and...Ottmar Liebert live at the Secret House
Veneta, Oregon, June 27'03

Ottmar Liebert: nouveaumatic

Lawrence Russell

highway 101

Driving south on Hwy 101... just off the M.V. Coho, the ferry from Vancouver Island. Listening to Ottmar Liebert's The Santa Fe Sessions... track 1, Snakecharmer. This version of his classic instrumental is a killer. The immediacy of the recording, the disembodied flight-pattern of the coda... man, the Chevy lifts off the asphalt and we're flyin contours down the clear-cuts, both sides of the highway.

Reach for a cool Red Bull, the first one ever. Can't buy them in Canada. Friend swears you can drive forever on them. Just picked up a four-pak in a lonely convenience store, sagging shingle shack with a Bud neon. The only sign of civilization at Sappho Junction. Yeah, that's what it's called. Sappho Junction. Hang a right here, and you'll probably end up in Leah Bay, where the local Indians hunt the gray whale... you've seen it on TV, Stone Age Channel.

Sky is blue, highway long, traffic sparse. The odd logging truck, car, SUV. Following a furrow between the big trees. Here and there a flash burn, the blackened ditches and forest a testament to carelessly ejected cigarettes. Some wrecks in the gullies, some shrines with staggered crosses and wilting flowers. Barely notice after a while. Easy to get hypnotized. Yeah... the coda of Snakecharmer. Believe OL starts the exit theme with loose strung Lutar, then doubles with his guitar, which gives it a very nice texture. Wah Strat in there too, descending figure in F/A minor 7/G... or thereabouts. Nice hands, nice dreams.

You know, I might try playing this, I say.
Really? my wife says. You never do that.
I might this time.
Think you could?
Sure. Use my new solidbody electric.
Your what? Did you buy a new guitar?
Well... it was a bargain.
You're crazy! Got a bunch of guitars already... hardly ever play them.
Was a bargain, I'm saying. Is beautiful.

She's straining against her seat-belt in indignation.

It's black, isn't it?
Well yes.
You're crazy. Bet Ottmar doesn't have ten guitars.
Bet he does.
Bet he buys his wife anything she wants.
He had a platinum record.
Bet he didn't buy Nortel and Cisco either.
I hope not. Relax, baby. We're gonna have a good time in Oregon.
You're damn rights...hey, what's that you've got around yr neck?
What is that? Something to make you smell good?
Hey woman... you tryin to make us crash? Quit pawing it!
What is it?
A mini CD... a limited ed. Ottmar Liebert.
Around your thick neck? What is this -- the cult of Ottmar?

3 is 4 good luck

OL's fans are slavering to get their hands on the Limited Edition (1000 signed, 1500 unsigned) mini CD, "3 is 4 good luck". The three tracks are "re-mixes" a la dance club format: the beautifully atmospheric Twilight Rain [originally on In The Arms of Love], Sao Paulo, the funky bossa nova number with the chunky bass line [originally on The Santa Fe Sessions], and 2 The Night, an old OL classic from his first indie album nouveau flamenco. If you can't attend one of OL's concerts and get one of these beauties -- it comes with a lanyard so you can hang it around yr elegant neck -- you can always try the mp3 preview at Culture Court... or content yourself with the newly released full monty CD nouveaumatic.

Conceptually the mini CD is/was a great idea... whoever thought this one up is a genius. In the era of mass market product, it's good to revert to one of the old literary standards that makes collecting such fun. True, it can't be played on most car stereos [unless you have a high-end Alpine in yr Morgan plus eight... which has a tray that'll eat anything, make it sound fab] but you can always burn a reggie copy for highway cruising.

the secret house

Ottmar Liebert: flamenco & electric guitars; John Gagan: Fender bass & synth; Ron Wagner: percussion; Canton Becker: electronic percussion loops.

When was this gig? June 26/ 03. Floats in my mind like the golden Oregon light that evening... as we swing the pickup onto the dirt road, get lost in the dust of the moving column... cars, trucks, SUVs... all heading into the vineyard for the concert. Park in a field below a large oak, then follow the signs along the hedgerows. Chick at the ticket gate doesn't want me to take my camera in... wife pretends to take it back to the truck. Angry voices at the gate... guy says they're over-charging, radio said it was one thing, now they're saying another. I don't care. Got our tickies through the mail.

