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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Spotlight on Orchestra of Spheres

You know those bands and artists you get really, truly excited to see? The kind of band/excitement where you start flapping your arms manically and actually take off your woolly socks to go out on a night when it’s pissing down and you’d much rather sit in bed watching 17 Again? Sure, you may be sick of town and are happy devoting the rest of your days as a student to Zac Efron features, but seriously, if you’ve missed out on seeing Wellington band Orchestra of Spheres live, you are missing out on an integral local experience. These guys invoke arm flapping, jive, boogie… basically, any of those dance moves you can only do around your family because they’re obligated to love you, no matter how much you flap around like a mad chook.

Being so close to home has never sounded so tropical, so sci-fi, so… chipper! I say chipper, because the happy myriad of genres Spheres explores on their 2010 release Nonagonic is enough to make any listener envisage they’re at a beach party in the Bahamas. Spheres are just as danceable, as they are (and I use this word with great reluctance) ‘buzzy’. They performed at the main stage at this year’s Campus A Low Hum dressed as DIY alien/robot/explorer/monks/thingies and drew a huge audience, which included Four Tet. Characteristically, they juggle both Western and non-Western instruments; the track ‘Toadstone’ uses parts of the Gamelan orchestra to layer behind the free-wheelin’, erratic guitar line. And yet, the guitar is so much more than just a guitar, as it moves between its own natural timbre to being processed with a number of effects, essentially competing with computer-generated sine tones for the leading position. It’s like a musical commentary on the evolution and integration of computer music into our society and how it has affected the guitar as an instrument, but really, I’d prefer to say it’s kinda like an alien battle from early game music. And done really well.

What I was seriously impressed by when I first saw Spheres was the singers’ ability to hocket. Hocketing, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is when a line of singers sing the notes of a melody and each sings a note each. Like if each singer was a note on a piano and sung that one note as the melody moved forward, seamlessly. Basically, it’s really hard, but really impressive if done well. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I should mention that I’m a complete and utter sucker for gimmicks (despite never having owned a Magic Bullet). Orchestra of Spheres tick all the boxes for being creative musicians in the practice room and as also as live performers. They wear lampshades on their heads; colourful, exotic clothing; and large sunglasses, and they play intriguing-looking instruments.

However, Orchestra of Spheres do not use costume to compensate for lack of musical ability. When they play, they are a tight unit that can carry a thriving beat into the night, invoking bare-footed, face-painted music festival-goers who would otherwise prefer to stay inside their tents. Um, um, um… Comparisons. Right. Their use of chanting on ‘Boltzmann Brain’ in particular reminds me particularly of singing the chorus in Sheb Wooley’s ‘Purple People Eater’ very loudly in my primary school assemblies; their sound crosses paths with the B52s; the production is not unlike that of the Straightjacket Fits’ self-titled. I could go on, but I might just end up with a million different synonyms for ‘trippy’ – they are an experience both in the lounge and on stage. When they next announce a show, go and see it. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Recommended: Nonagonic is a great release, and I thoroughly recommend checking it out on their Bandcamp.

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