Last Wednesday, on the second stop of their UK headline tour, local promoters ‘Heavy Pop’ bought Halifax-born four-piece band The Orielles to grace The Facebar in Reading town centre. It would not be unfair to say that The Orielles are my favourite band playing music right now, and for good reason. Their music is exciting, energetic, and melodic, whilst managing to maintain a unique quality within a scene where it can often be so easy to sound like everyone else. Since the release of their album a year ago, they have been climbing ladders all over the place. There has been a buzz surrounding them after they succeeded in hitting No. 16 on Rough Trade’s Albums of the Year 2018, and also making the cover of the fabled underground ‘So Young’ magazine. Now they are embarking on a largely sold-out headline tour, which suffice it to say, made me look forward to seeing them perform.
Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. As nine p.m. rolled around at Facebar, eager crowds (the youngest crowd I’ve ever seen in Reading – usually local gigs at Sub89 or South Street tend to pull a significant majority of middle-aged men), bustled to get a spot closest the stage. There was a buzz over the audience. At nine-twenty, fashionably-late by five minutes, The Orielles jumped on stage. They burst straight into ‘Old Stuff, New Glass’, with guitarist Henry Carlyle on the cowbell and keyboard whilst Alex Stephens started on the tambourine before the drifting chord-progression kicked in, and so ensued an hour of pure energy and excitement.
The Orielles’ sound is difficult to figure out. It sounds familiar and as if you may have heard it before, but upon further inspection you realise you’ve heard nothing like it. Born out of a kind of reverby-surf-pop, but filtered through northern soul and disco, it can’t quite be categorised as ‘indie’. The band call themselves ‘post-disco punk’, a description which seems to fit as best as possible, although still not completely managing to grasp what they do. The fact is that there is just so much going on, with so many bases of influence, that their sound becomes one completely of its own. To break it down simply though, their hour-long set consisted of a mixture of tight and sharp drums reined in by the hand of Sidonie Hand-Halford (as well as an array of percussion picked up and put down throughout), spiky psychedelic grooves and ridiculous funk-esque rhythm. The lead parts from Alex and Henry were complimented by the thick, punchy bass which was overlaid by beautifully soft and enticing melodies courtesy of Esme Dee Hand-Halford. Primarily though, besides being unique, complex, and impressive, The Orielles’ set is fun.
The first half hour or so showed the band run through tunes like ’48 Percent’, ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’, and ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’, which got the crowd moving with fast-moving beats and punchy chords. Then they followed with a simple introduction of ‘We’re gonna slow it down a bit’, after which the band slid into the floating ‘Liminal Spaces’, with Esme-Dee’s voice breezing over the crowd to match her slow, hanging bass line. The follow-up ‘Sound of Liminal Spaces’ eased into a couple of minutes of instrumental experiments surrounding a slow yet very movable bass line. This sent the band into their more dance-able numbers, songs like ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ and their newest single (which has been hitting 6 Music’s playlist for a while now) ‘Bobbi’s Second World’. The energy coming out of the furious Henry Carlyle was addictive; he bounced off the walls as the others hunch locked into their beats. Their second-to-last track, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ showed Henry’s wonderfully bright riff soar over the bouncing crowd.
The highlight, however, was without a doubt the closing song, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. This was honestly the best thing I have seen live in a long, long time. Ten full minutes of wild instrumental, born out of an intimidating descending bass part which snapped into an upbeat verse and then dipped into a frenzy of improvisation as the band performed what seemed like a tightly rehearsed jam. They fizzed, yelped, and bounced off of one another, snapping in and out of tempos and matching each other’s riffs. I imagine the scene in ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ where the band’s sound becomes so powerful that it morphs into a physical, tangible conglomeration of electric energy; The Orielles produce such a sound you can almost see it, and you can certainly feel it. They had the kids at the front moving in frenzy and the balding older man next to me was wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. Without this last song The Orielles’ set would have been great; with it, it became beautiful.
For more gigs like these, turn to ‘Heavy Pop’ for answers. They seem to be the only people bringing decent bands to Reading and they really strive to promote upcoming artists which is very important in the current climate. A couple of their upcoming shows that I’m personally interested in are ‘Pip Blom’ (a wonderful stripped-backed raw garage four-piece) at South Street Arts Centre on 30th May, and of course ‘Heavy Pop’s’ own ‘Are You Listening?’ Festival on 27th April, which will play host to bands such as Gently Tender and Our Girl, as well as tons more. Keep a beady eye out, there’s more to come…