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Album Review

Growing as it does out of a collaboration between two artists already known for their solo work, Benoit Pioulard and Rafael Anton Irisarri of the Sight Below, Orcas had certain expectations to live up to on its self-titled debut. The album generally meets them, an enjoyable creation that, despite its clear roots, has its own logic and general aesthetic. "Pallor Cedes" begins the album with a kind of demi-glitch approach to rhythm, clipped guitar noise and rising and falling drones settling in behind a slow, acoustic guitar melody and calm, slightly yearning vocals, themselves turning into a call and response collage of their own. It sets the tone for the album, a kind of hushed confessional approach where vocals and lyrics are there but almost glide along amid the quiet music, notes and sighs and backing textures rising and falling in gentle interplay, vinyl crackle at points adding that certain touch of atmosphere. The end result often feels partway between the Field's obsessive use of a few notes as the core of a song and the kind of impact Portishead had even earlier, part spooked, part engagingly winsome, as the slow float and rising loop of sighs on "Standard Error" demonstrate. Other songs are less immediately obsessive but maintain the sense of space and understated progression — "Carrion" has only a distant beat, echoed piano parts, and equally shrouded singing to lead the way, but the feeling couldn't be any more monumentally goth and murky, a bit of This Mortal Coil by way of Talk Talk. A striking cover of Broadcast's "Until Then," done in tribute after the premature passing of Trish Keenan, has a similar focus on piano, only here it's upfront and crisp, vocals, guitar, and darker tones lurking below until a slow rise of feedback begins to almost (but not quite) overwhelm it, then cutting back to the piano alone. It's a classic bit of musical melodrama, sure — but it works very well.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '10s

Orcas is a collaboration between Pacific Northwest-based sound-shapers Thomas Meluch and Rafael Anton Irisarri, both of whom are better known as Benoit Pioulard and the Sight Below, respectively. The pair blended their distinct yet harmonious approaches to songs equally inspired by electronic and ambient music on Orcas' self-titled debut album, which was released in 2012 by Morr Music and featured a cover of Broadcast's "Until Then," dedicated to that group's late singer Trish Keenan. For 2014's...
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Orcas, Orcas
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