Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sky Orchid - Oculus (2017)

Written by Jay Snyder, posted by blog admin

Brothers from Kansas, Gabriel (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Daniel Traknyak (drums and percussion) have been playing together for over a decade now.  Though their journey has included other band members at different times, they’ve now settled on a duo formation and the name, Sky Orchid.  Oculus is their debut and some of the music dates back to at least seven years ago.  This is obviously a labor of love for this familial twosome and as a result the music benefits from chemistry, collaboration and cohesiveness. 

Opener “The River” has huge, soulful vocal melodies balancing atop a rumbling foundation of tom drums, ambient keyboards and a crescendo of soaring singing brushing shoulders with sturdy electric guitar riffs.  It’s an atmospheric trip that dig in deep with its pulsating musical core that favors a low frequency bass throb over a minor-key romp fronted by the guitar.  “Sneakers” dwells in an ebbing, flowing wash of dub with a twinkling guitar intro giving way to programmed beats, washes of synth and vibrant vocals.  Electronically distorted snare enters midway through as the music ascends to symphonic, baroque rock with a foundation of guitar/drums that returns the tune to organic waters.  This difference split makes for a nice division between distinct vibes and in certain segments both the digital band and the rock band personas meet in a glorious melding of mindsets. 

“In the Fire (Part 1)” grooves on ripping post-rock guitar chords, taut backbeats and stellar harmony-intensive vocals that sounds like a less slacker-rock inspired version of Radiohead.  Not that “slacker-rock” is a band thing but this stuff feels more positive while never dropping into down mode.  Dynamic rises of sizzling guitar voltage and rocked-out snare beats give this number some much needed juice during the rock-solid choruses.  Saving the symphonic layering for the finale, “Wildfire” is a slow-burning scorcher of acoustic guitars, minimalist percussion and killer R & B leaned vocal styling that really scores a direct hit right in the eardrums.  Adopting a punk-rock pacing “I’ll Stop the World (Part 2)” is a high-energy merger of new wave and rock n’ roll with excellent atmospheric guitar licks, slower musical breaks highlight the fast parts and a lot of variety packed into its less than 4 minutes of playtime.  The molten crawl of “Lex” drapes its guitar work in a healthy supply of reverb/delay as it cautiously, deliberately ratchets up to a noisy finale; a far cry from its dark, downbeat beginnings. 

The oldest composition from the brothers’ repertoire “Breathe Easy” makes lyrical references to Bob Marley and even employs funky guitar lines that wouldn’t be out of place for reggae.  Intersecting these diving grooves are runs of heavier riffing, punk-laden speed-up and tuneful indie guitar licks.  “Take It All” flirts with Sublime’s patented style while the bleary-eyed and piano driven gothic swagger of “Yesterday” proves a fitting lead-in to playful noisy rock closer, “Fortify.”  Sky Orchid is given a smashing introduction to the music scene at large with Oculus.  Utilizing multiple styles and a no-holds barred song composition ethic, the 10 tunes all told here keep you guessing as to where the influences are coming from.  Points for originality in 2018 and this album is certainly worth a pick-up.       

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