Orienteers - Orienteers - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Orienteers - Orienteers

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2011-09-30

Orienteers' singer Ben Wilson really reminds me of Mark Linkous. His smooth, understated delivery has all those qualities that made the Sparklehorse frontman's voice so appealing. A gentle, comforting, whisper-in-your-ear delivery which can't fail to draw you in. The music on Orienteers' self-titled debut is often reminiscent of Sparklehorse's dusty, midnight shuffle and heartbroken but quietly hopeful take on Americana. Take the beautiful, lap-steel ballad 'May-Queen Girl' as Wilson whispers "May-queen girl are you real?" Lyrically, there are echoes of Linkous tracks like 'Homecoming Queen'; Linkous is also there in the naked fragility of Wilsons' delivery. Orienteers have undoubtedly created something unique with their influences. It's an impressive, beautiful and at times achingly tender record.

Orienteers are far from simple Sparklehorse copyists, however (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing). Over the course of these 10 tracks you can hear echoes of musical outsiders ranging from Giant Sand, The Shins and The Flaming Lips to Akron/Family and, at a push, Neutral Milk Hotel. 'Little Words' actually reminds me of some of the more fragile moments on Smashing Pumpkins' Adore album. I don't know, when you listen to the album you may not hear these influences but it's the kind of music which fires the imagination and that's always a good thing.

Orienteers, like those aforementioned bands, balance simplicity and sonic experimentalism with satisfying results. Tracks like the gorgeous 'A Hymn for the Old Salt' balance gentle guitars, whispered voices and disorientating drones to heartstopping effect while 'Man Turns to Sunshine' is a space-jazz collage of sounds that'll lift you right off the ground. Experimental but never simply chaotic, Orienteers are the kind of band you can picture in the studio obsessing over every little sound, overdub and guitar part.

The album's strength seems to lie in its mixture of countrified melancholy, experimental soundscapes and first-class songwriting. Its highpoint comes, arguably, with the excited shuffle of 'I Tried to Picture Us' as it veers between broken, acoustic tenderness, a Calexico-esque shuffle and unexpected passages of more rock- indebted guitar workouts. Really, it's the kind of album that's difficult to choose highlights from as the whole thing flows together with a disarming sense of ease and grace. If you're after something that's gonna have you coming back time after time than Orienteers may have made an album for you. As clichéd as it is to say it, this is an album that benefits from repeated listens. Orienteers won't shout or make much of a fuss to get your attention but they most certainly deserve it.

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