Andy Othling attempts to break the label of “bedroom musician” during his latest LP, This is for Our Sins.
In the 21st century technology has made it possible for musicians to produce high-quality works of art without leaving their home. This is not new, and, in fact, this phenomenon has been termed “bedroom musician.” Hopefully this is not news. There are many examples in popular and indie music of bedroom musicians creating respective albums, signing to a label, and then “making it big.” Andy Othling came onto the scene a half decade ago with the intention of making some swell ambient music. He was quickly labeled an amateur bedroom musician (of which there is a limitless amount, particularly in the ambient realm) and cast aside by many. To this day, he still does not command much respect in traditional or non-traditional outlets. However, I think this has much less to do with his status as a bedroom musician, and more to do with the DIY aspect of his work.
Let’s take a step back here. In a simplified theory I’m about to propose, there are two types of people: those who like to do things for themselves, the long, hard way, and those who like to take shortcuts or outsource it to others. You are currently reading an online blog where we hand out musical recommendations, so presumably you are in that second category (or, more accurately, you may employ a blend of the two methods, but in my experience very few individuals rely solely or predominantly on the former). FORPE acts as a proxy for you and we filter out a lot of music you don’t need to know about and try to hand out solid recommendations to our readers. Labels act in a similar manner, but on the other side of the equation. Labels sift through countless numbers of submissions to find the “right” artists to invest in and promote, hoping for some small amount of dividends to be paid. But — here’s the kicker — most blogs/zines/publications don’t actually do the legwork themselves. They likely establish relationships with labels and promotional companies, who in turn act as a extra layer of proxies. All new, successful publications probably have someone on the inside doing all the legwork to find that unique stream of artists that they can claim as “finding,” but over time this likely decays into the status quo. Writing about music is generally less profitable than making music, and doing all the legwork of browsing Napster/purevolume/myspace/bandcamp/soundcloud takes time. All the new music technology is pretty much built around the concept of giving you better recommendations with less effort; it’s no coincidence. The end result is that for small, DIY musicians, it’s a steep uphill battle to climb in order to get someone to notice you.
Lowercase Noises has been operating without a label since the inception, and even though Othling went from a being a forgettable amateur to a noteworthy artist sometime in late 2010/early 2011, most still seem pretty blind to this fact. Although many of his early works have moments of brilliance, check out Migratory Patterns, Passage, Vivian, and Blake, and you’ll see hear some well thought out and executed albums. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that This is for Our Sins takes that extra step further and now catapults Lowercase Noises into the category of producing one of the best albums of the year. Othling channels everything he’s done as Lowercase Noises to deliver his magnum opus. Although we still might consider this loosely an “ambient” or “post-rock” album, the styles and instrumentation are all over the place. There are traces of modern classical, folk, ambient, post-rock, drone, and we even get some vocals just to really throw us for a loop. It all gels together, and this is where the album really impresses; Othling is in command of Lowercase Noises’ sound, and he now has a wide array of tools and genres to pull from when crafting his art. We, the listener, are the beneficiaries of Othling’s years of hard work.
So let’s take a pledge to not take the little guy for granted any more. Sure, there’s no promotional engine behind This is for Our Sins, but there doesn’t to be one either. Othling has gotten to this point all by himself, and he’s clearly content letting the music speak for itself.