I first met Othon Mataragas in Austria at Donaufestival '07 (curated by David Tibet) where he was performing with Current 93. Since then, he has been on the soundtrack to the Bruce LaBruce film Otto; or Up With Dead People and then part of a live accompaniment to the Derek Jarman film The Angelic Conversation, orchestrated by Peter Christopherson. I've seen Othon contribute his pianist skills to Ron Athey's automatic writing performance in London (Gifts of the Spirits), and he is currently working on an collaboration with artist Franko B (Because of Love). His debut album, Digital Angel, focused on childhood nightmares of corporations taking over our identities and features a lovely rendition of Coil's "The Dreamer is Still Asleep," sung by David Tibet. His second album, Impermanence, is provocative, filled with torment that is presented in a profound yet light-hearted way. Othon's arrangements are gorgeous and timeless.
The opening title track starts out with an exalting, classical instrumental track by Othon alone at the piano. He is credited in the liner notes as contributing piano and celeste to the album: quite a stunning start, demanding full attention as if whispering for us to pay attention. The lyrics of "The Fall," written by poet Ernesto Sarezale, lend themselves to showcase Tomasini's four-octave vocal range and tell a morbid love story of nurturing a wounded stranger who is represented metaphorically by a fallen angel. "Mystery Star Dance" is the second instrumental on the album, a striking and epic piece filled with sorrow and intensity, featuring Othon's exquisite piano paired with cello by Jacob Shirley. Othon's only vocal contribution to the album, "All Is Too Soon," is warm and touching as he recalls memories of a childhood friend lost; his Greek accent is endearing in this tragic tale. "A Little Dream" has a hint of David Tibet vocal style in Tomasini's whispering apocalyptic tones. The second instance of the title track-- "Impermanence +" features the lovely sullen voice of Marc Almond. This track seems to be inviting us into another world. The lyrics are melancholy and dark, as is the delivery: "cold is the sun / black shines the moon / and birds have sharp teeth / the flies killing eyes."
The single of the album, "Last Night I Paid To Close My Eyes" is sung by Marc Almond on the album version. The single version and the music video both feature Tomasini in Marc's place. Both feature a choir of backing vocalists including Beverly Crone (The Cesarians). Ernesto's appearance in the music video is all at once striking, ostentatious, and enigmatic-- an element of whimsy to go with the theatrics of it all.
The final track of the album, also titled "Impermanence" is sung by Tomasini entirely in falsetto with a soprano register—delivered with a dramatic, cinematic effect. It is accompanied by magic organ from this track's producer, Troy Banarzi. Something wicked has become of something once sacred—an end is near, and his final words of the album resonate so strongly you'll likely be inclined to give the album another listen and momentarily deny the message they propose: "gone are the ships / lost is all hope / but I deny to believe / I deny to accept / the impermanence of it all."
As stated in an interview, Othon is often laughing inside during even his most painful performances. There is madness here, and it is meant to make us feel both terrified and giddy at the same time. Othon mentioned that the slogan of the album is "everything withers & everything dies," and it celebrates both the pain of life and the joy of dying. When we die, the chemical DMT is released into our brains as we leave our bodies, arguably the last earthly mindset we experience before moving from this existence to the next. Therefore, we should be at peace with ourselves upon death, or we may end up in a perpetual bad trip: perhaps the definition of Hell? Illustrated on the album's gorgeous cover artwork by the wonderful Hector de Gregorio, this is a motif which Othon toys with great success—that of agony meeting ecstasy and the hallucinatory, quirky shades of life that come from everything in between.
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