For any music artist, to be able to write and record a full concept album, must surely be the highest goal possible to achieve, because such type of projects involve different art forms, not limited solely to songwriting, arrangements and vocals but it also extends to complex and extensive narrative of topics very close to the heart of the recording artist.
Somebody that has certainly achieved said goal, in our personal opinion, is the Italian singer/songwriter and visual artist Alessandro Zannier, better known with his stage name Ottodix, who has, through his eigth and brand new album called Arca, written a hugely intriguing project based on a hypothetical (but perhaps, not too much hypothetical) futuristic scenario about an ark (Arca, as the album title translates) shaped in a form of a tortoise, conceived to save the human race from cataclismic events that may destroy the world in decades to come.
While the subject of the concept is completely fictional and echoes futuristic prospects that might have been illustrated, in different shapes and forms, in the past by writers like Isaac Asimov or movie directors like John Carpenter, here Ottodix's vision of what may happen to human race is cleverly written, with remarkable imagination, attention to details and beautiful poetic passages.
The story, in itself and as described by the author himself, it is that "The city of ARCA, illustrated in the artwork, has the shape of an immense megalopolis enclosed in a sphere, with the plan developed on the inner surface of its walls and with an artificial sun in the center. This immense sphere-shell is connected to a ring on which 6 other gigantic "Districts" develop, which serve the settlers to be born, growth of nature recreated in captivity, to study and pass on to future generations the collective history of the world, to learn the science and technology necessary to survive, to frequent places dedicated to art and philosophy to face the psychological void of a wandering life in the cosmos in search of an exo-planet to colonize and on which to experiment with new methods of survival, towards a safe haven that we may never reach. My provocation is not objectively "how to make it", but how we could philosophically imagine a society re-founded from scratch and organized in a more eco-sustainable, equal and respectful way of the competence, education, rights and growth of individuals. ARCA also poses questions on the hypothesis of finding ourselves all together migrants; Africans, Russians, Europeans, Chinese and Americans, in a single boat, between the universe and the simulated "metaverse", forever on the run from everything.
Finally, it poses the problem of the urgency of a backup (basically Noah's ark was the first backup hypothesized by humanity) of the technical-scientific knowledge, of the artistic, linguistic and cultural heritage of mankind, but above all of the DNA of life on earth."
Whilst all that Ottodix describes, referencing the idea behind his album Arca, may sound complex and over articulated, in reality the record is much more accessible than one can imagine. The choice of arrangements is purposely erratic, just as the artist perhaps intended, flying between layers of Trip Hop, Electronica, Techno and Industrial Synth-Pop, throughout the 9 tracks plus 6 interludes (the "Districts" mentioned by Ottodix in his explanation of the album's concept), where the voice of a female A.I. introduces the listener to the next part of the journey through the Districts.
There is also a lot of melody, present into the notes of the whole of Arca. Zannier/Ottodix is, among all his various skills, also a very talented singer, together with being a highly creative artist at 360 degrees and the way that the Italian artist and producer Flavio Ferri combine all the album's harmonious arrangements to marry perfectly Ottodix's vocals and songwriting, it is rather breathtaking.
Arca is more than just an accomplished record. It is a complete journey into the vision, imagination and creativity of an artist like Ottodix that never ceases to impress every time he releases a new project. One of the most entertaining and fascinating albums of 2023.
Arca is out now and it can be purchased via Vrec Music Label