The Orielles’ sophomore full-length, Disco Volador, finds the youthful Brits adding a keyboardist and broadening their sound to incorporate elements of dance punk and post-funk. Although the band is still being tagged with the indie pop label, The Orielles have most definitely adapted a more groovecentric vibe that closely resembles acts like the mid-90s Washington, DC band Charming as well as late-70s NYC avant-funk pioneers ESG. While the similarity in sound to these acts may be purely coincidental, the group’s intention, to create a more danceable record than their well-regarded 2018 debut full-length, Silver Dollar Moment, is undeniable.
Disco Volador’s five-plus-minute opener, “Come Down on Jupiter”, teases tempo changes as the band shifts from a mellow, almost psychedelic beginning into a fast, wah-wah guitar paired with a shaken tambourine and a groovy bassline which transforms the moment into a disco party. “Rapid I” offers more of the same, except here Alex’s keyboards are featured heavily, utilizing retro effects that help to create a house music vibe. The group sounds tight, and The Orielles’ singer/bassist, Esme, demonstrates stunning vocal control as sustained lines she sings dip and rise succinctly with the rest of the band.
In much the same way Sarah Cracknell’s voice is a key component to Saint Etienne’s sound, Esme’s vocals feel necessary and complement each selection well. But it isn’t Esme’s voice alone helping to define The Orielles’ sound. Esme’s bass playing is equally exceptional, especially on “Bobbi’s Second World”, a track that utilizes intermittent whoops and yips and is at times reminiscent of The Slits’ funkiest moments. The groove Esme lays down thirty seconds into the speedy “7th Dynamic Goo” is proportionately commendable.
Disco Volador drags a bit midway through. “Whilst the Flowers” has the record’s overall tone taking a lackadaisical, dreamy turn which feels awkward, lethargic, and inappropriate for the centerpiece of a record otherwise designed for a dance party. The Orielles have a hard time digging out of the rut created by “…Flowers” until the album’s penultimate track, “Euro Borealis”. Here, Esme and company build tension beautifully before a satisfying, soaring chorus arrives to release it. Disco Volador ends in a similar fashion to how it began, with the five-minute “Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme)”. Again, the band works from a slow opening that quickly builds to a disco pace highlighted with cosmic sound effects.
From the album’s Stereolab-esque cover art to the retro, ready-for-the-dancefloor feel of nearly every track, The Orielles are clearly following their latest fascinations. Given the downtrodden, mumbly sound many indie/bedroom pop acts who came into prominence in the 2010s have adopted, The Orielles’ embrace of an upbeat, danceable style is refreshing. Still, it would have been nice to hear the band change things up even further and occasionally wade completely into the dubby, experimental, subversive sound they merely dipped their toes into on Disco Volador.