Oriol: Night and Day

By , Jun 25 2010

Available on: Planet Mu LP

It seemed like at some point last summer someone flipped a switch and suddenly nauseating, blatantly artificial nostalgia was the tool of the trade. Bands built nascent careers around deliberately fuzzy videos, fetishizing flawed VHS tapes and warped synths, and reclusive bedroom producers were suddenly given heaps of credibility on which to prematurely exhibit their underdeveloped craft. Now the dust has settled around chillwave / glo-fi / hypnagogic pop, the good producers have been outed and the gimmicks left to swim in their own overcrowded sea of effects and manufactured decay. But there remains a distinct and lingering penchant for evocations of ultra-smooth synth music, the kind of lite-funk that soundtracked educational TV spots and barely remembered commercials, explored by capable producers such as Toro Y Moi and Baths in “the year after chillwave.”

That long and pointless intro aside, I’m not sure how to approach this record.  My first instinct was to distrust: the album cover positively screams that type of goofy 80s revisionism. Night and Day’s likable blend of tropical soundscapes with loungey chord progressions and ear-pleasing sounds can feel like trend-hopping at its worst, the UK-via-Barcelona producer reproducing all the most predictable tropes of his imaginary beach-surfing US brethren. Take a deep breath and a step back, however, away from reactionary tendencies (though maybe that part is just me), and it quickly becomes clear that Oriol does it so much better than anyone else. Not just that, but his little idiosyncrasies and high production values give me the impression that this dude doesn’t even know what the Hell “chillwave” is, or might be. He’s just doing his own thing, something that happens to be quite in style with combative and dismissive internet folks at the moment.

Oriol’s debut album is magnificent, plain and simple. True to the album’s title, he paints warm tropical soundscapes with the cool palette of night: late-album interlude ‘Fantasy’ sounds like some idealized tropical resort, letting the plumes of oppressive equatorial heat diffuse into the darkening sky as cooler temperatures take over and the listener is whisked into the humid reveries of ‘LW’. Oriol’s tunes tend to spiral out from the centre with luxurious, multi-layered synth lines, like the gentle lashings of fur-lined bliss on ‘Jam’ or the way the synth on ‘Flux’ sounds like it’s steadily sublimating around the track’s churning centre.

Right there is another thing that sets Oriol apart from his would-be peers; perhaps as a result of working in the UK scene alongside the likes of Floating Points, his music is endowed with a complex rhythmic restlessness that enriches and strengthens these tunes. It’s at the core of the triumphant ‘Memories’, buoying horn fanfares and ecstatic vocals, and the tactile start-stop of the percussion turns ‘The Process’ into an advanced lesson in extreme funk. ‘Spiral’ plays rhythmic mind games, beginning with a stunted loop that sounds like conga lines and cocktails, only to unfurl into a dizzyingly dense web of manic basslines.

Four paragraphs in, I’m still pretty foggy on how to classify this album, how to categorize it, how to unnecessarily pigeonhole it – all that lovely music geek stuff. All I know is that forty minutes later I’m feeling refreshed from Night And Day’s gentle rhythmic wash cycle, where you’ll experience varying states of humidity and heat before being spat back out as fluffy and clean as you ever were, though maybe a little less innocent. Oriol’s debut album is most definitely of a time, almost painfully relevant in Summer 2010; but maybe that’s just history repeating itself and Oriol’s actual time was about 30 years ago. Hidden deep in the DNA of this music is late ‘70s funk, but it’s dressed up with so many newer styles and influences that it’s the kind of music that’s hard not to get all atwitter about.  Best of all, even if you’re tired of this kind of nostalgic, smooth funk sound, Night and Day will make you enjoy your tour through tacky resorts and artificial beaches through sheer insistence: you can leave your groans at the door, mister.

Andrew Ryce

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