Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp
We're OK. But We're lost anyway.


4.0
excellent

Review

by MiloRuggles STAFF
August 19th, 2021 | 19 replies


Release Date: 07/02/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fountains of joy and sorrow

Marcel Duchamp's contributions to twentieth century art get mad props from the artistic community, which is miraculous given that one of his prevailing theories can be paraphrased as 'art is kinda bullshit', and his most famous work — Fountain; simply a urinal signed by “R. Mutt” — seems to be misinterpreted by many, praised for its aesthetics rather than considered in its context. Duchamp's work was supposed to call for a reconsideration of what we consider to be worthy of the word art, eschewing “retinal” art in favour of something more conceptual, art that requires thoughtful engagement from its audience.

The cover art for Swiss-based multi-national group Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp's debut record OTP depicts a starkly drawn urinal, and at one point a voice that I'm going to assume is Orchestre regular Liz Moscarola has a screaming Deustche diatribe that includes the phrase “mein grosser Schwanz” over impure, screeching instrumentation. At this point in the Orchestre's career, it was pretty easy to draw a clear line to the Dadaists of yesteryore.

Across their five LPs since 2007, the Orchestre has shed this skin, and their subsequent growth, shrinkage, and mutation in terms of both personnel and style has seen their musical aesthetics settle somewhere between sweetly sorrowful and subtly joyous, refusing to spend too much time in the Gallery of Found Objects trying to force the audience into staring at plumbing fixtures and thinking about genitalia.

In this instance, I'm going to have to uncharacteristically advocate for the Orchestre's jettisoning of the crass. What the thirteen musicians credited (that's still two shy of their P.B. on wax) display across the trim 37 minutes of We're OK. But We're lost anyway. is sweetly alluring, and more inherently pleasurable than it is thought-provoking.

If all this talk of experimentation and exorbitant numbers of musicians coming and going has your brain shouting words like “Fire!”, “Orchestra”, “reunion”, and “Swans”, give yourself a pat on the back. These are handy reference points, but are by no means definitive. Add to that list a smorgasbord of genre influences reminiscent of Keleketla!, a nod towards the stylings of Sons of Kemet et al, and our word cloud that should theoretically describe this ragtag outfit begins to look a little something like this: organic, dynamic, fluid, powerful, ritualistic, jazzy, groovy, unsettling, mantra-like.

Creaking the door open into this world of sound is “Be Patient”, which is a climaxless slow-build filled with minute flourishes that comes to a close calmly, shrouding any expectations about the release to come as the band stays their hand. “Empty Skies” follows this with a more definitive statement of intent. Cluttered uptempo percussion lays down a sturdy framework for the many instrumentalists to zip in and out of, and this general arrangement persists for much of the album. The defining moment for “Empty Skies”, though, is a subversion of the tendencies of similarly well-staffed collectives to define a song's dynamics as a straight line graph with a positive gradient, increasing in intensity as each new layer is introduced until bedlam ensues. Instead, when the song is almost fully-developed, vigorously strummed electric guitars signaling an inevitable boil-over, the band choose to simmer down to marimba tomfoolery and soft horns before tying the bow with a sense of restrained triumph. It's fuckin' classy, man.

If “Empty Skies” doesn't even vaguely get your jollies off, you're an empty husk of a human being and don't deserve this album. Get out. For those with souls, stick around, because you're in for oh so much more joy. “So Many Things (To Feel Guilty About)” is a straight bop, laced with detail and containing the album's most direct lyrics, making the explicitly contemporary themes apparent; “Blabber” is a delightful, stripped back, marimba-centric jaunt that retains its relentless positivity even when the strings are squalling away in protest; “We Can Can We” is a deceptively tricky journey through quirky 7/8 rhythms; “Flux” brings the noir vibes and provides perhaps the biggest mood here when the double bass line enters like the fucking Kool-Aid man with some brand of sawing percussion as accompaniment; and “Connected” is a fun experiment in layering voices, with swirling delay sends and long-tailed reverbs helping the lead vocal to lap over the sides of the track.

