As Halifax’s finest The Orielles release their second album Disco Volador, Getintothis’ Matty Loughlin-Day takes a trip.
Public evolution is a tricky business. As wonderful and life-defining as a stellar breakthrough undeniably is, the next step is inevitably a precarious one.
Take The Orielles.
What does a band do after a one-two punch as watertight as the irresistible single Sugar Tastes Like Salt and the subsequent, majestic album, Silver Dollar Moment? Releases that burst with freshness and are very much of the moment?
It’s a quandary that poses such a band as the (mainly) Halifax combo with a genuine dilemma – do they stick with what they know and hope lightning strikes twice, or do they branch out into unexplored territory and risk alienating those who flocked to the initial magic?
This is important for such a band to consider, as there have been a plethora of bands over recent years – far too many to even begin naming – who have blown all their buzz, goodwill and excitement on early releases, only to encounter an insurmountable struggle as they try in vain to build on the early groundswell of hype and gradually fizzle away into the ether, falling foul to the law of diminishing returns.
Likewise, there are almost as many bands who appear too keen to distance themselves from their early work and in the search for progress, lose what it was that made them so alluring in the process.
Compare the first two Fleet Foxes albums and if you’re as similarly aurally inclined as this writer and you’ll know what we mean.
It is a tightrope to walk that requires not just a sense of balance but a confidence and belief in the thrill of daring to fail that, if executed well, is exhilarating and if not, is well disastrous (MGMT anyone?).
Disastrous because the industry and arguably listening public are not as forgiving as they once were – in current climates would The Clash have made it to London Calling after the more-miss-than-hit Give ‘em Enough Rope? Would Bruce Springsteen have made it to Born to Run? Would… well, you see where I’m going with this.
The reason for such a preamble is simply because Silver Dollar Moment was a release that was so remarkable in its sound it makes any follow-up vital – like the aforementioned tightrope, there’s little room for mistake.
It created a world that saw Pavement mashed with Tom Tom Club with smatterings of Johnny Marr and disco that elevated The Orielles from 6 Music fodder to genuine contenders for the crown of capturing the zeitgeist.
That might sound overblown and hyperbolic (hyper-bollocks?), but their fusion of funk, indie (in its purest sense) and sheer fun made Silver Dollar Moment the perfect soundtrack for a generation that has seen a world gone wrong and is in search of the wonder and ecstasy prior generations were lucky enough to enjoy.
The influences were clearly on show, yet not to the point of pastiche and were given a sprinkle of novelty that prevented the sound from falling into rip-off.
So to Disco Volador.
Expanding to a four piece (and recently for live dates a five-piece), the album sees the band taking a big step forward with their sound, as evidenced by the preceding singles; Bobbi’s Second World and Come Down on Jupiter.
On their release, both songs hinted that Disco Volador was not going to be Silver Dollar Moment Mk II, rather, they revealed glimpses of a brave new world, all changing time signatures and less obvious hallmarks of linear pop such as, you know, choruses.
Importantly, and linking back to my opening ramble about public evolution, both marked a significant step forward in terms of maturity, in regards to how their sound has grown up.
One of Silver Dollar Moment’s successes was that it managed to pair the ‘make it sound like we’re not trying’ element of what might get called ‘slacker pop’ with intricacies and attention to detail that belied this impression – see I Only Bought it for the Bottle and so on. On Come Down… and Bobbi’s… these intricacies are brought to the forefront and the synths, yelps, whistling and whooping that might have been previously used as background devices are much more prominent, making for a more colourful, vibrant sound that never sounds forced or boring.
Listening to Disco Volador in its entirety, it’s clear to see why these two songs were picked as the first two singles, as they – along with the later third single Space Samba – encapsulate so much of what makes this record a roaring success and a crucial next step for the band.
That’s not to imply that this is a total abandonment of previous glories – this isn’t a Pygmalion-style move – songs such as Rapid i and Whilst the Flowers Look are still clearly Orielle, with their idiosyncratic lyrics (“sleep is my weakness… can’t reach NREM…”), Henry Wade’s shimmering guitar and trademark breathless vocals courtesy of Esme Dee Hand-Halford, but there is a definite sense of exploration that finds the band expanding their sound and playing around with dynamics more.
The wonderful second half of Memoirs of Miso for instance combines bongos, saxophone and an almost Balearic drum beat without sounding anywhere near as horrible as that looks written down.
The structures of a lot of the songs are much less linear and are a lot less reliant on refrains yet this is all somehow pulled off in such a manner that it all seems so effortless and seamless. Take7th Dynamic Goo – the polyrhythmic drumming and jagged guitars recall something from Talking Head’s Remain in Light – no small feat, and certainly not for a second album.
Disco Volador is not as immediate as previous offerings, but that may well prove to be its strength; this is a record that is going to pay rewards the more we listen to it.
The songs are still built around the bubbling bouncing bass and funk/dance drums of the Hand-Halford sisters (and kudos must be given to Sid Hand-Halford in particular for her drumming), but the brief addition of Alex Stephens, also known as Strawberry Guy, to the line-up means that the songs are less guitar-driven and much more layered with electronics and percussion, which opens the sound up more, giving it space to breathe and for us listeners to dance to – let’s not forget that for all my chin scratching here, this is fun music. Music to move to, music to jump around to.
Thematically too, there is more cohesion and focus when compared to Silver Dollar Moment, with space very much being the place.
A quick look at the song titles affirms this – Come Down on Jupiter, Space Samba, Euro Borealis and while this can at times run the risk of making things slightly, ahem, one-dimensional – 7th Dynamic Goo’s “we’re all astral travellers, space is a dancefloor…” can feel slightly forced – this is nit-picking and ultimately, missing the point.
The album ends with Space Samba and arguably saves the best for last. Built around an LCD Soundsystem-style beat and a rave-like rhythm, it is enticing and euphoric and builds to a climactic ending that begs to be played again.
Echoing the thrilled-up guitar-based rave of My Bloody Valentine’s Soon, live, this will be quite something across festivals this summer.
The song also hints at a further progression the band may or may not take, pushing themselves further into more dance-based realms, but let’s not worry about that just yet, let’s enjoy Disco Volador for what it is; one small step for a band, one giant leap for their music.