Into Orbit - Caverns

by Steve Rhodes Rating:7.5 Release Date:2014-08-07

Sneaking out in their native New Zealand in August is the debut album from Wellington's Into Orbit. Eschewing the formula and format of other noise-bothering, vocal-drum-and-guitar duos such as Blood Red Shoes or Royal Blood, the band dabble instead in a mix-bag of genres, such as post-rock, prog, space-rock, garage and ambient metal, incorporating varying, focussed elements of these without setting up camp in any particular one, resulting in a strong and constantly evolving record.

Their name is pretty apt, chiming with the opening bars of 'Corridors... Caverns'. A serene, cinematic opening that could complement the soundtracks of Gravity or Oblivion, it leads, via layered, faintly distorted guitars, la la Explosions in the Sky, into a crunchier middle, with riff-like guitars and pummelling drumming. A rockier, spiritual cousin to God is an Astronaut or Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson.

The song continues to evolve by dropping into a reflective middle, dominated by calm, delayed guitars, before re-starting into pretty much another song partway through. Though the drummer seems to be playing along to a completely different song, it finally syncs altogether when the direct bass appears, driving the song until it opens out to a forceful, heavier close, like Mugstar, or an uncomplicated Mars Volta. A great opener that neatly sums up the shifting nature and tone of the album.

The poignant 'Set Adrift' drops the urgency but adds atmosphere, with the guitars initially dreamier. Though they occasionally drift into Eric Clapton solo-mining in places, it works with the ominous, foreboding backing, especially when the drums drop off into Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Tomorrow We Sail territory. As with the opener, the song significantly changes shape, though the drums feel initially too high in the mix. As the song builds, it links neatly with the riff-tastic, throbbingly heavy, post-metal guitars, all supported by a joyous, hypnotic delayed guitar loop, leading the track into a furious climax.

'*' is more becalmed at first, with an acoustic backing allowing a buried Chris Rea guitar to lead, before bludgeoning, sludgy Bitch Magnet or Slint guitars and over-the-top drumming lead towards an unsettling, but not unpleasant drone end, a finale that ends too soon and something that would have benefited being built upon.

The quiet(ish)/loud dynamics continue on 'Aphelion', with an almost playful guitar-loop providing the backbone to the song, with delayed guitars, a more predominant bass and increased volume slowly added to hypnotic effect. 'Perihelion' likewise is a patient builder, with a continual layering of shimmering guitars and nice descending chords, leading into a crunchier, frenetic close, which feels a little listless until the glorious, Sonic Youth-esque tone-bend at the end.

'Towers' goes straight for the jugular with distorted sludgy guitars from the off, like Mogwai or fellow New Zealand natives High Dependency Unit, with a sinister guitar hook that could provide the theme to a haunted house computer game. Feeling more psychedelic, it is a direct and straight-edged number that bypasses the unhurried feel of much of the album, and is better for it.

Closer 'Creeping Pines' neatly sums up the album's path and structure. Patient, echoed guitars and drums are built on with politely distorted guitars, until a change of pace and volume takes over and the song adds more decibels, direction and purpose, dropping into a noisier and experimental ether at the close. It is a perfect example of the building and layering at which Into Orbit are adept.

Hinting at elements of their fellow Kiwis Bailterspace, Jakob and Kerretta, but creating a distinct sound, with Caverns Into Orbit have produced a strong and interesting album that although a little thin production-wise at times, is a promising début. An act I hope to hear more from in the future and very much worthy of repeated listens.

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