Chaotic, beautiful noise. How did they come up with this? How is this band only compromised of three members?
These are the thoughts rushing through my head as I am listening to the album Farang by Human Ottoman.
The band hails from Eugene, Oregon and is composed of Grayson Fiske on the vibraphone, Susan Lucía on drums, and Matthew Cartmill on cello. Mike Weiland provides some additional violin work on the album.
A friend who happened to see the band by chance in San Jose handed me this album. I checked out some of their material on YouTube and was impressed. I then listened to the CD.
What I like about Human Ottoman is that the music sounds so much deeper and bigger than the size of the group. It feels like an entire orchestra is playing.
The track opens with the “Infernal Mechanism of Commerce” (awesome name), which is just this blasting, frenzied in-your-face explosion. It sounds like something out of a Mad Max film. From there, I was hooked. I loved this song so much and it’s my favorite track on the album besides “Painting.”
The album uses vocals sparingly. Most of Farang is just beautiful noise. Beautiful music. The way I would describe the album and band is like a Jackson Pollock painting. A lot of people think a Pollock painting is just paint everywhere with no artistic or aesthetic skill. That’s not the case. Pollock would actually take the time to calibrate each stroke and wouldn’t paint unless it felt right. Each painting tells a story and allows different people to see different things. That’s exactly what this album is. Organized chaos.
Human Ottoman is clearly very skilled with their instruments. It’s not as though they are just playing random notes. Everything is in the right place even though it may not seem like it.
I loved the solos in this album. It has cello solos. It has drum solos. It has fucking vibraphone solos. How awesome is that? The solos are amazing and show off the caliber of skill of each musician.
I also love the changes within a song. “Painting” starts off slow and then builds up to this climactic ending that is more heavy and quite exhilarating. There is a natural flow in their songs, which just come to life. They are breathing, living pieces of art that demand to be listened to.
This all being said, I do have some criticisms.
The vocals are a bit hit or miss in the album. I like the vocals in “Painting” but did not like them in “Ydkwh.”
Also, some of the songs are rough around the edges. For the most part I felt like “Nth degree,” “Mulatu,” and “Codename Fulano” were a bit disjointed. These songs just did not flow well in my opinion. There were some redeeming qualities in these songs, but overall I did not like them as much as the others.
The album also became derivative at times. Too many similar sounds can become burdensome. It never quite got that bad in this album, but it came close at points. There were enough prominent songs to keep me interested and engaged.
Overall, though, this is a great album. It’s very experimental in a bodacious way. I have never heard anything like it before and look forward to seeing what Human Ottoman has in store for the future.
Official Rating: Somewhere between a 3.5 and 4 out of 5 stars
Asides: If that was the drummer (Susan Lucía) singing vocals on “Falling,” that was amazing. I would like to see more work featuring her vocals in the future. It added an awesome element and layer to the song.
If Human Ottoman is reading this, I would like to humbly request an interview whenever the group is back in the Bay Area of California.