If there's a definitive selling point here, though, it's “Beginning”. It's as if “You're A King” by Lowercase was sped up and handed to reunion-brand Swans to expand on. The opening vocal sections sound like that weird thing they do in cartoons to represent the voices of all-powerful villains or Gods, where spoken word in different registers is layered to create an intimidating, all-too-human inhuman chorus. The song's closing couple of minutes are an undoubted highlight of the album, a triumphant amalgam of everything the song has worked toward delivered just in time for harmonious vocals to deliver the track's defining, glorious vocal melodies.

If there's complaint to be had here, it mostly lies at the bookends. “Be Patient” isn't a bad track in itself, but next to most of the material on this album it's not particularly noteworthy. There's also plenty to like about the somber closer “Silent”, but it's brevity makes for a rather unsatisfying conclusion to an album begging for a dramatic ending. The Orchestre's hesitancy to really let their music ignite at any point winds up being a two-sided sword; it subtly masks their more clever turns of pace, but takes away from cuts that could use just that lil bit more gravy.

Otherwise, We're OK. But We're lost anyway. is certified hot shit. The musicianship is interesting without being overbearing, the songwriting is surprisingly concise, the mixing is as clear and wide as our collective existential doom in 2021, and the band manages to juggle an unusual mixture of dulcet tones and joyous expressionism with occasional pangs of harshness and uncertainty with a deft touch. While the influence of a man that takes up two-fifths of the band's name is almost impossible to place at this point, I can't say I'm particularly concerned.



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user ratings (6)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wish I caught hold of this closer to the release date, but ultimately just glad the algorithm spat it my way. PS - listen to their other stuff!



https://orchestretoutpuissantmarcelduchamp.bandcamp.com/album/were-ok-but-were-lost-anyway

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
August 19th 2021


8634 Comments


Wow this looks like it could be something will read when I am not a sleepy fuck and confirm that nosh sure the Milo reasons are ample and sexy

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2021


15230 Comments


Woah!

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
August 19th 2021


9136 Comments


Good ol' Marcel. Looking at the "recommended by reviewer" albums I must say I'm intrigued.

Sexy rev babe.

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 19th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Woah! Hey team. The review may be average, but the album is not. Just to reiterate, it's a p chill joint

Josh D.
August 19th 2021


16798 Comments


Huh, never heard of this but I'm listening to the first song now. Funky.

CaliggyJack
August 19th 2021


8045 Comments


I'd say most modern art is bullshit

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2021


25992 Comments


Looking at the "recommended by reviewer" albums I must say I'm intrigued. [2]

Mandatory check then!

Digging: Kaelan Mikla - Undir Kldum Norurljsum

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Desperate for some rankings to roll in for this bad boi. Recommended stuff definitely shares DNA, but I wouldn't really go in expecting soundalikes

zaruyache
August 20th 2021


24576 Comments


i listened to a song and this is already probably better art rock than that black country album.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2021


3773 Comments


Big review but so good and easy to read and I love your writing so much as always and I will check this tomorrow.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2021


41736 Comments


blessed words / niche ig lowercase reference / i wanna check this but feel drained and am terrified it will confirm i'm an empty husk / love youuu

Digging: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks - Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 20th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lovely words from lovely peeps. Let me know whatchu both think even if it means admitting to being soulless heathens pls and ty

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2021


3773 Comments


This goes down easier than I thought it would, I love it. Real interesting, but (I think) unpretentious.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good to hear! Yeah, it feels earnest and wholesome somehow

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
August 25th 2021


3441 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is v friendly indeed, hell yeah nice

Digging: A Ritual Sea - A Ritual Sea

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

rating number 6!hell yeah, jesp, this'll be on year-end lists in no time flat

TheBarber
October 14th 2021


4008 Comments


K late to the party but this kills so far

Digging: Lil Ugly Mane - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
October 14th 2021


1562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yooo, a listener! Check the one before this too, it's also great



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