Title: Every Orchid Offering
Artist: Andrew Keoghan
4/5 stars
Released 29/07/16
Reviewed by: RUBEN MITA

 

Canterbury-born artist Andrew Keoghan’s 2013 relocation to the USA may or may not have caused the five-year wait between his debut and follow-up albums, but if it all contributed to the follow-up’s greatness then it was worth the wait. Every Orchid Offering is a cohesive collection of lush and quirky art-pop that bears the fingerprints of big-city life all over it as it seeks to make sense of such an existence.

The album opens with the chilled out four-to-the-floor groove of Everything, and the word “alone.” Vintage synths swell and buzz, clean guitar lines echo, and Keoghan lies in his apartment bed late at night, comparing the sounds of a couple’s lovemaking above him to avant-garde jazz in a consciously accented croon. He picks out the little things in the night, a door slamming, a dog barking, and sings “the worlds circle round and around/everything is right.” Just like this, much of the album revolves around snapshots of life, the lyrics like minimalist paintings of characters and happenings neatly arranged as though a stage play.

Each song describes a small-time character in intimate detail, from the tangled and confused lovers in Stuck In Melodies, to the dissected young woman with her “Mother’s hips, her father’s nose” in the portrait-song No Simple Doll, to the city-living club-goer in Queues At Dani Keys, who we see in a number of snapshots of detail and situations around a city, learning sinisterly that they can “never leave.” Throughout it all Keoghan’s lyricism is as vivid and pictorial as it is bizarre and refreshing.

Musically the songs are all strongly rhythmic, driving along on mid-tempo grooves built on intricate layers of real and electronic percussion. The production and instrumentation keeps the music interesting from start to finish, vintage-sounding drum kits mixing with electronic beats, layers of textural synths, and minimalist guitar lines in a constantly shifting collage from verse to verse.

Keoghan’s vocals too are unusually rhythmic, his syllables arranged eccentrically in sharp and short flows. In both this delivery and his dramatised, operatic cadence, the influence of David Bowie can be detected, as it can in the art-pop stylisation of the music. This dramatic element is most extreme in They Don’t Want A Boyfriend, where he sings in an exaggerated, almost self-mocking, operatic accent, soaring from low to high as he relays the schoolground story of a young lesbian couple and their parental struggles. The song also stands out for its gripping explosive drum track, lurching along jerkily.

The title track mixes a plucked string instrument with a buzzing synth bassline and elusive lyrics, while the previously mentioned single Queues At Dani Keys is a confident slice of city-slicker funk. Manning Bass Strait is a definite highlight, a beautiful and string-laden atmospheric work of windy-cliff electronica, climaxing in a ridiculous but fun synth solo. On several tracks Keoghan is joined also by an array of Kiwi female vocal collaborators, including Claire Duncan, Chelsea Nikkel, a.k.a Princess Chelsea, and Hollie Fullbrook, a.k.a. Tiny Ruins.

Every Orchid Offering opens as brilliantly as it began, with the ghostly Running. Dropping the rhythmic energy that drove the album up to this point, the song’s chilly electronic atmospheres and high smooth vocals are reminiscent of english musician James Blake. Building up with a collage-like assembly of intriguing synth and guitar overdubs, the track makes for the perfect end to Keoghan’s album; a cohesive and satisfying listen that successfully blends experimental electronic pop with human warmth.

Standout Tracks: Everything, They Don’t Want A Boyfriend, Every Orchid Offering, Running, Manning Bass Strait, Queues At Dani Keys.

 

Ruben recently had a one-on-one interview with Andrew Keoghan – check it out here!

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