The Orielles

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Tableau Review

by Tim Sendra

The Orielles spent their downtime during the global pandemic doing deep musical research thanks to a monthly radio show they hosted. Some of the styles they discovered and techniques they delved into informed their third album, 2022's Tableau. While their first two albums were a lively mix of post-C86 songcraft and dance-pop lightness, this record is something much darker and more musically challenging. Utilizing samples of instruments that the trio would chop up and rearrange, direction gleaned from Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies, and arrangement ideas taken from jazz visionary Wadada Leo Smith, the band leap feet first into the arty side of indie, and it totally works. Sparse and edgy, cold and electronic on the surface, they imbue the sleekness of the sounds with tender emotions that bubble underneath and give the album the heart it needs to really connect. This is what allows them to get away with an eight-minute improvised track that meanders like a slow brook or with scattering short avant-garde musical interludes that appear throughout. As soon as one leaves the spare domain of "Improvisation 001," they are hit with the sprightly pop-art splash of "Television," or when the stark percussion loops of "Chromo I" fade out, the Orielles launch into the album's hookiest track -- "Chromo II" -- which skitters along like an update on the Orange Juice-style funk the band did so well on previous records. They kit out the songs with rippling synths, fractured vocal effects, and swaths of electronic strings that give their previously sometimes feather-light sound some real depth. A track like "Darkened Corners" is a good example of how this works. The flutes that sneak around the melody, the echoing vocals that ebb and flow in the background, the subtle dynamic shifts between the verses and the elongated bridge -- these all add drama and interest to what otherwise would have been a perfectly nice Pastels-inspired indie pop ballad. The techno flourishes that pop up occasionally also serve to give the songs interesting angles, as do the drum machine rhythms when they are balanced with the loping, very human bass playing. To go along with the added drama in the arrangements and sound, the lyrics feel deeper this time and the vocals don't stick to any one style. It's just as likely for one to hear sticky-sweet harmonies as it is spoken asides and poetic mumbling, all of which work because they fit into the sonics of the songs so thoughtfully. Tableau is definitely the work of a young band growing and exploring, looking for new territory to explore, new feelings to delve into, and exciting sounds to dig into. Many groups who attempt this kind of thing fail miserably as their ambition outstrips their talent. That's not a problem for the Orielles. Judging by this album, if they can keep growing this impressively, the sky's the limit.

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