Unchained Music Blog

Unchained Music Blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sky Orchid - Oculus (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

The duo of Sky Orchid has built a pretty sturdy reputation in just 10 years’ time.  They haven’t always been Sky Orchid either as the core members of this group (brothers Gabriel and Daniel Traknyak) spent some of the earlier era kicking around with other members.  Now they are the sole composers and players on all of the outfit’s studio music.  With live jaunts extending across their native Kansas, into Texas and even a recording trip to Nashville, Tennessee, they’re at that precious area of where they are just a step below of breaking into the mainstream.  Their debut Oculus features 10 pensive tracks with a lot of dynamic mood shifts and sea changes in volume.  It very well could be the album that will break them into a household name. 

Crunching, crumbling open “The River” is centered on Daniel’s steady tom/kick march and ambient percussion while vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Gabriel paints the picture with thick hues of piano-synthesizer, vibrato twisted soul vocals and later slashes of dizzying electric guitar.  No singular motif or idea is explored and the song is in debt to its own variety.  There’s a theatrical quality to the tension and release offered here which becomes unifying theme of the record itself.  “Sneakers” bridges Cure-like ambience with a 90s industrial/rock crunch that goes from sweeping, cleanly chorded patterns and trip-hop drum thumps to full on digitally altered alternative rock as it breaches the midpoint segment with a fierce stab of electricity.  Gabriel’s vocals rise and fall appropriately crafting careful melodies throughout for one of the release’s many standout tracks.  The vivid “In the Fire (Part 1)” radiates and glows in an array of gorgeous, sparkling indie guitar licks and a boiling tribal drum attack that spirals out into a chorus that ensnares your attention span with a metal-weaved net.  It’s one of the record’s prettiest pieces but it rewards all eardrums with a tough, densely layered sonic attack.  The reverse is true of the stripped-down, bare bones “Wildfire” that encompasses only spare percussive taps, acoustic guitar work and gutsy vocals.  There’s a payoff of well-orchestrated rock dynamics but largely this is a mood-piece with a lot of simplistic textures on offer.  Sky Orchid changes things up again on the surging industrial-tinged, pop-rock charge of “I’ll Stop the World (Part 2)” with its fervent drumming, fuzzy guitars, heightened tempos and powerful vocal bravado leaving a lot to stick to the ribs. 

The album’s second half shows no quality drops.  “Lex” again toys with overcast indie guitar melodies that turn to drama-rich rock later on, “Breathe Easy” incorporates funky keyboard bass and ska-inflected guitars for a real upbeat romp (with its companion piece “Take it all” using some of the same elements), “Yesterday” dials down the mood into a night-black percussive, piano driven hymnal and album ender “Fortify” remains on the darker side of life.  All-in-all, Oculus is a smash that should put Sky Orchid on the map for a long time to come.  Hopefully a major label will take notice and give these guys the push that they so very much deserve.  

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