Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sky Orchid - Oculus (2017)

Written by Laura Dodero, posted by blog admin

Sky Orchid’s Oculus begins with the evocative cut “The River” and Gabriel Traynyak’s vocals immediately stand out as among the most individual I’ve heard in recent years. The brothers form Sky Orchid, Gabriel and Daniel Traynyak, are thoroughly modern sounding and share similarities with many first rate recording acts of today, but “The River” and later songs possess a distinct character unlike the vast majority of offerings from acts in this vein. The highly stylized qualities of their songwriting and presentation are further explored with the second track “Sneakers”, but there’s less focus on the duo’s rock influences in favor of a sleek, streamlined pop rock approach. There’s a strongly cinematic quality to the duo’s music, as well, and the opening tandem of tracks illustrates this exceptionally well.

“In the Fire (Pt. 1)” has a ballad-like construction many will enjoy. The sensitive, lyrical introduction with guitar and voice alone soon gives way to a steady rock push from Daniel Traynyak’s drumming. His talents on the kit and top notch production virtues often come together on Oculus to take already fine material and send it stratospheric. “Wildfire” and “I’ll Stop the World (Pt. 2)” are cut from the same musical cloth as the album’s other eight songs, but they strike a marked contrast with each other. The former is a largely acoustic song only returning to Sky Orchid’s familiar melodic sweep in the song’s final half. “Wildfire” is a welcome gear shift on the album proving the duo has a wider songwriting and performing range than many listeners might initial suspect. “I’ll Stop the World (Pt.2 )”, however, foregoes acoustic guitar entirely and rates among the album’s best nods to rock’s influence on their music.

Gabriel Traynyak’s vocal for “Lex” is among the album’s best. His elastic voice covers the gamut from the opening’s restrained, atmospheric delivery through gut-wrenching soulfulness in the song’s second half. Tucked into the tracklisting just after the album’s halfway point, it may be overlooked, but I don’t hear a slack second during the song. “Breathe Easy” is more of a lark, a loving take on influences from artists as diverse as Sublime and Bob Marley, but there’s a rambunctiousness about this track only wild-eyed youth usually produces; it’s jarring but daring to turn another direction entirely near the song’s end and unleash a full shred guitar hard rock final curtain. Some will love it; frankly, some will hate it.

One of the album’s best examples of spot on guitar melody comes with the track “Take It All”. The light bounce of the central guitar figure sustains itself through an assortment of changes and Gabriel Traynyak gives a smooth, gliding performance playing off well against the six string’s bright energy. The album’s penultimate tune “Yesterday” opens with ominous piano and drums before keyboards and guitars enter the picture and the song settles into a steady tempo. It’s definitely the darkest moment musically on Oculus, but tasteful and never testing listener’s tolerance for self indulgence. “Fortify” closes Oculus with a nuanced mid-tempo piece firmly in keeping with the earlier songs and acting as a sort of “falling action” following the climax we hear with the previous track. Sky Orchid’s Oculus is one of 2017’s more impressive debuts , yes, but it’s one of the best first efforts in recent years as well.

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