The OO-Ray: Empty Orchestra
Lifelike Family

Quite frankly, the fact that there's supposedly an empty orchestra in place poses no problem for The OO-Ray when Ted Laderas is eminently capable of generating a massive wall of sound all by himself. Issued in digital form on Lifelike Family and in cassette (in standard and deluxe box set packages) on the label's subsidiary imprint New Ruin Tapes, Empty Orchestra was produced over a three-year period, during which time Laderas also toiled on a doctoral degree in biology. He brings a goodly amount of experience to the new release, specifically a discography now boasting three albums, six EPs, and a number of collaborations.

Laderas builds the nine tracks into sweeping, symphonic set-pieces by first wedding cello, piano, and synthesizers to orchestral strings, horns, and woodwinds and then filtering the sum-total through a cloudy field of distortion. As a result, representative settings such as “Our Wasted Summer” and “Normals” unspool at the level of a muted roar, not so loud that their melodic modulations can't be savoured yet loud enough that the tracks register as massive, unstoppable forces of nature. It's an awesome, all-consuming cathedral of sound that merges the raw and the refined: noise dronescaping sweetened with themes of an oft-melancholic and chamber classical-styled nature (see “Vapours” and “Hunting Song” as excellent illustrations of the style).

Cello is prominently featured on Laderas's previous releases, and so too is it here, even if the string instrument functions as merely one element within a larger matrix of shoegaze-like sonorities (an especially striking moment comes near the end of “Crush Point” when the sound mass decompresses to let the cello be heard all by itself). The deluxe package, by the way, lives up to its billing: complementing the cassette's forty-four minutes of music are a laser-etched box, a photo booklet featuring images by Laderas, a signed print, and a download code for a live set recorded at Portland's Alberta Abbey.

May 2015