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Music Review: O+S – O+S

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O+S, the progeny of Azure Ray, Art in Manila, and Remy Zero, is Orenda Fink and Scalpelist (Cedric LeMoyne). The Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts welcomed Fink into an art residency and Fink invited Scalpelist along. Voila, O+S. Their debut album, O+S, sounds like Azure Ray 2.0, but it adds a bit more “beeps” and “boops” for a less acoustic and more electronic sound. The album is not bad, but it sounds like a Portishead Third generic brand knockoff.

It is an enjoyable listen, but it lacks the creativity to make it anything other than background music. The album sounds like a thesis. It lacks warmth, lacks soul. There are two exceptions, “Knowing Animals” and “We Do What We Want To”. Both carry an atmospheric glow to them that makes Fink’s voice bigger than it actually is. They imbue a sense of melancholy that on other tracks seems forced and ineffective.

Whispercore as it might be called, referring to such acts as Sufjan Stevens or Elliott Smith, is an art. If all the pieces don’t come together, it doesn’t work, and it amounts to breathing into a microphone. That’s another problem for O+S. While Fink’s wispy voice is not unpleasant, the accompaniments don’t serve her. Specifically, “Survive Love” misses the mark. A repeated synthetic keyboard strain and a general low background hum send the song nowhere. It’s a shame because the melody isn’t half bad.

Lemoyne says, “We’d take samples of sounds of Haitian rituals, street noises or whatever, then cut them into loops,” but unfortunately, most of the samples sound computer generated straight from a lab. Only “We Do What We Want To” which starts with chanting – presumably during Haitian rituals – utilizes all the search and discovery that went into making O+S. According to a press release, “nearly 90% of the album [was] completed [while Fink and LeMoyne were] in separate states,” and it shows. The chemistry of a band in fits of creativity doesn’t exist.

Azure Ray fans will gobble this one up, but beyond that, I’m not sure how far the reach of this record will extend. Fink does better with Art in Manilla, and it may be best if O+S is a one-and-done. There’s too much talent that doesn’t coalesce to call the album a failure. It’s simply a disappointment.

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About Luke Johnson

  • Joe DeCamillis

    “Azure Ray fans will gobble this one up, but beyond that, I’m not sure how far the reach of this record will extend.”

    Hmmmmm. CD hot off the presses and it’s already been featured in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy during the climactic scene–song played prominently (as foreground music, not background) and practically in its entirety.

    I think that fact alone accurately reflects the inaccuracy of the rest of your off-base review. I’ve already listened to this beautiful CD many times and find myself with each listen becoming more and more haunted by its melodies, intrigued with the lyrics, and impressed by its delicate weaving of genres. I hope your hasty review does not deprive some unfortunate readers of the pleasure in discovering O+S!

  • Luke Johnson

    Thanks for the comments, Joe. I certainly can see where you are coming from. There are many Orenda Fink fans out there who will disagree with this review.

    However, I want to clear something up. The review wasn’t hasty. The reason I was able to review the album when I did is because I was given a review copy before the general release. I always give an album a fair chance which means I listen to it (generally exclusively) for several days. This means I generally listen to an album 5+ times before I write a review. (This doesn’t include when I go back to listen to specific tracks I reference in an article.)