Stage is setup behind an old barn with a metal roof and a tarp. Big oak about fifty feet from the stage, throws some shade for the fans already in position, lying on the rough grass... some with bottles of Secret House wine, some with beers, some with Bogarts and yuppie water. Aw, this is great. Just like a private party. Maybe 300 people, some drifting around. Beats sitting in some concert hall, like the Centre in downtown Vancouver... where I thought about going. What was it McCartney said? "The theatre gives me a sore arse."

Gig starts at 7 pm precisely as the sun rides the background pines, madrones, hills. OL is wearing a white shirt, jeans... sits on a chair, bare feet, goes into Snake right away. Actually, it's kicked off by his percussionist, Ron Wagner... twanging a Berimbau, which is an old jungle rig, a stick in a box or something... kinda rough opening attack.... maybe he's hung-over I'm thinking or he's messin with our heads... but pretty quickly he gets the groove and away they go.

See a couple of white doves sitting on a telephone wire taking it all in. Seems like a omen. Good vibes from the sky. OL is working through his Santana homage. Crowd likes it.


He goes into some hard-core flamenco thrash chords, followed by some nice octave bass improv by Jon Gagan. JG is very relaxed, standing tall in his western boots, big Fender fretless slung nice and easy. Gets into a nice groove on the bossa nova number Sao Paulo... by now the lawn is shadowed under the cobalt sky, yellow rays catching the branches of the oaks and the contours of the low forest hills in the distance. JG steps over to the synth, punches out some 4ths... Wagner and Becker drop in behind like happy animals heading for the polymetric water hole... OL picks up his modified Strat clone... and I'm thinking, oh wow, here we go --

Some chubby guy with a straw hat is dancing with a goddess at the back, near a Coors stall. Guy with a burnt face is chatting up a couple of Latinas. He's loaded. Chicks giggle.

My wife's looking at the big gold tour buses parked nearby, just behind the merchandise stall.

Make a neat photo, she says.
Just a bus, I say.
His and hers, she says.
What do you mean?
One for him, one for his wife.
Be serious. One is for the band and the roadies.
The band rides in the truck.
The red semi? That's fer equipment!
So? Room for all... they can drink their beers and sambuccas in there... with their groupies.
Tequila. And they drink it in the gold bus.
I think Ottmar knows how to treat a woman. She has her own bus.
The wife ain't on the road, baby. She stays home.
No she doesn't... I think saw her.
Yeah? You saw what? Send him an e-mail, ask him.
You brought the Blackberry, didn't you?
No... left it in the truck.
Tsk tsk. Twenty years ago you'd already be in the red semi.
What's that supposed to mean?
Whatever... was just thinking of that incident with Robert Plant.
What incident? Have you been drinking?
Ssh... I'm trying to hear the music.

OL addresses the crowd end of the first set... talks about his disillusionment with the music industry, the inequities of recording contracts... the paranoia of the monopolies re the Net and the mp3 revolution. Says he's breaking with Higher Octave, will be selling his CDs from his site and at his concerts. Records all his own stuff in his personal studio anyway, so this step seems logical... never mind necessary. Crowd seems to dig it... many head for the merchandise stall, buy The Sante Fe Sessions... and the limited ed. 3 is 4 good luck.

This is really a Euphoria tour rather than Luna Negra, as the band is stripped down to one guitar, bass, drums and laptop. Yes, laptop. Herein lies some confusion. Some think OL is cheating, is just working off pre-recorded material from the laptop software. This, of course, isn't what's happening. The laptop is "played" by Canton Becker, who triggers percussion loops. Thus the rhythm section is a mix of techno and traditional. CB could always conceal the laptop behind a couple of congas or something and no one would any the wiser.

Morning Arrival in Goa. Beautiful. One of his best compositions. An electro-raga. Remember The Bangkok Hilton? The brilliant Aussie mini-series drama which broke a young Nicole Kidman... where she ends up falsely incarcerated in a Thai prison for smuggling heroin. Great episode where she and her new lover Arkie stay in a funky ocean front hotel in Goa... when I hear OL's composition, always think of Nicole getting out of bed in the morning, going to the window, gazing at the beach and the ocean. Paradise, yes. Meanwhile her swine of a lover is out buying the heroin which he will secretly stash in her luggage....

