Orcas: Orcas (Morr)
This collaboration between guitar/folk tinkerers Benoît Pioulard and Rafael Anton Irisarri (a.k.a. The Sight Below) plays to each’s strengths as mood-setters, complementing one another’s styles with a result that is seamless. As The Sight Below, Irisarri has explored Gas-like minimal ambient techno hybrids, all atmosphere with an underwater bass kick accompaniment. He drops the techno leanings completely but brings the atmosphere full-on to Pioulard’s songwriting, with many of these tracks quite adeptly straddling their respective repertoires. Some tracks are more ambient than others; “Certain Abstractions,” “High Fences” and “Standard Error” each float by like a hazy dream. Elsewhere, Pioulard’s songwriting rises to the fore, such as the striking folk tinge of “I Saw My Echo” or my personal favorite, “Carrion,” which combines a dubby slow-core groove with both artists’ knack for decaying atmosphere. But perhaps the most startling track of all is their cover of Broadcast’s “Until Then.” It’s a truly haunting eulogy to Trish Keenan’s unfortunate passing early last year. The original Broadcast song was quite good, but Orcas’ take on it is chilling, distilled into piano, guitar and vocals, with a tense climax of feedback. The album is excellent from start to finish, but a few tracks (“Until Then,” “Carrion,” I Saw My Echo") make it worth it all on their own. It’s curious that this album hasn’t gotten more hype, because it’s one of the best of its kind that I’ve heard.