Orcas' pedigree was already impressive when the band consisted of the Sight Below's Rafael Anton Irisarri and Benoît Pioulard's Thomas Meluch, but with the addition of Efterklang's Martyn Heyne and Telekinesis' Michael Lerner, they've become something of a supergroup. All of these artists know how to flirt with the beautifully blurry area between ambient electronica's abstraction and pop's more concrete melodies and hooks, and on Yearling, they make the most of the tension between those approaches. Orcas' self-titled debut seemed to be fashioned out of dust and sunbeams and offered some of the coziest-sounding ambient music in recent memory. While the inviting calm of Yearling's bookends "Petrichor" and "Tell" nod to those roots, most of the album brings more structure to their music. Many of these songs began as pieces Meluch wrote beforehand, as opposed to the improvisations that dominated Orcas. Somewhat paradoxically, this premeditation allows them more range. The lovely "Selah" showcases how much Orcas' finesse with ethereal soundscapes and songwriting has grown since their debut; the low-key bliss of "Infinite Stillness," with its strings and swaths of airy distortion, recalls Meluch's work as Pioulard, and the late-night ballad "An Absolute" recalls Air's Virgin Suicides soundtrack. Shorter songs like these add color and contrast to the epics that make up almost half of Yearling's length. "Half Light"'s aquatic keyboards and stately bassline borrow some of the grandeur and poignancy of Talk Talk at their finest, and this majestic feel extends to songs as different as the serene "Capillaries" and the somber, relentless "Filament," which is emotionally worlds away from the group's earlier work. However, like Orcas, Yearling is a subtle album, and perhaps even more of a grower than the music from any of the bandmembers' other projects. Much of its beauty is apparent immediately, but its depth takes time to unfold.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares