West Yorkshire’s experimental art-poppers unveil their most ambitious album to date
There’s something quite admirable about the way The Orielles have yet to be fitted into any kind of pigeonhole. Their debut album, Silver Dollar Moment, could be loosely described as indie pop, but the 2020 follow-up Disco Volador dived into all sorts of different territories.
During lockdown, the band filled their new-found free time by creating and scoring their own experimental film, La Vita Olistica. That experience, together with a monthly show on Soho Radio, has provided the inspiration for the Halifax trio’s third album, Tableau. It’s an album which pretty much defies categorisation from the start – it’s certainly their most ambitious album to date, with 16 tracks and over an hour’s running time.
All the tracks effortlessly run into each other and are loose and free-form with nods to jazz, electronica experimentalism and bands such as Stereolab and Broadcast. Some tracks last little over a minute, others have a running time of over eight minutes. Esmé Dee Hand-Halford’s vocals are sometimes whispered, and sometimes a dead ringer for Sarah Cracknell (as on lead singer The Room). It’s definitely an album you have to devote some attention to.
When Tableau hits form, it really flies. Anyone who’s seen The Orielles live knows that they’re excellent musicians, and there are moments on this album where they just seem to catch fire. The Room flies and glides by, while Darkened Corners (a duet between Hand-Halford and guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade) is beautifully atmospheric.
Sometimes, the album dips into ambient territory – the opening Chromeo 1 is slight, wispy, and pretty hypnotic, before it merges into Chromeo II which turns effortlessly into a more indie-rock direction. Now and again, it seems like the ambition may be a bit too much: The Improvisation 001 is a nine minute long instrumental epic that plays just on the right side of self-indulgence, but ultimately pulls it off.
The most impressive thing about Tableu is the amount of care that’s obviously been lavished on each track. The eerie synth sound which opens Beams/s, before it slowly unfurls into a string-accompanied masterpiece is one such example, right up to the spoken word closer Stones. Even a short interlude like quasi-classical By Its Light makes an impression despite being only 47 seconds.
If there’s a criticism to be made, it could be that it sometimes feels a bit drawn out, and that the noodly improvisational side of The Orielles often takes precedent over their more accessible side. There’s a lot to take in on Tableau – maybe, at times, almost too much – but it’s another solid record from West Yorkshire’s very own experimental art-poppers.