Whether you love and revere Ott (as we do) or have yet to discover his otherworldly music, you’ll be happy to know he is back on the road for a North American Tour, kicking off at the Earthdance Festival in California, and then will be back in the lab brewing new tracks.
His sweepingly evocative sound is catching on as those seeking diversity within the electronic genre discover it. Like his collaborators, Shpongle, Ott’s music is eclectic and unpredictable, changing often and utilizing samples from all over the world. But who is this reclusive producer and DJ regarded by many as the best in the business and what’s he gonna do next?
Ott moved to London in the late 80s and began his career as a studio engineer, working obsessively for ten years to hone his craft. “Initially unimpressed by the frantic, unmusical clatterings of acid house and ‘rave’, he discovered a new wave of artists who apparently shared his love of organic dub and pristine electronics such as The Orb, Dub Syndicate, FSOL and African Head Charge. These were people unafraid to combine bass-heavy rhythm, abstract soundscape and timeless melody into a huge, ever-shifting sonic universe which reflected perfectly the spirit of hope and positivity which prevailed.” (autonomousmusic.org)
Taking refuge within this scene during the cultural void that was the 80’s, Ott began his search for obscure samples and rare studio equipment as a way to escape from the simple, pervasive thumping that dominated early electronica. He cultivated a subtle, orchestral style that would become his trademark, incorporating ancient harmonies into something completely new.
He spent the 90’s freelancing as an engineer and producer before sequestering himself in a cottage in Southwest England to pursue his own music. “With a vague plan to create the perfect soundtrack to an outdoor English festival he embarked on a series of sonic experiments, drawing heavily on classic dub sounds from Jamaica and hypnotic electronic pulse from Germany…” (autonomousmusic.org)
With influences like Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Youth, Scientist, King Tubby, Steve Hillage and On-U-Sound, Ott set out to create a new brand of electronica that features world samples like tribal drums, Indian vocals and Arabic strings, layered over sternum-thumping beats and reggae basslines. He is a master of weaving together complex combinations of sounds, patiently building them into a rich, driving wave that seems to evolve effortlessly and stirs both emotions and dancing shoes. The results have been heralded by critics and fans alike as a unique, refreshing departure from minimal, repetitive downtempo.
In 2002 he collaborated with Simon Posford, remixing classic Hallucinogen tracks and infusing them with dubby dance beats to create the epic Hallucinogen In Dub album that put him on the map. Quickly following it’s success, he released his first solo album, Blumenkraft, followed by Skylon in 2008, both on Twisted Records. In the meantime he has been part of countless collaborations and toured the US and Europe extensively.
Recently he has been living in Spain with his wife and daughter, but told us that he was back in England now, which may allow him to pursue collaborative projects with artists like multi-instrumentalist Chris Barker (with whom he partners as Umberloid) and singer/multi-instrumentalist Naked Nick.
“Naked Nick and I have been working on ideas for a couple of years now and we have around 15 tracks recorded,” Ott said before leaving for the Earthdance Festival. “As soon as my October tour is finished we will be locking ourselves in the studio for the winter and getting the album together. Our last collaboration was “The Queen Of All Everything” from Skylon, on which Nick sang the lead vocals… I will also be taking six months off from touring and creating a new Ott album. I have been busy finding and buying lots more obscure pieces of 1970’s studio equipment and I can’t wait to press them into service and see what kind of wackiness I can coax from them. I’m very excited about having time to work on my own music again, having spent the last couple of years working on mixes and remixes for others, touring around Europe and the USA.”
To hold you over, download Live at Gnomelandia
It’s a 60-minute mix that incorporates unreleased versions of songs from both of Ott’s studio albums, as well as a special unreleased gem. Listeners familiar with his albums, often categorized as downtempo or chillout, will hear their favorite tracks transformed into upbeat grooves ready for the dance floor. Reflective of the Live Ott experience, Live at Gnomelandia is a glimpse of what you can catch on tour this fall.
Download a few choice cuts: