O + S - O + S
Record Label: Saddle Creek Records
Release Date: March 24, 2009
O + S is the self-titled debut from the pairing of Orenda Fink, of Azure Ray and Art in Manila fame, and Remy Zero's Cedric LeMoyne, who is apparently also known as "Scalpelist."
How Is It?
If you're a fan of Fink's distinctive voice, you'll probably like O + S, as her typically breathtaking vocal performance is the centerpiece of the album. Were it not for her strong presence and the melancholia that it so effectively evokes, the album would probably sound more unfocused. There are some moments on the album that sound very similar musically to Azure Ray, but most of the album has the duo experimenting with electronic elements in various capacities. Azure Ray's music occasionally featured forays into minimalist electronics, and O + S seems, at times, like an outlet for those creative desires to be fulfilled more completely.
Early-'90s trip-hop is an obvious influence on the album, as the surreal opener, "New Life," sounds like an homage to Portishead, but O + S have much more to offer than simply a rehashing of the spacey sampling and lo-fi ambience of the Bristol sound. "Permanent Scar" is also backed by electronic beats and samples, but avoids the downtempo vibe, managing to be both upbeat and haunting, with synths flickering in and out like a ghostly apparition. "The Fox" forgoes electronics altogether in favor of bare, acoustic accompaniment, letting Fink's sultry delivery take control. Intrepid adventurers, O + S seem content to follow the songs off the beaten path, allowing them to develop freely and naturally. A few listens to O+S might leave one wondering where the beaten path is, or if one even exists at all.
It's that undaunted spirit that allows the piano-dominated "Toreador" and the hazy, electronic "We Do What We Want To," which bears similarities to M83, to coexist side-by-side. It's a strong testament to the pair's musical intuition that these stylistic wanderings don't sound capricious, but almost requisite, whether it be on the dark and dreamy (and fittingly titled) "Haunts" or the sparse "My Friend," which carries a similarly subtle, yet sweeping, melody to Art in Manila's "Time Gets Us All," with Fink's sullen, hypnotic articulation providing the backbone for it all. If I have one "grievance" with O + S, it would be that it's all good, but perhaps with the exception of "My Friend," there's nothing truly outstanding, and I have the feeling that it will ultimately be a bit forgettable. Still, if you like Fink's other work, or simply enjoy soothing, mesmerizing music, you'd be remiss not to give this album a listen, as you'll surely revel in the beauty that is O + S.