|Also known as||Ortho-Tones|
|Years active||1979–1984, 1989|
|Labels||Rift Records, Outatune Label (Quakenbrück, Germany)|
|Associated acts||Idiot Savant, Rattlemouth, Fred Frith|
|Past members||Paul Watson
The Orthotonics were an American experimental rock and free improvisation group from Richmond, Virginia. They began in 1979 as the Ortho-Tones, but changed their name to the Orthotonics in 1982. The group released three albums before splitting up in 1989.
Eugene Chadbourne at Allmusic said the Orthotonics were "unusual" with material "of great interest from the standpoint of text as well as musically". Music writer Piero Scaruffi described the group as "one of the most surreal and unpredictable combos of the era", and said they were an important link between 1970s European and 1990s American progressive music.
In 1975 Danny Finney (saxophone, vocals), Paul Watson (trumpet) and Pippin Barnett (drums) formed a jazz improvisation group, Idiot Savant. When Rebby Sharp (guitar, vocals) and Phil Trumbo (bass guitar) joined in 1979, they began incorporating elements of art rock into their music, and changed the group's name to the Ortho-Tones. As the Ortho-Tones they recorded a single, "Doo-Doo Cars / Woman Fish" which was released in 1981 by Artifacts Records. In 1982 Tom Carson replaced Trumbo on bass guitar, and the group's name changed to the Orthotonics.
Drawing on experimental rock, free improvisation and avant-garde jazz, the Orthotonics's music was "densely rhythmic [and] beat-intensive", a style that attracted the attention of New Wave music fans. In 1983 the group released a cassette-only album, Accessible as Gravity which reflected their interest in the Downtown music scene, and in particular English experimental musician and composer Fred Frith, who was active in New York City at the time. Frith liked the Orthotonics, and had regularly spent time with the group. Their first LP record, Wake Up You Must Remember was released in 1984, and was mixed by Frith. Music writer Piero Scaruffi described the album as "neo-progressive" with surreal lyrics and complex arrangements.
After Wake Up You Must Remember the group became inactive, but reformed again in 1986 as a trio of Sharp, Finney and Barnett, and recorded a new album, Luminous Bipeds, which Frith produced. Allmusic called this album their "most satisfying recording", and Scaruffi said it had echoes of The Residents and Frank Zappa. In 1989 the Orthotonics split up, and Sharp and Finney later reunited in the alternative rock group, Rattlemouth. Sharp also released a solo album, In One Mouth and Out the Other in 1989, which Frith performed on. Frith's work with the Orthotonics and Sharp led to him using some of Sharp's lyrics on three of his songs on albums by Skeleton Crew and Cosa Brava.
- Paul Watson (1979–1984) – trumpet, guitar
- Danny Finney (1979–1989) – saxophone, vocals
- Pippin Barnett (1979–1989) – drums
- Rebby Sharp (1979–1989) – guitar, vocals
- Phil Trumbo (1979–1982) – bass guitar
- Tom Carson (1982–1984) – bass guitar
- Accessible as Gravity (1982, CT, Artifacts Records)
- Wake Up You Must Remember (1984, LP, Generic Records)
- Wake Up You Must Remember (1984, LP, Outatune Records, very rare German edition)
- Luminous Bipeds (1986, LP, Rift Records)
- "Doo-Doo Cars / Woman Fish" (1981, 7", Artifacts Records)
- Ankeny, Jason. "Orthotonics". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
- Chadbourne, Eugene. "Wake up You Must Remember". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
- Scaruffi, Piero. "Orthotonics". The History of Rock Music (in English & Italian). Retrieved 2011-04-12.
- "Orthotonics". Discogs. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
- Chadbourne, Eugene. "Luminous Bipeds". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
- Watrous, Peter (1990-06-15). "Sounds Around Town". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
- Ramond, Michel; Roussel, Patrice; Vuilleumier, Stephane. "Discography of Fred Frith". New York Downtown Scene and Other Miscellaneous Discographies. Retrieved 2011-04-13.