CD, The Word Hoard, 2009
Orpheo 5 (as in Orpheus – and five original founding members) is a jazz/experimental/electronica grouping from the UK. They formed in 2002 out of The Word Hoard, a spoken word/music/written word collective. For some time this group has involved various members with varying levels of commitment and time constraints. In 2008 a stripped-down lineup consisting of Shaun Blezard and Keith Jafrate got together to record “A Year on the Ice”, the most coherent actual release to date.
This record and grouping transcends many different genres and will likely surprise most listeners, while at the same time hopefully opening some of their horizons. The CD is six different rather long songs of saxophone playing over different types of electronic ambiance. The second song, “Later and Later” stands out has having some of the more interesting percussive/IDM work on the record. Over the next four tracks the ambiance gets a little weirder, softer, more prevalent, less prevalent, etc but, unless you are paying close attention to track, changes you are most likely going to be experiencing one ‘album’ or one ‘song’, rather than one album with six songs on it.
No ‘club hits’ here, but that’s not really what the composers were going for either. This is sort of background/thinking/pondering music. The “Ice” in this record refers more to social-economic themes than simply temperate ones, with the year 2008 seeing the United Kingdom cut much of its funding for public arts, hard times and personal difficulties ensuing. Through this the two artists have struggled to survive and continue their art, which each of them have been doing for many years and hopefully will be able to continue for many more.
One downside to this record that comes to my attention is that it is basically the result of two people trying to exigize their depressed, empty, variously devastated feelings onto a record, and by listening to it too many times, you are exposing yourself to ‘harmful radiation’. But we all need balance, so having a copy might come in handy on long road trips when your friend spends a few hours attempting to convince you that Lady GaGa is cool and ‘elektro’ enough to be able to listen to.
According to Mr. Jafrate, “A Year on the Ice” will soon be on Bandcamp for download, along with various older recordings.
— Christian Wright