Sway-back chick in a cotton dress traipses past wearing a white surgical mask... stops in front of the stage, looks out over the reclining crowd as if she's part of the act. Circles around the crowd, then returns past the stage, finally settles down below the big mossy oak.

What was that all about?
Maybe she's Ottmar's wife, says my wife.
The hell she is.No wife would upstage him during a performance.
Why she's wearing the mask?
SARS paranoia.
Maybe she's breast-feeding.
Bullshit. Chick's an exhibitionist.
Don't say anything to Ottmar --
Sees it all the time. Typical star-fugger syndrome.
Sssh... don't swear. Brute.

After Barcelona Nights some blue lights come on, band calls it a wrap. Crowd rises to its feet, claps, yodels... "C'mon, put it up one more time!" Etc. Oh they're happy, Thursday evening in Veneta, 15 miles west of Eugene.

Night descends on bat wings... and we're on a dirt road leaving the Secret House vineyard. Have to confess, never drank a drop of their wine, even though wine is nice. Gotta drive back to the coast and 101. And Smoky don't dig no wine-drinkin hippies.

It's a lonely road through the mountains, the trees... no traffic. Well, almost none. Suddenly we're passed by a large gold bus goin full-bore without its lights on. Never saw it coming... and be damned if we saw where it was going.


Truth is, already have an advance copy of nouveaumatic... the title a reference to OL's first indie CD Nouveau Flamenco... and to the techno-dance aspect of the remixes. Maybe you think it's an automatic transmission of some sort, a retro thing... and maybe it is. It's also a new beginning.

Track 1. Twilight Rain. Very atmospheric opening, a moody line that certainly has the twilight feel. Very good listen on headphones as you can catch the soft pattern of the rain better.

Track 2, Sao Paulo. [mp3] This is a knock-out mix by Canton Becker, who is playing techno-percussion loops on the current Fall tour. This bossa is for dancing, baby.

Track 9. This version of In The Arms of Love [review] is like post-war Vienna... you know, Orson Welles as the bad American Harry Lime living in the sewers as that hypno zither by Anton Karas chang whangs away on the soundtrack. The Third Man. Nothing flamenco about this one. Is all middle Europe, gypsies from Hungary maybe. But there's the techno coda, that beautiful tape loop that swells and subsides like ghost music from the ionosphere. "Frippertronics" OL calls it, although the loop technique was being used a long time before Robert "King Crimson" Fripp ever took it up. Music's a bit like smell... we're drawn to familiar bodies.

Etcetera. Ten tracks of excellent instrumental compositions. Great dynamics and recorded sound. As usual OL refuses to be confined by convention or cliche.

101: Lincoln City

Get up, slide open the balcony door, check the beach. Man, it might be late June but the wind is blowin big time and the fog is so thick it blends with the surf. Beautiful, I think. Otherworldly, like a landscape on another planet. Or some painter's impressionism hanging in a chic gallery downtown. Grab the Canon, snap off a couple of digis.

Later, will use a crop for the graphic in the Culture Court preview of Ottmar Liebert's ambient electronic CD, t-one. Use a numerological translation of his name to add mystery to the imagery. Arcane? Sure... but fits the zen vibe of the audio. OL's Pythagorean "number" is 8... which -- according to that grand sage of The New Age, Colin Wilson -- means "drive and success." Can't dispute that, right? "Eights have affinity with fours and twos; they are solid, four-square, capable of long efforts and great concentration," says Wilson. "In their negative aspect, this may amount only to stubborness and persistence in the wrong course of action, in which the positive characteristics become negative, and success becomes failure." [pg. 311, The Occult, one of Colin Wilson's best books]

ole means awright

Cruising north, 101. Just south of Tillamook, near the big airship hangars. Sun blazing. Listening to nouveaumatic. Traffic snarl near a railway crossing... some hick with his tractor and mower seems to be stalled. The guy in the Winnebago is pissed, leans on his horn. In front of him is a bus... shit, it's gold.

Aren't they going up the I-5? says my wife.
Apparently not.
Is it the same bus?
Look at that... they're pushing the farmer off the tracks.
It's not Ottmar... bus is similar but it's...
Hear that? They're shouting ole.
Yeah... means awright.
That's on the CD, dummy.
It's them, baby -- told you the band had its own bus, didn't I?

© LR June/Sept 03


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