet of his new EP, World Greetings, is that no idea is bad, and more ideas is better. In less deft hands, this approach disintegrates into a messy cacophony, but on World Greetings, OTTO spins the chaos into enthralling gold.

He’s signed to Vegyn’s PLZ Make it Ruins, which gives anyone familiar with the Frank Ocean collaborator’s work a decent idea of what OTTO’s working with here. While the pop and hip-hop tendencies are less overt than in Vegyn’s work, both artists take a fantastically interesting new school approach to musical composition. This is less chop and paste than destroy and rebuild, as if these tracks existed in different formats entirely before OTTO reassembled them into the fully formed works we get throughout the EP. It’s glitchy and inattentive to a distinguishing throughline, but once again, OTTO uses this to his advantage. There’s not enough time to process where he’s been, because OTTO is constantly moving forward on the record. The only thing that stops him is that the album eventually ends.

Alex IzenbergCaravan Château

Everything about Alex Izenberg suggest he occupies a parallel existence in a different era. Whereas so much of performative nostalgia falls dangerously into shtick territory, Izenberg’s full-immersion in an alien perspective of our collective past is utterly enchanting. Because the stitches are hidden and the seams effortlessly paved away, Izenberg’s music is less imitation than a direct conversation with his influences. There’s an eerie nonchalance to Izenberg’s music, especially on his new LP, Caravan Château, which at times sounds like he’s performing in reaction to some vague threat. But this distance lends itself to a unique POV―as if Izenberg is both narrator, protagonist, and the focus of a b-plot.

On “Sister Jade,” the second song from Caravan Château, Izenberg sings, “No such thing as a ghost.” The album operates from this perspective, mining the past of personal recollections and worldly maxims to come at the ‘60s and ‘70s heyday of Laurel Canyon pop from a new perspective. Izenberg even sports the beard, hair, and hat of an anti-war crooner. But Izenberg’s album outlives any comparisons to long lost eras. Built from folk and rock from artists like Van Dyke Parks and Dennis Wilson, Alex Izenberg’s Caravan Château is a modern update to that half-imagined past.

ZaylandFrom Texas, With Love

I’ve professed my love for Zayland’s particular style of post-R&B on this very site in the past, and the Dallas crooner has reaffirmed my position with his stellar new EP, From Texas, With Love. The record includes 10 songs, but at only 24 minutes, Zayland does a nice job packing in a multitude of styles and ideas into a tidy package. The EP, released by Austin’s most exciting collective, Nu Wave SOUND, is an attempt to showcase particularly exciting talent in the Lone Star state. As such, the record includes artists like Luna Luna from Dallas, The Teeta from Austin, FRITOGANG from San Antonio, and Devy Stonez out of Dallas.

On the production side, Zach Witness runs the show on “Simone.” The beatmaker is most well known for producing Erykah Badu’s excellent But You Caint Use My Phone, and here, his hypnotizing, percussion heavy beat allows for the vocalists to shine as they move from straight ahead rap flows to sing-song deliveries. Elsewhere, on “Dior Sheets,” the string embellishments from Potillo and Sonic Major give the song a mournful edge; they’re both subtle but essential. From Texas, With Love is another excellent effort from Zayland, proving that his talent lies both as a songwriter and a unique procurer of talent.

MirahYou Think It’s Like This But It’s Really Like This

20th anniversary reissues are rarely of interest to casual fans. Whether the special celebration includes unearthed b-sides, remastered tracks, or new vinyl availability, there’s little available to anyone other than diehards. But Mirah’s taken a brilliant step to make her 20th anniversary truly mean something, by reissuing her seminal You Think It’s Like This But It’s Really Like This in addition to soliciting covers from a bevy of indie rock musicians, each of whom takes a different approach to the artist’s iconic lo-fi pop style. People who have read my writing before know that anything Yoni Wolf or WHY? is involved with is something I’ll check out, so my interest was immediately piqued when WHY? and Gabby’s World (who also tours as a member of WHY?, too) appeared on the tracklist.

But fear not, the rest of the covers section of this release is packed as well. Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie project takes on “Of Pressure,” which is fun because a) Elverum originally co-produced Mirah’s You Think It’s Like This But It’s Really Like This and b) Elverum has recently revitalized his amazing Microphones project, so this is a fond and emotional see you later from his Eerie project. Sad13―Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz―teams up with Mal Blum on “This Dance,” and elsewhere, Hand Habits, Flock of Dimes, and Palehound tackle Mirah’s masterpiece. For the few indie rock and indie-adjacent fans still making noise, this release is a really fun, throwback event to when this sort of thing would dominate the landscape. For everyone else, it’s simply an introduction to a pioneering album and a bunch of stellar interpretations of that work.

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