Polish-born musician Ela Orleans has released over a dozen LPs and EPs of haunting, exotic lo-fi pop since the late 2000s. For the most part, these recordings were put out by tiny labels in scant editions, and received nowhere as near as much attention as they deserved. Movies for Ears (itself originally a limited CD-R, later remastered by James Plotkin and given a wide release by Night School in 2019) collects songs from Orleans' brilliant early releases like Lost and Mars Is Heaven, as well as two tracks which appeared on compilations released by the short-lived but influential BEKO DSL netlabel. These songs generally consist of warm, scratchy loops that sound as if they're taken from early rock & roll records, along with Orleans' eerie, reverb-soaked voice expressing late-night desires and thoughts of fear and loneliness. While this sort of content could be disturbing or frightening, these songs are often quite fun, particularly due to the frequent usage of Casio keyboards and bizarre, ear-catching samples, such as the nearly operatic vocals underpinning "Neverend." Imagine Cate Le Bon hijacking Panda Bear's gear, and you're heading in the right direction. Some tracks approximate a style of swaying, starry doo wop, while others are more raucous, filled with tremolo guitars or wild organs. "Planet Mars" is the theme song to a frenzied Martian hop, while "Black and White Flight" is more of a bedroom dance party, filled with crackly breakbeats and joyous layered vocals. "Light at Dawn" is like a scene from a spacy spaghetti Western, with Orleans' dazed voice whispering "I simply love you" over a tumbling drum/guitar loop and haunting keyboards. All of these songs are fascinating, wonderful, and unique, and they're just a small selection of Orleans' extensive catalog. Very much a collection of lost gems, Movies for Ears is an excellent introduction to a sorely underrated artist.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson