by Chris Hatch
Dropping the needle on The Orielles’ sophomore release is the metaphorical equivalent of donning your spacesuit, snapping shut your visor, and tumbling backwards out into deep space. The genre-melding Disco Volador is a retro-futuristic album that fuses the skittering, upbeat, acid jazz of the 60s, with the trippy, hypnagogic-pop of recent acts likes Ducktails and Childhood.
One glance at the gloriously kitsch, mid-century album artwork would have you thinking that this record is a 1960/70s pastiche, and while The Orielles embrace the optimism of Space Race-era Britain, they augment their vintage sound with laser-sharp pop barbs. In fact, where recent retro-futuristic records (namely Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and Van Houten’s self titled 2019 debut) have tended to drift off aimlessly into the infinite beyond, Disco Volador’s tracks have a knack of taking you right to the fringes of experimental overindulgence before yanking you back into orbit with some bang-on-the-nose guitar riff, or instantly catchy synth flourish.
It’s this mix of playful experimentation and instant catchiness that is the album’s cleverest and most successful aspect – within each track it’s nigh on impossible to predict what is coming next. Rapid I, for example, sees a blipping, bubbling, tremolo-drenched verse make way for a driving, singalong chorus – but it’s the final minute or so that steals the show; a Balearic, dancey, hands-in-the air coda that’s reminiscent of the floppy-fringed, baggy wave that swept northern Britain at the dawn of the 90s.
And these kind of moments seem to lurk around every corner of Disco Volador – the jangly, floatiness of Memoirs Of Miso morphs at its midway point into a sumptuous saxophone-led, lounge jazz number replete with understated strings and gently simmering percussion, while spoken word sections, rhythmic hooks, and out-of-the-blue keyboard counterpoints seem to spring up out of nowhere throughout the album.
There are the odd patches where, lead singer, Esmé Dee Hand-Handford’s voice can get a little lost in the mix, but – for the most part – her understated vocals are a nice contrast to the whirling, swirling backing her band creates – and, to be quite honest, on an album that explores the outer reaches of the universe, it’s kind of nice to feel like you are getting a little bit lost with her.
The sci-fi-pulp album reaches its crescendo with the aptly titled Space Samba (Disco Valador Theme) – if ever a track could sum up an album then there surely can’t be one much better than this. The genreless, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink track has the groove and attitude of an early-Hacienda DJ set, where anything goes and there’s no limit to what can or can’t be played.
At a time when the world is a confusing, scary, confrontational place, the only way to escape is to go back in time or head out into space – on The Orielles brilliant second release they have done both, and what choice do you have but to join them?
Secret Meeting score: 82