What a difference a pandemic makes. The last time we reviewed a release by The Orielles was at the beginning of 2020 for their studio album Disco Volador. The final sentence of that review read, “… 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.” Well, be careful what you wish for. The Orielles’ latest album, Tableau, finds the British trio leaning hard into meandering space rock with ponderously abysmal results.
The songs “Chromo I” and “Chromo II” open Tableau. The former is a watery, psychedelic minute-long instrumental that melts into its echoey neighbor. On the latter, the disco groove laid down by The Orielles’ rhythm section is pleasant enough, but bassist/vocalist Esmé Dee Hand-Halford’s unintelligible, reverb-soaked vocals distract from any enjoyment that may have been derived from the musicianship. The initial pair of tracks drift ceaselessly into “Airtight” which, unfortunately, offers more of the same. “The Instrument” arrives fourth in the sequence and is the best moment on the entire record. Henry Carlyle Wade’s guitar work here is decent and, again, Hand-Halford’s and Sidonie B’s rhythm section is tight, offering an upbeat moment colored with celestial synth effects. It’s at this point listeners might begin to think the band has landed on solid footing and will henceforth begin to deliver deliciously digestible sonic nuggets of dance pop joy. Think again. The nine-minute “The Improvisation 001” arrives next and, with its twisty, torturous, directionless pseudo-jazz, drives Tableau completely off the rails.
Henry Carlyle Wade takes over singing duties on “Darkened Corners”, and, remarkably, his froggy, monotonous vocals, which could have used some studio gimmickry, are the only ones seemingly untouched by a turn of the reverb knob. “Beam/s” asks us to sit through yet another moment of musical masturbation, this time for eight minutes, while the band sleepwalk through a woozy stretch of barely tolerable, hazy atmospherics. For whatever reason, Tableau’s single “The Room” is buried in the record’s final third, but it’s way past time for consoling. The damage has been done. Tableau is an absolute mess of an album and a complete disappointment. The only saving grace is that The Orielles have no choice but to deliver something better on whatever they attempt next. After all, it can’t get worse than this.