Album Review: The Orielles – Tableau 

by | Oct 24, 2023 | Album Reviews, Blog

In art, a “tableau” is a picturesque array capturing a moment in full essence. The term is fitting for The Orielles’ fourth offering, Tableau, an album that aims for nothing less than to encapsulate the ebb and flow of the present moment. Unlike a static painting, however, this tableau is a vibrant, living one, unfurling throughout its 16 tracks. Not merely content to stick with their recognizable indie-rock DNA, the West Yorkshire trio blur the lines between improvisation, graphic notation, and unconventional production methods. On Friday, October 27, The Orielles will play in Bucharest for the first time at Control Club.

Guided by principles from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, Tableau isn’t just an abstract exercise. It’s filled with tracks that vary in style and substance, from fuzzy garage rock to auto-tuned pop, classical string interludes, beatless meditations, and even ambient soundscapes. The track The Improvisation 001 even borrows techniques from film editing. This experimental approach is rooted in their 2021 debut art film, La Vita Olistica,which extends the themes of space and time, furthering their quest for phenomenological exploration of art or a study of direct experiences.

Chromo I and Chromo II, the opening tracks, serve as a primer for what’s to come, diving into murky ambience before giving way to a more Interpol-esque guitar and bassline. As we wander through this album, the auditory architecture becomes increasingly complex. Airtight, for example, reveals an ensemble of frenetic funk and hyper-pop elements framed by a bassline that keeps everything grounded. 

However, The Orielles’ creative process sets this album apart from their previous work, particularly their 2020 Disco Volador. Gone are the days of walking into the studio with well-polished demos. Instead, they’ve embraced a more spontaneous method, led by producer Joel Anthony Patchett (King Krule), who encouraged them to pick up new instruments blindfolded. The result are tracks like the mourneful Transmission. This metamorphosis also produced the nearly eight-minute Beam/s, which shapeshifts from a leisurely groove to a fuller sonic landscape featuring a string section and auto-tuned vocals. 

The album truly shines, embracing mellow, neo-psychedelic elements infused with post-rock sensibilities. Tracks like The Instrument and Darkened Corners blend feedback and waveforms as if they were analogue instruments. With its haunting strings and spoken word, The Room stands as a particular highlight, offering an intricate 80s throwback groove that arguably sets a new bar for the band’s capabilities.

This isn’t to say that the band has abandoned its roots. The Orielles have never been a band to rest on their laurels, and Tableau proves they are far from starting now. Far from the dreaded notion of “maturation” that often implies a loss of vivacity, they have achieved a more nuanced form of growth that doesn’t replace their earlier energies but channels them into new directions. The album is unapologetically experimental. It’s evident that the band draws inspiration from the likes of Television, Stereolab, and even early ’90s shoegaze, but Tableau never feels derivative. 

So, where does all this musical exploration and experimentation leave us? Tableau is a complex journey requiring multiple listens. It’s a daring work that signals a band unafraid to evolve. If you’re exploring the more obscure corners of music, the album is worth your time. It’s a tableau that leaves you pondering long after the final note has faded.

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