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Orcas' murky and surprisingly emotive music isn't terribly removed from the minimalist ambience of The Sight Below, which is no surprise since half of Orcas is TSB’s Rafael Anton Irisarri. The other half is Benoît Pioulard (a.k.a. Thomas Meluch), with whom Irisarri has collaborated in the past. He's an artist also known for his ambient-washed atmospherics, though he works in more solid songforms. Meeting somewhere in the middle, their debut as Orcas bridges pop song structures (albeit fog-shrouded ones) and shadowy, electronic soundscapes with a delicate, precise touch that's utterly captivating. Songs like “Pallor Cedes” and “High Fences” use scratchy vinyl and static as backdrops for their slow and stately unfurling, with actual melodies and something like hooks embedded in the former while a hypnotic, barely discernable melody moves the latter. Pioulard’s gentle vocals and acoustic guitar bring an Iron & Wine sensibility to tunes like “Arrow Drawn,” and Irisarri’s hand is evident on dreamy, distant pieces like “Standard Error.” Their tribute to Broadcast’s late Trish Keenan is a moving, gorgeous cover of that band’s somber “Until Then.”

Customer Reviews

Headphone Commute Review

Exactly a year ago, at the end of September of 2011, at 8th edition of Seattle’s Decibel Festival, I was lucky enough to attend a world premiere of a live performance by Orcas. Back then I only knew that Orcas was a project consisting of Benoît Pioulard and Rafael Anton Irisarri. Pioulard, of course, is a moniker of Thomas Meluch, with EPs, singles and album releases on Kranky, Desire Path, Type, and People In A Position To Know. While Irisarri has released multiple albums under his real name on Miasmah, Room40, and Immune, as well as two albums on Ghostly International under The Sight Below alias. So, yes, going into the above mentioned performance I already knew that I was about to witness a new and exciting affair from two of my favorite artists. What I didn’t know, is that the self-titled debut would eventually make it onto Thomas Morr’s Morr Music, a trend-setting Berlin-based label responsible for output by ISAN, múm, Styrofoam, and many others.

On Orcas, the duo lays down blissful ambient passages, complimented by delicate guitars, minimal electronics, and Pioulard’s lulling voice. The group also invites Kelly Wyse to play on the piano [Wyse has previously worked with Irisarri on Reverie (Immune, 2010)], and Simon Scott to contribute additional guitars and Max/MSP treatments. The rest of production credits include Irisarri for recording and mixing the album, as well as Lawrence English for mastering. All of the tracks on the album are original, except the amazing cover of Broadcast‘s “Until Then”. This particular piece has been stuck in my head for days now, maybe because every now and then I play the melody on my baby grand. The compositions on Orcas follow an introspective trajectory, floating between enchanting dream-drone chords and subtle, yet textural, sonic ebb. Pioulard’s vocals gently hover above the surface of each track, slightly obscured by his own barely whispering octave-high duet. Together, Pioulard and Irisarri perfectly compliment each other in this new pinnacle of post-drift-gaze-haze-pop, on which soaring ambiance meets lullaby songs.

For more from these two fantastic musicians, may I recommend Pioulard’s Précis (Kranky, 2006), Temper (Kranky, 2006), and Lasted (Kranky, 2010), as well as Irisarri’s Daydreaming (Miasmah, 2007), The North Bend (Room40, 2010); and Glider (Ghostly, 2008), It All Falls Apart (Ghostly, 2010) as The Sight Below. This year, Orcas will perform at Decibel Festival during Optical 4: Discreet Tones showcase, along with Nils Frahm, Sylvain Chauveau, and CFCF, with visuals by Leo Mayberry, Sean Curtis Patrick, and even Christina Vantzou! Irisarri will also perform as The Sight Below at Optical 3: Touch30 showcase, along with Eleh, Biosphere, and lissom. I have to admit, all of the Optical showcases look absolutely fantastic this year, and you can bet that I’ll be present at each and every one of them!

Back in Seattle, at the end of September of 2011, after Orcas’ world premier live performance, drunk on good wine and beautiful music, I ran back into the green room, and half slurring my words exclaimed into Rafael’s bewildered and exhausted composure, “that… that was just magical!” Rafael looked at me, smiled and said “Oh, shut the hell up!” Little did he know, I meant those few drunken words… ;)

click 'buy album' and ask no questions....

surreal and gorgeous.....

beautiful album

def worth the investment. about to listen to it again.


Genre: Alternative

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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