The Mile High Makeout: Gabriel Otto’s art and music collide at show this weekendBy Eryc Eyl | April 8th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
“I just love to emote all over everything,” exclaims Gabriel Otto.
The artist has plenty to emote about. He’s one of several fashion designers, jewelry designers and artists participating in a collage-centric extravaganza at the Art Salon at 21st and York this Saturday. But he’s probably the only one whose art emerged from the process of recording an album with his band. Otto is not only a talented visual artist, but he’s also the front man for electro-psychedelic pop act Pan Astral.
“I started making visual art when I was very young,” Otto explains of his artistic origins. “I was very into video games, and I’d copy imagery from the games — spaceships, Pac Man — and give them to my friends. People in elementary school would want them, so I’d make them and give them away. I love to give people things and make them happy.”
Otto will have plenty of opportunities to make people happy at Saturday’s event (reception at 4 p.m., fashion show at 5). He’ll be showing various collages that he made to accompany each of the nine tracks on Pan Astral’s 2010 self-titled debut — which, like the young artist’s Space Invaders drawings, is available free.
“Some of it was specifically for the record and some of it just ended up on the record,” he explains. “They’re both created with the same process. I was making the art at the same time as the music, so it’s sort of inseparable.”
Otto formed Pan Astral with Ryan Burnett (also of Signal Path) about three years ago when Otto moved to Denver. They had known each other since college days in Missoula, Montana, but came together to play music while Burnett’s other project was on hiatus and he was looking for something new.
“Ryan and I collaborate really well,” says the singer and multi-instrumentalist. “I really love it when I can find someone I can work with well. I think really amazing, beautiful things can happen.”
You can hear those beautiful things in Pan Astral’s music. Burnett and Otto (accompanied live by Signal Path’s Damon Metzner and occasionally by Lotus‘ Michael Rempel on guitar) create lush layers of electronic and organic sounds in a manner reminiscent of MillionYoung or our own Flashlights. Rather than opt for a similarly ethereal vocal style, however, Otto’s voice comes out strong and soulful, sounding uncannily like peak-era Peter Gabriel.
The same strength and soul — along with a healthy sense of humor and play — come through in the artist’s collages. With imagery appropriated, mangled and manipulated from myriad sources, and bright, enervating colors, Otto’s works almost demand prolonged exploration. Viewed while listening to Pan Astral’s music, the collages almost appear to tell a story, but the disjuncture of elements in the visuals — much like Otto’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics — defies simple representation or linear narrative.
Of course, Otto is one of countless musicians in Denver who are also actively pursuing other art forms. Scratch the surface of any local band’s bio and you’ll find sculptors, animators, filmmakers, video artists, painters and, of course, performance artists. For Otto, who first began making collages while living in Amsterdam, the fertility and vitality of Denver’s arts is part of what keeps him here.
“I love this city, as far as the creative side of it,” he says. “It’s a place where it’s manageable for artists as a city. They can live close to the city and afford it, and still be making this awesome music and art.”
See Gabriel Otto’s Pan Astral collages (samples below) at the Spring Fashion Show and Art Opening at the Art Salon Gallery and Studios this Saturday, April 9, starting at 4 p.m. The event is free and will NOT include any musical performances. Click here for more information.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Monday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.
<a href=”http://panastral.bandcamp.com/track/silver-cross” mce_href=”http://panastral.bandcamp.com/track/silver-cross”>Silver Cross by Pan Astral</a>