REVIEW: The Otter Years – ‘Singles Collection’

the otter years

Artist: The Otter Years
Album: Singles Collection
Genre: IDM
Label: Little League Records

When listening to The Otter Years‘ work for the first time, one would not be foolish to suspect the musician behind it has focused their career efforts on experimenting with all facets of electronic music. Alas, they would be wrong, as The Otter Years is none other than the brainchild of TTNG’s percussionist Chris Collis, a man known for existing as the backbone of mind-bending math rock rather than utterly relaxing dance music. Allowing listeners to fully wrap their mind around the concept of Collis’ 180 degree turn in sound, he has gathered all of The Otter Years’ singles debuted throughout 2014 and compacted them into the Singles Collection, a sprawling 30-minute expression of various musical ideas with one unifying theme: being outright stunning.

Self-described as “music a 5-year-old Icelandic child would make,” there is apparent truth to this statement, albeit not throughout the entire Singles Collection. Kicking off with “Postcards,” a track whose child-like female vocals (at times in the vein of a young Björk) bounce atop a rather sparse atmosphere of triggered percussion and rare flares of keys, the presence of a youthful element is almost spine-tingling as the bleak atmosphere isn’t where one would naturally think to place a youthful element. On other tracks such as “Rendered Null” and “Cusgrove Beatgroove Academy,” the tracks aren’t necessarily as cheerless in comparison to “Postcards” as they are dramatic. While the former cut contains enough melancholy via tapping snares and snaps to fit comfortably inside the tracklisting of a rainy day playlist featuring The Postal Service, the latter attains a sense of drama on a cinematic scale through its chiptune-esque style soaring and speeding along.

As mentioned before, there is still a childlike nature to be found within the majority of the Singles Collection, at times even through methods that melancholy is accomplished. Take “Caro Bean,” a song whose earlier passage results in one of the compilation’s most memorable moments in the form of another chiptune bridge straight out of your old, withering Gameboy, that flawlessly transitions into a tittering and tattering xylophone lead with just the right amount of pep. It’s not outright airy like “Elisbeth,” a transcendental cut that is best heard with the Sun high in the sky, but it still manages to possess a strangely inviting nature.

After listening to the Singles Collection on repeat for quite some time, it becomes apparent that there is genuinely something for everyone and their every mood, as not only are there bleak and joyful tracks, but subsets of their own. Yes, this at times results in a slight lack of cohesion from track to track, but with the miniscule amount of pleasure this takes away from the LP, it quickly becomes of no concern and also manages to bring this to mind: imagine what The Otter Years will craft when entering the studio with the intent to create an LP. It’s difficult to comprehend at this point in time, but until that day comes, the Singles Collection will surely keep listeners plenty busy.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Michael Giegerich (Follow him on Twitter)

Mike Giegerich

Mike Giegerich is a freelance journalist with an affinity for the hip-hop scene. His top-five favorite records of all time are Future's last five releases. Feel free to blow up his mentions on Twitter.
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