St. Pete synth star Ortrotasce returns to Orlando

Catch him with Automelodi and Dance Don’t Dance at Iron Cow on Saturday

Ortrotasce courtesy photo

On a Friday night three years ago, the world as we knew it was just beginning to end. The threat of a global pandemic had become reality, and the future seemed hidden behind a mask. So what did we do? We danced.

Socially distanced and hand-sanitized, the children of the night gathered for one last trip to the dance floor. Their destination: Iron Cow, a hidden gem of the Milk District. Hosted by local DJ/promoter collective Panic!, the event — headlined by Canadian synth-pop phenom Automelodi — was not to be missed. And so, virus be damned, the show went on.

Orlando staple Mother Juno kicked things off with a hard-hitting set of confrontational but catchy EBM tracks, his gruff barks cutting through the fog billowing from the stage. Up next was Ortrotasce — the moniker of St. Pete synth star Nic Hamersly — whose dazzling display of analog electronics set heads bobbing and feet moving throughout the strobe-lit crowd.

Then came the main event: Montreal maestro of minimal synth Automelodi. Fringe in face, the smooth-moving Xavier Paradis crowned the evening with a proper performance of sensual synthpop sung in his native French. By early the next week, the whole world had changed.

Returning to Florida for the first time since 2020, Automelodi reunites with Ortrotasce to try the whole thing again this weekend. We caught up with Mr. Hamersly ahead of the three-year anniversary gig, which will also be his first Orlando show since that fateful Friday.

The first thing we wanted to know: What's up with the name? "It kind of just came to me inadvertently," Hamersly says. "It's worth noting the pronunciation," he adds, "which is asked quite often: 'Or-tro-task.'"

When Hamersly started the project in 2009, "the point was for there to be no meaning." He began by writing the music alone and occasionally had collaborators along for the ride, but prefers the solo approach. "The freedom of being alone is glorious," he says.

In addition to providing full creative control, flying solo matters "especially in the live performance department. Sometimes I feed off the energy of the crowd. If I feel like something should go longer I can do that, you know?"

Witnessing the wizardry of Ortrotasce in action, it's hard for a crowd to resist the energy Hamersly channels through a potent blend of waves dark and cold, along with a dash of Italo for good measure — not to mention that super cool croon.

There's an authenticity in his sound that resonates with the spirit of electronics from eras past without riding the shallow wave of retro nostalgia, a rare essence captured in songs that exist outside a set timeline.

Hamersly recalls how it all started: A high school obsession with experimental punk label 31G Records introduced him to the world of industrial and electronic music he'd come to know and love. Inspired by label owner Justin Pearson's band, the Locust — in particular keyboardist Joey Karam's use of the Moog modular — Hamersly "was fascinated at that point and just started digging into more synthesizer-based music."

Through this gateway Hamersly discovered foundational bands like Coil and Throbbing Gristle, but admits he still hadn't quite got to minimal synth/wave yet: "I was more so into the harsher realm of electronic music. Power electronics and dark ambient and so on."

The influence of industrial music on Hamersly's tastes later merged with his interest in artists on the poppier side of the synth spectrum: "Hard Corps, SPK — Machine Age Voodoo, specifically — Fad Gadget, to name a few," he says. "The juxtaposition between synth-pop and industrial in these groups just do it for me. You can probably hear this in most of my recent output."

Speaking of output, the Ortrotasce catalogue — which includes over a dozen digital releases on Bandcamp — is a testament to Hamersly's persistence and productivity. If you consider yourself a fan of electronic music of any kind, you'd be wise to check out his releases online, and even wiser to catch his performance at Iron Cow on Saturday, March 11. We'll see you there.


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