Ela Orleans - Tumult In Clouds
Assimilating soundtracks, vintage electronics, French Pop, Motown and psych nuggets into her discordant and melodic songs and sound sketches; Ela Orleans casts a haunting dark shadow to these 4 sides of vinyl. It's a highly ambitious recording but Tumult In Clouds is nothing short of an astounding record. I don't think I've heard anything quite like it.
Right from the opening track, 'A Jealous Lover', which carries a recitation of some lines from an Aleister Crowley poem, taken from his collection White Stains, over a soft wafting chorus underpinned by rolling beats I was hooked. I've heard more than enough post-industrial records using Crowley but this is something entirely different. Born in Poland, having lived in New York and now resident in Glasgow, Ela Orleans has immersed herself in the underground music of those cities working with numerous acts. In between she has released a couple of solo albums and collaborated with Marcus Schmickler. The genesis of this new record, however, took place when Ela's label, the Glasgow based Clan Destine Records, asked her to make a double LP with a concept, "taking inspiration from literary sources. Something like a book". And it does, those literary sources take in everything from poets to lyricists to philosophers. Those featured on Tumult In Clouds include - take a deep breath now - Aleister Crowley, James Fenton, Arthur Rimbaud, Matthew Arnold, Emily Dickinson and Sarah Teasdale, W.B. Yeats, Jacques Derrida, Tennessee Williams, Thomas Hardy, Lord Byron, Simon Hayward. Yet as exhausting as that list is you really don't need to know that as each track can stand alone, but together they comprise a beguiling collection. Sometimes those texts are used as lyrics on others they appear as samples, which amidst the scratchy veneer, makes them sound channelled in from another era.
Ela Orleans creates this singular ghost-pop from guitar, keyboards, analogue synths, violin, looped rhythms and samples. Whether it's in instrumentals like the almost classical 'Dark Wood', which casts haunting synths against cyclical rhythms, or the darker 'Nocturne' where strings and cello coalesce in a dark cinematic kind of way, amidst ghoulish harmonies, everything is steeped in this timeless atmosphere. On 'Nocture' Ela's voice sounds blemished by the years as she recites a poem by Rimbaud. This like most of Tumult In Clouds is imbued with a sense of nostalgia and melancholic gloom. Even the grooving soundtrack of 'Risky Trip To The Underworld' with its organ chime and cinematic synths captures that grainy vintage feel.
Ela Orleans casts her net wide in search of inspiration for Tumult In Clouds. With sleek loping rhythms, 'Leopard' snags influences from jazz, eastern music and big beat, over organ swirl, electronic effects and sweeping strings. Yet Tumult In Clouds isn't without whimsy; 'Clangers In The Night' takes its cues from the early 1970's Oliver Postgate produced animated TV show The Clangers with a sample, sped-up and played against some wayward rhythms, radiophonic electronics and frequencies. Ghost Box and Trunk Records listeners should take note here.
And yet it is the startling songs that appear throughout that makes Tumult In Clouds so essential. 'This Is' creeps along to a clickety rhythm and haunting synths, with a queasy violin score as Ela recites a James Fenton poem in fragile, morose tones. On 'Longing' her subdued voice, reciting Matthew Arnold, is swamped by big swirling sixties organ against timeless lolling jazz rhythms. 'Light At Dawn' is simply stunning. Featuring a deftness of touch, where soft wafting vocals float over rhythmic guitar and slight melodic electronics the entire thing, like much of Tumult In Clouds, is effortlessly atmospheric. Just as good, if not better, is the loose cover version of Francoise Hardy's 'J'ai Bien Du Chagrin', with its ingenious merging of samples of Jacques Derrida with the Motown horns of Frank Wilson's Northern Soul classic 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)'. It's fantastic. With discordant keys and rhythmic screechiness, Ela's voice as deep and morose as Nico captures the sadness and poignancy of the W.B. Yeats poem 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' on the title track which ruminates on the impending death of his friend during the World War One.
And just when you think that she can't assimilate any other sounds to make her ghost-pop any better, the final side throws in a couple of psych influenced tracks. 'Your Fame' places Lord Byron's poem 'When We Were Parted' against a sixties psych rock riff with Ela's laidback voice propelled by a snare lead rhythm and chiming piano notes. Even better is the closing scintillating psych workout, 'In The Night' which provides a great grooving send-off with its pumping organ stabs and guitar licks and Ela Orleans' almost unemotionless tones.
Ela Orleans is undoubtedly one of the most singular, talented musicians I've heard in a long time. Tumult In Clouds delivers so much this review can merely hint at them. From Motown, French Pop, psych music, dark soundtracks taking lyrics from playwrights, romantic poets, philosophers, occultists, with a haunting, timeless presence Tumult In Clouds touches upon so many things I love. Tumult In Clouds is a wonderfully ambitious record. I've never heard anything like it. Recommended. For more information go to clandestinerecords.bigcartel.com
Ela Orleans - Light At Dawn from Tumult In Clouds
Ela Orleans - Tumult In Clouds from Tumult In Clouds
Ela Orleans - In The Night from Tumult In Clouds