Orbit Stern & Q Japan tour 2018 1526474143
24.4 Shichoshitu, Tokyo w/Yasuhiro Yoshigaki + Kumiko Takara
25.4 Knuttel House, Tokyo w/Yasuhiro Yoshigaki
26.4 Velvetsun, Tokyo w/Yasuhiro Yoshigaki
27.4 KD Japon, Nagoya w/Hiroki Ono
29.4 AtHall, Oita
30.4 Socrates, Kyoto
With support from DJBFA and Koda’s Cultural Funds, Jazz Danmark, DPA, Swedish Arts Council & Dansk Artist Forbund
THESE OPEN WATERS cd release september 15 1505289406
It says a lot that Orbit Stern’s new album represents both a radical departure and a seamless progression from the Copenhagen duo’s debut, 2014’s Ude i skoven, inde i byen (“out of the woods, into the city”). Given the angular, futurist character of the sound they created together on that LP, you’d expect Orbit Stern co-founders Frederik Hauch (programming, drums) and Samuel Hällkvist (guitar, programming) to be constrained by the relatively straightforward parameters of pop. That proves not to be the case on These Open Waters, where Hauch and Hällkvist make a transition from the sound of their last album with an almost alarming display of agility.
If you appreciate Orbit Stern’s knack for experimental electro-prog, then the addition of vocals and shiny hooks this time will probably look like a concession from a group whose instrumentals conveyed plenty of personality on their own. But These Open Waters ends up being the opposite — a rich body of material that showcases just how wily and adaptable the Orbit Stern project was always meant to be. Onstage, Hauch and Hällkvist have always been just as liable to play it straight as they are to improvise the entire set from scratch. And they both enjoy playing the role of “backing band” because, as with most things they do, appearances can be deceiving.
There’s always been a yin-yang dynamic at the heart of Orbit Stern, with Hauch’s general preference for rhythmic consistency (electronic beats, four-on-the-floor rock, etc) colliding head-on with Hällkvist’s preference for the total absence of structure. Each, of course, has had to draw the other out of his comfort zone, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In truth both players share backgrounds in both jazz and rock, which means their preferences are tailor-made for a complementary sound that can adapt to both settings. Never has this been more apparent than on These Open Waters, where collaborator Qarin Wikström (vocals, keys) draws new expressions out of both.
A multi-faceted artist in her own right, Wikström is actually an old friend of Hauch and Hällkvist who played in a band with them almost a decade ago. So it’s not exactly like anyone was throwing themselves into the unknown here. Not to mention that Wikström navigates the boundaries between pop and experimentation with a tightrope walker’s balance. Which means that, like her friends, Wikström has an affinity for both honoring the musical styles she touches on while transporting those styles to a place we’ve never quite heard them go before. In this case, all three set their sights on the water…
When Wikström and Hauch originally started writing lyrics, they had a set of characters in mind — namely, a family of immigrants to northern Europe. Those characters and storylines receded somewhat in favor of more less explicit imagery. But when Hauch listened back to the finished music, he was surprised to hear the shadowy outlines of those original stories in the songs. For Hauch, water is something that simultaneously unites and separates. It can serve as both a barrier and as a path. And it provides the perfect symbol for everything this album expresses.
At times, These Open Waters sounds as bright and inviting as ’80s synth pop. Look closer, though, and Hällkvist’s guitar lines lurk at the edges, like intricate cobwebs not quite visible in the sun, threads of notes unfolding in the vein of, say, Andy Summers or Robert Fripp. Likewise the trials and tribulations of the people whose stories are only partially discernible in the music — if you look for them, they’re there. With These Open Waters, Qarin Wikström and Orbit melt musical boundaries while also saying something timely and urgent about the distances that keep us apart as human beings.
Orbit Stern feat. Q, Japan tour ’16 1452507345
may 7; Velvet Sun, Tokyo
may 8; bar Isshee, Tokyo
may 9; Kid Ailack art hall, Tokyo
may 10; 試聴室その2, Yokohama
may 11; Decibel, Nagoya
may 13; Namba Bears, Osaka
may 14; Helluva Lounge, Kobe
may 15; AtHall, Oita
Tokyo tour aug/sep ’15 1439287297
Orbit Stern meets Maresuke Okamoto & friends
aug 31; Asagaya Violon
sep 1; Nanahari
sep 2; Yellow Vision
Orbit Stern meets Yasuhiro Yoshigaki & Kumiko Takara
sep 4; Shichoshitu
Orbit Stern meets Mocca 木歌 & Fiori Hanawo
sep 6; Circus
..and the album 1396464091
LP ‘Inde I Skoven, Ude I Byen’ (BoogiePost Recordings / Plugged) in stores now.
if you’re the digital kind of person, you’ll find it on iTunes, Bandcamp and such – and on top of that, you can also follow Orbit Stern on Facebook.
Japan tour November ’13 1383598865
Nov 11; Goodman, Tokyo
Nov 12; Valentine Drive, Nagoya
Nov 13; Urban Guild, Kyoto
Nov 14; Helluva Lounge, Kobe
Nov 15; Conpass, Osaka
Nov 16; AtHall, Oita