Compilations / Mixes
One understandably comes to any collaborative effort involving two established artists with some degree of trepidation, given that the result might end up diluting their respective strengths and offering up something less than the sum of the parts. But no such fate attends this pooling of talents between Orcas duo Thomas Meluch (aka Benoît Pioulard) and Rafael Anton Irisarri (aka The Sight Below) as their very fine self-titled outing demonstrates. If forced to sum up the album in a single sentence, one might characterize the recording as a forty-minute suite of electronic vocal pop songs that embed piano, vocals, and guitar within texturally opaque masses of processed sounds.
Irisarri appears to be the dominant voice in the album's opening seconds when “Pallor Cedes” rises out of a murky mass of scabrous scrapes and crackling textures, but the balance evens out when Meluch's plaintive voice surfaces (quite literally reflected in the repeated line “Like coming up for air”) and gradually blossoms into a multi-part arrangement of lead and background vocals. While it's a promising start, it's bettered by the subsequent song “Arrow Drawn,” which proves especially entrancing when his multi-tracked voice languidly intones “I never asked about your real name / No, I never asked about your real name” over an equally hypnotic slow-burn of gentle piano chords and vaporous atmsopheres. “Standard Error” drifts placidly through a forest of hiss, appearing at first to be a purely instrumental setting until vocalist Tiny Vipers (Jesy Fortino) surfaces, ghost-like, to meld with the dense, crackle-drenched flow (another guest, Loscil aka Scott Morgan, makes a cameo appearance on “Certain Abstractions”). Entrancement would seem to be the order of the day, given the narcotic effect induced by the dreamy songscape “Carrion,” a calming fusion of angelic vocal harmonies and ambient instrumental scene-painting. And if the haunting “Until Then” sounds familiar, it's because it's a starkly arranged cover of a Broadcast song, with Meluch's hushed vocal not quite a match for Trish Keenan's—whose would be?—but certainly credible if taken on its own terms.
At times, one of the two artists takes center stage. Obviously Meluch's vocals naturally act as a focal point in the songs, but Irisarri more than makes his presence felt in the dense blocks of sound that accompany the singing and are as integral to the songs' impact as the vocal melodies (“A Subtle Escape” a good example). As a whole, this very satisfying recording proves to be a cohesive statement that integrates both artists' sensibilities and styles in balanced manner.