Review: Andy Ortmann – Eye of the Beholder (Meditation, May 15)

Andy Ortmann and the other musicians who have performed and recorded as Panicsville are no stranger to organic material; as is proudly stated on the NIHILIST Bandcamp page, “early shows consisted of pelting the audience with items like dry ice, meat, blood and insects.” The piles of raw, fatty meat and smattering of eyeballs that adorn the cover of Eye of the Beholder are about as repulsively biotic as you can get, but Ortmann’s interest in the often unsettling mixture of the artificial and the natural doesn’t end there. In a similar vein to fellow concrète collagers Rudolf or Dave Phillips, Ortmann’s restless, physical compositions occupy a sort of auditory uncanny valley, where mysterious and unidentifiable elements mimic the most undignified of human noises a bit too well. Sticky dragging textures evoke the uncomfortable but familiar sound of chewing; prepared guitar rattles clack like chattering teeth; saxophone skronks form wordless, despairing moans. The artwork already implies that Eye of the Beholder won’t be the most calming listen, but this dedication to such an abstract, disturbing sonic palette makes for some truly scary results, yet you’ll be unable to tear your ears away. Human life is noisy, and—as argued by “4’33” After Death”—the absence of that life is just as much so.