Video Premiere | Robert Sotelo, "Medal"
The fierce and ferociously independent vanguard Nicey Music has been one of the leading underground imprints of the true creative revolution. Having already brought the disparate DIY sects of the greater northern states a little closer together—the Los Angeles based label takes us now for a hop across the pond to get to know Glaswegian artist Robert Sotelo. An artist that carries the halcyon spirit of previous vintage eras that saw the prodigious rise of scenes and styles that populated the Glasgow circuit running chiefly through the late 70s to the latter days of the 90s—Sotelo is a reminder that the Scottish spirit of DIY innovation is very much alive and well today. Evolving established affinities for the freak beat and Mersybeat power pop varieties into experimental electro pop; the huge stylistic jump can be seen through Robert Sotelo's evolution from 2017's Cusp (Upset the Rhythm) to the new album Botanical for Nicey Music where novelty bleeps and bloops become smelted into a new viscous synthesis.
Botanical sees Sotelo embracing the economic elegance of electronic minimalism as a medium of expressive experimentation. The Glasgow artist evolves out of a repertoire that recalls retro-Rough Trade releases and distributed discs that span the post-punk through Brit pop eras respectively for brave new exhibitions that showcase illustrations of our inward correspondences and anxious experiences that we have with our daily environments. The odd exchange between the inner and external elements is represented in the percolating keys that emulate pondered thoughts that range from the rationale negotiations heard in the choruses to the pensive sinewy sections found on the single "Medal". Presenting the world premiere of the animated visual adaptation from Zali Krishna; Robert Sotelo's cataloging of interactions and meditations are seen in an animated zoetrope narrative amid creative designs of both the scientific and whimsical.
A tale of social discomfort and general unease in the presence of someone you would rather not bother putting up with is turned into drawn silhouette outlines of folks depicted going about their daily business. Presenting a spectrum that spans all crawls of life can be seen spinning along with diagrams and head-spinning effects that adds a more immersive layer to the song of reflective discourse. The art and style of studying the hows and whys behind one's own points of perception with allusions to claustrophobia is scored with precision guided and applied synths that underscore the floating feelings involved. The stripped-down electro ballad of interpersonal angst and ill-adjusted encounters is accompanied by a dizzying parade display of people along with the graphs and charts that seek to understand and account for the root of anxiety related responses. Striving to pin a point on the origins of human nervousness—the pop art sounds and visuals of "Medal" share in the awkward accolades that comprise our imperfect and often maladjusted human conditions.
We had the chance to talk with Robert Sotelo about all the latest works and more in the following insightful interview feature:
Walk us through the evolution from Cusp to the floral conceptual framework that would inspire Botanical.
Cusp was very sentimental and designed as a reconnection tool at a point when there simply wasn't enough people around in my life anymore for whatever reasons.
I like that record but it served a purpose more than anything, in that it opened up a broader new world for me, surpassing it’s original intent really as I am now surrounded by a deluge of new and old friends and life has regained a color I wasn't sure I’d see again at a certain age.
Botanical was taking that color and imbuing it with an interest in electronic primitivism.
So much music right now is exciting and making another guitar based record straight away seemed uninspiring.
The synthetic influence colliding with nature forms an overall base concept—its nothing new, but appealing nonetheless.
Privy notes on the creative process.
For Botanical, an awkward exploration of the keyboard.
I found a slightly interesting Yamaha Keyboard in a thrift shop and spent a Summer attempting to structure pop music around my obvious technological limitations.
My editing skills are poor and hence my friend John Hannon essentially helped me put things in time and re-record things to a higher degree, but it’s all as originally demoed.
My pop music never quite flows and I started to find more personal appeal in hitting on this kind of rhythmic nether region; actively seeking out a feel that pulls back from four quarters whenever it gets close.
Realizations and epiphanies that occurred during the making of Botanical.
Playing the keyboard properly is hard.
Electronic based music takes away the anxiety I feel of hitting a bum note on the guitar though, since I am singing live to a backing track for Botanical stuff.
I can concentrate more on my voice because of this and that’s my favorite part!
Mainly though I realized how strange something can turn out when you try really hard to make it sound normal.
Notes from the Glasgow scene.
Too much greatness to mention and I am a newcomer, but it feels genuinely inclusive, friendly and exciting.
You would want to check out Vital Idles, Irma Vep, Apostille, Gift Horse, Fast Approaches, Current Affairs, Hairband, Buffet Lunch, Eleanor Joan, Personality Toilet, Spinning Coin, Ela Orleans, Order of the Toad, Kaputt, Molly Linen Band, Rapid Tan and that’s mostly just guitar-based.
12th Isle, Domestic Exile and Nightschool for very exotic and awesome non guitar-based.
Also many others!
Artists that you respect and revere.
For Botanical: Pet Shop Boys, Robert Ashley, XTC’s Homo Safari series, Mr Partridge Take Away/The Lure of the Savage, Laurie Anderson, Beverly Glenn-Copland, The Buggles, John Bender, Mort Garson, Urban Dance, Paul McCartney, Telex, Iko, Zizou/Bikaya/Cy 1.
Inspirations that informed "Medal" along with the inception for the animated visual.
"Medal" is really about when you see someone you’re trying to avoid in public or wherever and that feeling of just wanting to jump under the nearest table and hide. I am very much that kind of person. Then trying to quantify this reaction scientifically, probing my own actions.
It’s also vaguely influenced by my favorite Star Trek: TNG episode "Frame of Mind" in which Riker starts to crack up and question his own reality whilst performing in a theater production staged by Beverly Crusher.
The video was made by Zali Krishna, a real inspiration and mentor of mine in genuine esoterica.
Zali currently publishes science fiction and various anthologies via has amazing literature imprint Polyversity Press which you should check out.
You’d have to ask him what the video is all about!
With the eccentric promo photo, thoughts on your own connection to the cult Seaman video game.
I had to Google this, but am amazed by the similarities between my fish-form press shot and this computer game character. I noted the great Leonard Nimoy narrated the game too, which makes me feel even closer to it as a huge fan of Star Trek.
As for my photo, it is a still from a forthcoming video for the song "Looking Backward" from Botanical, which was directed by Iain McCall who also plays sax on the record and in yet another great Glasgow band, Lylo.
Parting mediations and wisdom of interest.
I think a lot about the people I miss in my life, that have drifted away on their own tangents as we all do. I try to remind myself and act on the idea that there is always a way back to people, no matter how much time has elapsed, that we can all create positive beacons that direct us towards each other again.
Robert Sotelo's upcoming cassette Botanical will be available September 21 via Nicey Music.