Are you ready for some minimal-synth…from space? Because that’s the description that comes to mind for the coldwave project Ortrotasce. The Portland based band uses a mixture of analog and digital sounds to create a bloopy soundscape that has a slightly different atmosphere on every release, but keeps a constant lo-fi and classic minimal-synth feel. The entire Phase Four album reminds me of the soundtrack of a sparsely populated space station!
My favourite release by Ortrotasce so far has been their Forgotten EP. It is a higher paced release than Phase Four, and fans of Martial Canterel, Automelodi and the like will probably really dig this sound. Darkly reverberating vocals and soaring synth lines are plentiful here – this is my recent go-to album for having people over or (in a more boring situation) fun cleaning music. I listened to one release and it didn’t really stick with me; many thanks to my friend Louis for poking me and getting me to listen to more of this great band!
You can find a TON of songs from Ortrotasce at their bandcamp here. Though it seems Nic Hamersly (who is, from what I can tell, the sole artist behind this band) started this project only early last year, it’s been quite an active project.
Xeno & Oaklander’s live setup
It’s been a while! As I mentioned in my previous post, I had planned a trip to Portland last month which happened to coincide with Xeno & Oaklander playing a show there with Soft Metals. Soft Metals were super fun – just as bouncy and dancey as I was hoping for. It sounds like they’ve just relocated to Portland, so the west coast is in for a treat. As for X&O, they blew any expectations I had out of the water – their energy and live sound are unbelievable! They take their analog setup with them on the road, and it’s like being invited to a non-stop jam session. They definitely cast a spell, and watching Liz sing her heart out while dancing with the audience was a treat. Their show was so awesome that they’re the only band I can think of who I’d love to see a live album from – I hope I’ll be able to catch them again sometime on the west coast!
Xeno & Oaklander’s 4th full-length album Par Avion was released earlier this week, and it’s been getting heavy rotation in my house since then. The band members Sean McBride and Liz Wendelbo themselves describe the album as “Postcards of love for a cold age – shimmering moments from the present, romantic messages from the past, and love mementos for the future”. Truly with this album more than any of their other releases, I can hear strong nostalgia for times past and equally powerful yearning for what is to come.
The songs on Par Avion are both classic Xeno and a continuing evolution of their sound. ‘Interface’ was released as a single and gives a bouncy beginning to the album. I’ve listened to the album quite a few times now and still can’t sort out my favourites – the songs are arranged so well it seems to flow as many smaller stories merging to create a bigger tale, so it’s hard to pull out just one or two to single out. ‘Sheen’ has been getting stuck in my head more than some of the others – Liz’s voice and the gorgeous melody combined with a lively beat is a fantastic combo.
Check out Xeno & Oaklander’s official website for more information and how to purchase their new album. As a side note – Liz Wendelbo has created a Xeno & Oaklander themed perfume which you can find out more about here, and this fragrance will be used to scent the inserts of a limited edition pressing of Par Avion vinyls. As someone who finds scent, memory and music to be forever linked, I think this is an amazing idea and definitely have my eye on Eau de Xeno!
Some seriously interesting stuff on the new Electric Voice Records compilation – feel like some new Soft Metals? A new (rare instrumental) track from Vancouver’s own Cosmetics? If I were to neglect to mention that the compilation also contains a really fun new song from Automelodi, you would know this blog has been hijacked. But most interestingly of all, a track by Martial Canterel that features ONLY GUITARS. My mind is blown – true to form, it’s a great and atmospheric track. The whole release is fantastic mood music, listen to/buy it here.
New video (shot in Budapest, Winter 2013) was released today from Xeno & Oaklander, and it’s gorgeous from start to finish!
Xeno & Oaklander sit down with Martin Rev from Suicide to talk about ‘Frankie Teardrop’. Near the end of the video you can hear snippets of what the cover version will sound like – I can’t wait!
Clip from the I Dream of Wires documentary of Sean McBride (Martial Canterel, Xeno & Oaklander) talking about synths. Still haven’t seen the entire documentary, but it’s on my to watch list.
On a similar note – saw that this Women’s Synth Workshop happened in NYC today and I’m drooling a little bit. I’m in the process of learning more about modular synths on my own time, but it’s slow going and at times a bit overwhelming, so this workshop sounds glorious. The idea of being in the same room as Liz Wendelbo and hearing her teaching and talking about synths sounds pretty dreamy!