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Othon - Digital Angel

Digital Angel is the first album from Othon, a Greek born composer and classically trained pianist. From the cover portrait of Othon, tattooed and pierced sprouting angel wings atop a plinth, you know this is going to be flamboyant. And it is. Elements of cabaret, musical theatre and opera run through Digital Angel. It is also quite intimate largely due to the composition of tracks which is predominantly just piano and voice. The flamboyance is matched by the distinctive performances of the guest vocalists: Marc Almond, Ernesto Tomasini and David Tibet. Digital Angel was released in late 2008 but you really don't want to miss this.

The contributions from Marc Almond are particularly noteworthy. From the opening heavy piano stabs his voice soars, evoking Egyptian Gods from Crowley's Book of the Law in the reflective passages of the death laden track 'The Epitaph of God' which could be a comment on the initial effects of the AIDS threat. Almond also features on 'The Tango Song', the only published song of occultist Aleister Crowley. Marc Almond is in fine form rising from a breathless whisper to an impassioned croon over dancing keys and florid piano patterns. Almond performs 'The Tango Song' with a passion redolent of pre-war cabaret. Much of Digital Angel is largely created for piano and voice. 'Tonight', though boasts a larger ensemble casting Almond with jazz inflected trumpet playing and soft strings, his voice weaving through passages of tender longing to heated moments of manic love.

The spectre of John Balance hangs heavy on Othon's interpretation of Coil's 'The Dreamer Is Still Asleep' featuring David Tibet on vocals. It's a sombre reworking with David Tibet delivering the words of his close friend in a loaded knowing manner. The piano score is stark, recalling Current 93's Soft Black Stars, and only towards the close does it pick up on the original melody.

Ernesto Tomasini the self-confessed artiste extraordinaire lends his flamboyant voice to many of the tracks. On each song, and even within songs, he adopts a different voice, reflecting the varied characters he creates. Tracks such as 'When I Leave You' and 'Greater Feast Massacre' are very theatrical. They are almost like plays as Tomasini runs through a multitude of voices displaying a fantastic range from baritone to operatic soars and dramatic spoken voice. One moment it's music hall, the next it's cabaret and then opera. With Tomasini upfront Digital Angel never settles in one genre.

The trilogy of songs that comprise the Digital Angel suite are much more experimental giving Othon the space to show his considerable dexterity on the piano. Tomasini is in his element here too, with a voice that is gender changing and at time almost androgynous. 'Digital Angel II: Metalipsis' features sweeping cello swabs while the final part 'Digital Angel: Brave New World' is all heavy piano chords with Tomasini's almost spoken part, punctuated by soaring soprano, thumping dissonant throbs and sweeping strings. The repeated refrain of "Christ Dissolved' backed by the spoken voice of David Tibet.

On the basis of Digital Angel the sporadic live performances from Othon and Ernesto Tomasini must be worth catching. As for Digital Angel there's much to recommend; Othon has fashioned a strong individual release featuring unique interpretations eliciting fantastic performances from the guest vocalists. You really don't want to overlook this. For more information go to www.jnanarecords.com or www.othonmataragas.com