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ORCHA – Reflections

Alexandria McAlpine

Only with his two-decade background would Matt Sheers be able to push the violin into the electronic synthpop sound of his musical endeavour ORCHA. The independent Melbourne-based artist states all the sounds in his songs are created using violin, vocals, drums and bass. In fact, the majority of sounds are made from the violin, warped and manipulated to resemble synths. ORCHA’s debut EP Bodybound was released in 2017, and now he’s back with a debut full-length album Reflections, to be released November 20.

Reflections is more refined, and explores more territory than Bodybound. This upcoming album continues to showcase the violin in a unique way. Although the four released singles “Falling”, “Reverie”, “Atlas” and “Euphoria” are the strongest tracks of the album, Sheers does retain a flair for the dramatic with a pause and release of the drops in many of Reflections tracks. The instruments (what sounds like synths but is warped violin) are layered in a way that it is possible to hear every sound. They don’t always retain a coherent and refined sound but more of separate sounds layered together – except for the vocals. Sheers has an interesting way of modifying the vocals on the track to make them sound like they too have been warped into a synth and blended seamlessly with the backing instruments.

The opening track is “Rise”, a dreamy ethereal track opening the door into the surrealist world Sheers created. It starts with a deep breath and meanders into an indie pop extravaganza. A pause before the chorus section (there are no vocals on this track but for the thickest part of the song with an obvious repeating melody) is made increasingly hard-hitting with a slight pause in sound, before dropping in the symphony of synths to take off and lead the listener into the rest of the album. The song is short and sweet, a good intro, and representation of the next 11 tracks.

The next track “Reflections” comes in in a similar fashion to “Rise”, with a lingering note fading in. There is a lot going on in the beginning of the song, but once the bass drops around 43 seconds into the song, the track becomes fully realised and there is a clearer picture about the direction it is headed in. The vocals are chilled and repetitive, showcasing the beautiful sound of the violin and underlying buzzing beat. As more sounds are layered into the song in the last chorus, the complex sounds make more sense in context, more so than in the intro.

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The third track is the single “Atlas”. The song is bright and reminiscent of fellow Australian artist GUM. Quick drums and staccato beats juxtapose the elongated vocals. The vocals rise and blend into the instrumental arrangement, then fall, creating a wave-like push and pull in the intensity of the track. This is one of the strongest tracks and aptly used as a single.

Track four is another single in “Falling”. This tune is more muted, especially coming directly after the exceedingly bright “Atlas”. The quick beat and percussive backing keep the track from feeling overwhelmingly melancholy. The short, choppy sounds emphasise the percussion and create a sense of space within the song. The vocals are the main source of melody, contrasting the other tracks where instruments shone through with melody and harmony.

“Depths” has a fuzzy, dark, layered beginning. The vocals come in and sound a bit like they could be interchanged with many of the other tracks, except for the change in lyrics. ORCHA is consistent in the hazy vocals in this album. There are plenty of interesting harmonic sounds, but none pop out to grab the listener’s undivided attention. Next, “Headrush” is opened with a drum beat, and other instruments pile up as the song goes on. It’s another darker toned track and is one of the more heavily experimental on the album.

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“Transience” has a great opening, serves its purpose and that’s it. That’s it, as in, that’s all the track has time to do. It’s only 38 seconds long and is part intermission, part opener to the next track “Tomorrow”. The strings are slower, taking their time to linger. Back and forth it swings with tinkling sounds scattered underneath. As soon as “Tomorrow” takes over the swinging strings and tinkling bells are momentarily removed with a deep, heavy drum in replacement. The strings are high and sharp to complement the low bass. The vocals are a bit clearer on this track layered over a pulsing, steady beat all the sounds seem slave to.

“Euphoria” was the last track to be released before the album release. The lo-fi dream pop opening is bright, followed by hazy, Toro y Moi-esque vocals. This is one of the most refined tracks of the album. Lilting chords on the lower notes of the violin and bass fuel the bright and euphoric theme of the song.

The tenth track “Reverie” is another released single, and comes in like a tuning radio, with a supporting bass and drum line following. The violin parts of “Reverie” sound like another voice interacting with the vocals; the counterpart of a conversation. The end spills off into a big, bright outro. The eleventh track “Take Your Time” has a fast and stuttering beat, muttering vocals and a lovely instrumental arrangement.

The final track “Fade” is calm and simple from the start. As another purely instrumental song, it acts as a bookend with opening tune “Rise”, but appears to take the largest amount of inspiration from Baroque orchestral works. It contains ORCHA’s signature warping of violins mimicking synths, but set to the back, in a way that lifts and showcases the strings. It is a beautiful way to end the album, like a final sunset, with an echo and one last breath out.

While the back half of the album isn’t nearly as strong as the initial tracks, there is enough quality and innovation on display on ORCHA’s debut to warrant repeat listens and the title of ‘one to watch’.

Reflections is released independently Friday 20th November.