Label: Artoffact Records Release Date: 22 May 2020
Named after the mummified corpse of a Copper Age man found in the Ötzal Alps, California-based Ötzi is an all-femme dark post-punk quartet whose cool yet aggressive sound was thankfully accepted in the Oakland punk scene. Akiko Sampson and Gina Marie employ an unaffected, almost monotonous tone in their vocals that can snap to heightened aggression, accents and intonation lending to the classic punk feel. The post-punk plinking of K. Dylan Edrich’s guitar feels hollow and leaves ample space for Sampson’s bass to shine through. Together with the soothing yet chilling keyboard styles of Winter Zora, the quartet remain true to the genre and perfectly capture the punk/post-punk/new wave evolution. Their music evokes imagery of goth clubs filled with swaying members of the crowd, chains and bracelets clinking against leather and across mesh. This is only enhanced by the appearance of the band themselves, their aesthetic geared toward the alternative with cues taken from the likes of Siouxsie Sioux and Nina Hagen.
Formed in 2014, Ötzi debuted with a demo the same year and the Gong Show EP in 2016. The following year was the release of their first album, Ghosts, which takes versions of three tracks from the previous EP and demo (Drought, Sunbeam, and Stigmata) while adding seven new tracks. In 2019, the Part Time Punks Sessions live recordings was released, which included the live versions of three previous tracks (Charms, Winter, and Drought) and one previously unheard track, Ballad of Oiwa. This unheard track finds a non-live version of itself, alongside nine new tracks, on Ötzi’s newest release, Storm.
The album comes to life with Moths, a guitar-focused and bass-driven ramble where you can practically hear the swaying of the band as they play an apathetic yet measured beat. Several times throughout, the beat feels as if it is about to pick up, only to be laid back into place, giving the feel of something pushing up and trying to get out. After this, the beat does quicken with Hold Still, Sampson playing heavy on the bass as she alternates singing lines with Marie. The song is very similar in sound to Modern English’s I Melt With You, which is perhaps a nod to the 80s new wave group, a noted inspiration for Ötzi and a band they have had the honor of sharing a stage with. Coming off of this, Tunnels opens with a quick beat from Marie on drums and a eerie but malicious riff from Edrich, sounding like the closest approximation to glass shattering that a guitar can muster. This whole track is much more emotional than previous ones, Sampson’s voice taking on a hurt but vengeful tone that dies along with the song far too quickly, making the listener hungry for more. The next track, Scorpio, begins rather hollow but is quick to open up, the pace of this album going faster with each song. It’s almost hard to keep up with this song, the energy and the emotions felt from Edrich’s quickly wandering guitar, Sampson’s raw and breathless “I love you”s, and a lurking saxophone in the back making for an exciting and romantic melodrama that if you blink, you’ll miss. Previously only recorded as a live version on Part Time Punks Sessions, Ballad of Oiwa returns, this time a touch slower and with the original fury replaced with an almost kind of grieving, Sampson’s voice passionately breaking between prolonged breaths and making a different but equally fantastic rendition.
Halfway through, Contagious breaks out, holding back no punches with a sick bass riff from Sampson and with Edrich’s low and twisting guitar. Sampson gets some eager vocal support from Marie here, Sampson’s melodic tones clashing with Marie’s insistent outbursts that end the song abruptly. Picking up where the previous left off, Eight Cups keeps up the post-punk (focus on the punk) energy present in this album, restraint totally gone as the band furiously plays away at their instruments in a flurry of sound, Sampson’s voice at times a mutter and others a battlecry. The next track, Outer Bounds, begins with a bit more of a rock-like riff but settles itself into the punky vocals over post-punk guitar that Ötzi have worked very hard to create and make their own. This song is somewhat weak compared to the others, though that may be because it is so short at barely over two minutes. It is by no means a bad track, and merely feels more like an intermission that comes a bit late in the album. Comparatively, the longest track is the next one, 15 Stars, which is more than happy to take its time opening up, the guitar and drums very slowly adding more and more to each few beats until creating a new sound and finally giving Sampson the floor. While the punk vibes from previous tracks was very welcome, this track reminds the listener what they came into this album for: Sampson’s fast-paced and low bass under her powerful voice, Marie’s persistent taps of the drum to keep the time, Edrich’s effortless and hypnotic guitar riffs, and Zora’s work on the keys, a now noticeable haunting whisper in the background. The final track on the album is the eponymous Storm, led almost entirely by Zora on keys, sounding like a ghostly organ and assisted by what sounds like the strings of a sombre violin. Marie keeps a beat that sounds more like the beating of ancient drums as Sampson casts a spell upon the listener with her enchanting and impassioned voice, its echoes sounding like a duet with herself. It’s no wonder that the album is named after this track as it is so elegantly composed that it deserves a second or even a third listen.
While still relatively new, Ötzi have already created a solid sound and made a bit of a name for themselves in their local scene. Fans and bands of times both older and contemporary have started to take notice of the work this group have put forward, and really, their music speaks for itself in terms of the talent it takes to create it. Storm will hopefully be the push Ötzi needs to rise in the ranks of popularity and reach the ears of any fan on the post-punk/new wave continuum.
- Akiko Sampson – Vocals, bass
- Gina Marie – Vocals, drums
- K. Dylan Edrich – Guitars
- Winter Zora – Keyboards
- Hold Still
- Ballad of Oiwa
- Eight Cups
- Outer Bounds
- 15 Stars