Review Summary: Minus some turbulence, Tableau is an eclectic trip to the clouds well worth the fare.
Despite my fervor for the Orielles’ last album, 2020’s Disco Volador, I completely understand why it slipped under so many people’s radars. Poorly timed release date, fairly uninteresting cover, and it was a follow-up to a relatively-safe indie pop debut. Or, it could very well be that listeners didn’t dig their particular brand of space age psych pop. It could be misconstrued that Tableau is a direct response to that, seeing as the UK group have underwent yet another change in sound. But I don’t believe that’s the case. The Orielles don’t seem to be a band that likes to stay in one place for very long, and that’s part of why I like them as much as I do. They proved on that last album that they can experiment with their sound purposefully and successfully; at least they did to my ears.
Do they continue that success on this newest release? Yes and no. Judging it as a complete work, Tableau is another solid outing by the group, seeing them dip their toes into more of an electronic/ambient/dream pop sound. On tracks like the lushly-orchestrated “Beam/s,” I’d say they wear it quite well, shifting between the atmospheric and the rhythmic with ease. But more than a few times on the album, these new elements tend to distract from the songwriting. “Airtight’s” descent into glitchy art pop and the middling “Honfleur Remembered” in particular were oddly out of place in my eyes. For a band that was so immediately identifiable on their last record, moments like these make the Orielles feel more conformed to modern sensibilities rather than experimenters playing with it. There are also a few instrumentals (“To Offer, To Erase;” “By Its Light”) and improvisations (“The Improvisation 001”) that, while inoffensive, don’t offer very much to grasp onto.
Luckily, these weaker tracks are few and far between. The bulk of the album is a mellow, neo-psych delight that takes a lot of cues from post-rock and a more progressive approach to their usual songcraft. Songs like “The Instrument” and “Darkened Corners” weave feedback and waveforms like they’re members of the band. “The Room” pairs strings, smoky spoken word, and an immaculate groove into a standout track and a career highlight. Even the slower ambient pop tracks (“Some Day Later,” “Drawn and Defined”) work well to establish a properly hazy mood for the higher energy tracks to complement.
Tableau feels so much more fractured when compared to the sharpened pop of Disco Volador, which is almost certainly intentional. In the band’s own words, the album was built on improvisations and sampling, motifs rather than structured songs. And, for the most part, these risks paid off. It’s an album that sounds exactly how it was conceived: out of daydreaming and inspiration. With their heads stuck in the clouds. But I cannot help but feel that the record could’ve benefited from some cuts. However, I doubt the Orielles would even pay such criticism any mind. Like I said before, this band hates stagnation. If their current release pattern is anything to go by, they’ll have switched up their sound by the next album anyway. I hope they don’t listen to me. They should keep doing their own thing. Cause despite my criticisms, I’m still eager to see where they’ll go next.