The second incarnation of Orbit Stern – Swedish, Denmark based guitarist Samuel Hällkvist and Danish drummer-keyboards-vocalist-bassist Frederik Hauch, transforms this duo to a trio with the addition of Q. Q is vocalist-keyboards player Qarin Wikström, who has collaborated before with Hällkvist on his Variety Of projects, known from the trio Shitney and her band Kostcirkeln.
Q shifts radically Orbit Stern sonic language from the experimental electro-prog of the debut album «Ude I Skoven, Inde I Byen» (BoogiePost Recordings, 2014) that blended King Crimson’s Frippertronics techniques, twangy guitars and complex, driving rhythms to a trio that offers unsettling, alternative pop songs. When Wikström and Hauch began writing the lyrics for «These Open Waters» they had in mind a set of characters – a family of immigrants on its way to Northern Europe. As the work progressed the story-lines became less explicit and suggested imagery of escape and refuge, distances and water as a separating and uniting element, a barrier and a path.
These lyrics are wrapped by clever arrangements. At first listening, the six songs sound as shiny update of the eighties synth-pop sound, with many catchy-futuristic hooks, spiced with vintage effects including the vocal synthesizer, vocoder. But underneath this bright song format you may find many subtle collisions between the strong rhythmic sensibility of Hauch and the experimental, distorted and effects-laden guitar lines of Hällkvist. Q is the secret ingredient that balances this yin-yang aesthetics. With her arresting, sometimes dreamy delivery she bridges between the the pop-ish, infectious themes and the experimental, thorny edges.
In a better, just world the songs of Orbit Stern & Q songs would have become radio hits. Songs like «5.59», «Matching Patterns» – with guitar riffs that pay homage to Police’s Andy Summers – and «The Distance», with Hauch in an update of Neil Young’s «Transformer Man», lure you immediately into their suggestive atmosphere. The unsettling, restless sonic envelope of other songs like «Sidewalk Riverbed», «The River» and «Competition Day» stresses even more «These Open Waters» imagery about the urgent need to melt boundaries, geographical as well as musical.
One of the most surprising releases of 2017.
Qarin Wikström (v, keys), Samuel Hällkvist (g), Frederik Hauch (dr, v, keys, prog, b)