BOB OSTERTAG – Plays The Aalto

Self Release

Bob Ostertag: Madrona Labs Aalto Synthesizer

I could begin this review by telling you that listening to this new offer by Bob Ostertag made me want to look into the Aalto myself; and I’m urging the snoopiest readers to do the same, by following the link above. Then again, it takes just a few minutes to read the composer’s passionate notes on his liking of certain old synthesizers – the ones where the term “manipulation” really meant that, if you were desirous of singular patches and eccentric sequences – thus the ground for letting this writer drool once more at the mere thought of investigating a highly responsive apparatus was, by all odds, rather fertile. Nevertheless, the expertise needed for producing substances of considerable complexity (yet aesthetically charming) is not something that can be fabricated by whoever decides to make music with a computer, in spite of the abominable excesses of libertarianism introduced by affordable laptops over the last two decades, for the benefit of underdeveloped nerds who manage to get illustrious laurels thanks to voguish haircuts and blank stares into their Mac.

That leaves us with the (easily answerable) question: why Plays The Aalto sounds so disarmingly pleasing? My guess is that this essentially depends on a pair of factors. The first is the mix of modern and traditional traits defining the synth’s extremely varicolored, ductile timbral character. The second is its amazing value – in the right hands, of course – as a source of “melodious polyrhythms”, so to speak. Honest: rarely you’ll find a segment in which the head is not nodding compulsively, even in places where granular impairment and blistering bubbling predominate. My favorite snippet comes around the 27th minute, as we’re suddenly witnessing the corporate insanity of an entire shop of cuckoo clocks. Private preferences aside, this chapter of Ostertag’s discography must especially be recommended to those – like yours truly – who utilize audible structures beyond the conventional possibilities (still sounding human, in this case) to help the brain in its constant attempt of escaping the deadening “qualities” of workaday thinking. Now, let me fantasize about a squealing Roland GR700 fighting against a nicely unlawful artificial perspective…

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