Friday, April 05, 2013

Loving... “Hiroshima / Miyajima” by Orbit Over Luna

This week I have taken some annual leave to spend with my wife and kids. We’ve had a pleasant staycation ... using our time to watch films, eat, and visit towns like Peebles or Hamilton. During this time the soundtrack has varied rather dramatically (Big Time Rush anyone?) ... but there were some constants. One of these constants was “Hiroshima / Miyajima” ... Orbit Over Luna’s recent self-released EP.

I'm going to try and explain why I love this EP so much ... I say “try” because I feel this is a release that needs to be heard and experienced ... and I doubt my verbosity will do justice to it.

What Shannon Penner (the man behind Orbit Over Luna) has done is create 5 wonderfully engaging soundscapes that he has underpinned with field recordings from his trip to Japan: sounds like insects buzzing and bells ringing ... machinery and the outdoors ... that kind of thing. Over these field recordings he has recorded some seriously delightful and deeply melodic post-rock tracks ... music that is simply to-die-for beautiful. These rhythmic, guitar-orientated pieces have so much life and vitality to them ... it's hard not to be positively effected and encouraged by them.

The EP opens with “Genbaku Dome” and the sound of insects before layers of guitar appear ... a haunting ambient guitar underpinning a more melodic lead ... before a fuller sound is formed with percussion. The melody is then extended with some form of toy piano-type sound - this sound alone is worth the price of the EP ... it is so lovely - before fading into a drone-filled abyss.

From this starting point, the EP just seems to get better and better. The 2nd track - “Miyajima Fireworks” - features layers of sound that are truly gorgeous ... ambient guitar, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, that toy piano again, methodical percussion and bass, even a banjo ... they all work together to create the kind of wall-of-sound that Brian Wilson would be mightily proud of. This works because of Penner’s emphasis on melody and I, for one, love it. He’s in it for the groove ... not for an theatrics or technique but for the song ... and what a song it is, if you can call an instrumental track “a song”?

The middle track - “Hiroden Hope” - begins with the whirring of a film projector (or something similar) and the buzz of late night insects before some guitar and percussion take the track forward. When the fuller sound appears it is a delight ... especially when the melody appears, played on a keyboard or something similar. The melody is then further extended with the exemplary use of the glockenspiel. I'm a bit of a glockenspiel nut and this had me smiling like a loon. Penner’s guitar playing on this track is worthy of note too ... such diversity of sound that he holds together in such a manner to make a synergistic treat for his listeners. The track ends with something that sounds like a train going by. I don't know how Penner brings all the parts together but he does it very, very well.

The penultimate track - “Misen Yama” - has more ambient guitar, electric guitar and layers of percussion ... it bubbles along until the toy piano begins ... emphasising the melody and providing the listener with something to hold onto as the track builds. When the track’s full sound bursts out ... it is an utter delight. Penner’s sound on this track is so full and rich ... it is a pleasure for me to consume.

The final track - “Hiroshima: City of Peace” - is haunting and achingly beautiful. Layers of guitars and synths build an “ambient bed” for the guitars to plant their melody within ... before Penner’a now trademark wall-of-sound comes to the fore ... again taking the track forward. The percussion on this track is worthy of note ... nothing over-wrought ... it slowly builds the atmosphere with deliberate, methodical beats that really help to present the essence of the track ... encircling the listener and enfolding them into the track’s soul.

I cannot fault this EP and would heartily recommend it ... especially to folks with a fondness for rich, guitar-orientated, post-rock walls-of-sound.

As I said earlier, this is an EP that should be experienced. The harmonics and ambience are a delight ... but it is in the way Penner layers his sounds that he should be noted. He is very much of the Lowercase Noises school of post-rock ... albeit his walls-of-sound help him to really stand out as his own man. Have a listen below to hear what I mean.


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