On their solid 2018 debut album Silver Dollar Moment, the Halifax-based band the Orielles delivered polychromatic art-rock showcasing their knack for sugary hooks and a nuanced percussive underpinning that set them apart from other tuneful indie groups. Songs like “Old Stuff, New Glass” and “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)” proved their funk nearly as flavorful as their pop. It shouldn’t surprise that in a 2018 interview with the webzine Highclouds, the band name-dropped both the Pastels and A Certain Ratio as inspirations, accounting for both catchy-chorus ear-candy and club-rocking polyrhythms. Still, on Silver Dollar Moment, it seemed the band had yet to cash out on the groove.
The title of the Orielles’ sophomore album, Disco Volador, telegraphs their development towards whetting the rhythms and gratifying those fans who like their indie rock danceable. It’s a thrift shop of sounds – samba, post-punk, funk, dream pop, and nods to both 1990s alt-rock and acid-house – that bring to mind music writer Simon Reynolds’ observations on the tendency of 21st-century bands to renovate and recombine past styles. In his book Retromania, Reynolds criticizes this approach, claiming that constantly mining the past can lead to creative stagnation for both individual bands and the culture at large. Maybe it’s a matter of perception; what I hear in Disco Volador is music that’s fresh and optimistic, the sound of a band having a blast splattering their record collections through your headphones.
“All the influences we had when writing this record were present when we recorded it, so we completely understood what we wanted this album to feel like and could bring that to fruition,” says drummer Sid Dee Hand Halford. “This is the sound of where we are at, right now.”
Though the band’s sound is distinctive and Disco Volador isn’t overshadowed by its vast lineup of influences, the album will appeal to music geeks who enjoy guessing the sonic predecessors of modern indie bands. The groove on “Bobbi’s Second World” brings to mind late 1970s/early 1980s funk-forward post-punk acts like Konk and Lizzy Mercier Descloux. Whereas the chorus on “Memoirs of Miso” sounds like 1990s-era Slowdive removed a few layers of reverberative gauze.
In that same Highclouds interview from 2018, the Orielles claimed to have peaked the number of tracks available to record for the song “Sugar Tastes Like Salt”. This maximalist approach is apparent on Disco Volador. Though songs average less than four-and-a-half minutes, each is loaded (but not cramped) with styles and ideas. “7th Dynamic Goo” features synth stabs reminiscent of 808 State, prominent cowbell, synthesized worms squirming beneath uptempo drumming, a playground whistle calling between the left and right channels, and a chorus that equates dancing to astral travel.
One of the album’s consistent themes seems to be a childlike fascination with space. “Euro Borealis” opens with a sparse funk groove before unfurling a 1960s girl-group-style harmony doused in swimming pools of reverb. The keyboards dappled throughout splash and bubble up to the surface like bursts of caffeinated sunshine. The album’s opener, “Come Down on Jupiter”, is phaser and flanger-drenched dream pop that flits between downtempo cruise and uptempo gallop.
“Come Down on Jupiter” is representative of this band’s biggest strength. The tone color is sumptuous, and the song could have been carried by melodies alone and delivered as a straightforward pop jingle; but the percussion is just as enlivening, and when Esmé Dee Hand Halford cranks her bass loud enough, she firmly asserts this as a funk track. More proof that melodic headrush and dancefloor liberation are not always discrete prerogatives. And damn good proof at that.