Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sky Orchid - Oculus (2017)

Written by Larry Robertson, posted by blog admin

Formed during June 2015, the two members of Sky Orchid, actually brothers, already logged 8 years of jamming together under their belts before that.  Trimming the fat from prior incarnations and attempts at this project, we are left with a lean, mean duo that knows their way around a set of songs.  The debut Oculus shows a stunning early grasp on craft and soft/loud dynamics for such a young act and it’s obvious that was honed through years of playing with one another.  Passion and emotion are crammed into every corner of this release and it’s definitely one for music aficionados to soak up for the long-term.

Gabriel Traknyak handles guitars, vocals and keyboards while his brother Daniel takes care of the drums and additional percussion used.  They make use of several different songwriting forms across the record and manage each individual one to great effect.  Opener “The River” beings with dubbed beats, distant piano and trembling vocals that crests with riveting real drumming, electric guitar and searing vocal power.  This set-up yields great results on the slightly more rock n’ roll-y “In the Fire (Part 1),” the brilliant and gorgeous “Lex,” the trippy piano/guitar shakedown heard in “Yesterday” and penultimate closer “Fortify.”  The group truly shines in these auras of blackness where driving, buried beats and trickling melody guitars give Gabriel’s lead vocals plenty of room to work and eventually reach critical points of catharsis. 

They dissemble any sense of formula by having a track like “Sneakers” kick-off like the aforementioned songs but jettison the mellow, melodic drizzle for full-on guitar rock, pounding backbeats and expressive singing that take the music down a more hard rock avenue that’s made for maximum aural impact.  “I’ll Stop the World (Part 2)” furthers this notion thanks to its dive-bombing tempos set by Daniel’s drums and it maintains a careful blend of slower, grittier chugs with fluttering higher speed rock attacks shrouded in an 80s mist.  “Wildfire” could almost past for some roots-y folk, what with its lengthy first section gloriously embellishing the acoustic guitar and Gabriel’s stern vocal pipes.  It shatters into a million pieces of space-y guitar rock as it climbs towards the finale but the first half is the star of the show without question here.  Then they abandon the more surreal, mystical shades of their sound for some fun loving, upbeat groove and swagger on the back-to-back pairing of “Breathe Easy” and “Take It All.”  So many different songwriting styles could come off as cluttered or unfocused without care, but these songs maintain poise, point and purpose throughout. 

Oculus will surely latch onto listeners looking for an experimental take on modern guitar rock that doesn’t stick to one genre or feel the need to be constantly loud.  The beauty is truly within the details of the group’s sound on this recording.  Thanks to airtight production, the whole things sounds polished and professional with just enough dirt underneath its nail to really give you a good kick in the gut; all around great work by this pair of musical siblings. 

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