Voices And Organs Orphanage

[Western Vinyl; 2006]

Styles: sound collage, lo-fi reminiscence, ambient indie pop
Others: Boards of Canada, The Microphones, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nathan Michel

Orphanage comes from a Norwegian group that has taken a series of short stories and condensed them into a pretty (photo) album. These long songs brim with thick, fizzy excess, like an overfilled soda on a stained countertop. They create a world that relies on this excess to effect a distended mnemonic transparency. The 18 tracks of Orphanage can seem redundant; they demand, with pacific insistence, that you immerse yourself in their dream sequence, where repetition (of melodies, moods, words, and characters) creates both the comfort of recognition and the unease of witnessing familiar threads unspool themselves in new contexts.

The voices of playing children blend into synth and organ tones layered like winter sweaters on a skinny body. Harmonicas earnestly wheeze around guitar melodies that would comfortably nest on any K Recs release. Variegated clanks and clinks could be the sound of dropping dominos or the pipes in the boiler room of a big building. It's difficult to pin down some of these sounds to a particular signified, and thus they can serve as the traces of sanguine or melancholy memories (is that girl laughing or crying?), or even flat disaffection. The emotional reserve leaves the narrative work to the listener, and the mood that one emerges with says as much about one's own childhood experiences and memories as it does about those of the characters in Voices And Organs' audio theatre.

Childhood is often portrayed as a personal era of romance (viz. twee pop) or terror (viz. Xiu Xiu or The Sunset Tree) — but this record, in spite of what could be called "dreamy" or "gauzy" acoustics, chalks a realist image by evoking the sometimes banal, sometimes breathtaking imaginative space available to children during periods of solitude and inactivity. Being a kid involves glee and horror, sure, but there's a lot of ambiguous, even boring, space too. I imagine such stretches would open up frequently in an orphanage, where friendships themselves are underpinned by one's aloneness.

Orphanage also underscores the exclusive nature of storytelling, constantly hinting at action and emotion that takes place just outside of the purview of the music, action and emotion that is obscured by the very process of remembering. Listening to these songs is like witnessing a mind working through the decisive (cutting) self-defense of nostalgia. Orphanage's willful haziness conveys a winsome paradox: remembering can be a lovely way of forgetting.

1. Melodikka (Orphanage Intro)
2. Any Day Now
3. Trees are Bending Shades to Shapes
4. Staircase, Attic and Out the Window
5. Reaching for Trees in Dreams
6. Idle Words on Empty Pages #1
7. Ghostwriting
8. Nestlings
9. Through the City, Through the Lights
10. As We Grew Young
11. Sundays
12. Boychild
13. Screamer
14. Singer
15. Back and Forth
16. Polyphony of Banality
17. Idle Words on Empty Pages #2
18. Orphans