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By their own admission, Orwax started out as a garage band that never quite left the garage. So that's still their HQ now, and it's probably for the best; there's a lot to be said for staying true to your roots. Being from upstate New York they say it's more of a barn than a garage, but you get the idea. Initially formed by brothers Ryan and Brandon Moran, the group now includes Darren Moran (yeah, he's family too) and Adam Garlick (he's not, but he is a childhood friend). So they're a close-knit bunch, and despite their recording and rehearsal space, Orwax aren't really garage-rock, nor would they be much use at a barn dance. However, their home has become well-equipped and all music is written, recorded and produced in the space it's rehearsed. If there's a gripe to be had then it could be said that the songs are a little flat and bringing in a producer (or working on that area themselves) would be a necessity for the follow-up.
This self-titled début album doesn't really travel through any uncharted waters, but it is very varied, moving from ambient, atmospheric pieces to more conventional indie-rock. They start with an instrumental intro that sounds like it could have been made for a soundtrack and has a few chilling piano notes dotted through it. It won't surprise you to learn that the short snippet of 'Instrumental #1' and the longer 'Instrumental #2' are in a similar vein and sound like a band playing around with the equipment they have and testing the boundaries of what they could be able to do. 'Dance #1' follows suit in a more experimental way. 'Self Portrait' has a similar feel, but this one includes vocals. Calling it a full song is pushing it at just 68 seconds. 'Intermission (Elliot, We Miss You)' is a dreamy interruption, possibly to a departed friend. Although more substantial, 'Requiem For A Lost Soul (abridged)' may confirm this.
If you want to get to the meat of what this band do then here's the lowdown. 'Smokescreen' is the first "proper" song and it has a slight shoegaze thing going on. It's no big rock statement, this is again quite cinematic and is far from straightforward. They may not be reinventing the wheel, but they don't use it to drive down the middle of the road. Built around a fuzzy riff and crashing drums, this track moves through the gears and ends up with something of a '90s college-rock feel. 'Longevity' has its heart set on the same period and the same sounds but is arguably a better song. It's good that they're doing away with typical writing and structures. 'In The End '04' has you wondering if the title refers to the first half a minute of the song which is silence, but another hazy tune eventually appears. Most of 'Orwax' concentrates on mood and is very much about the ambience, but on 'So Far...' they allow themselves to let out a little aggression with a rockier number. Overall, 'Orwax' is a decent first outing from a band with ideas, but if we had to give out advice then the two main suggestions would be get that production sounding fresh not murky, and indulge yourselves a bit more. The highlights are where the full-on tunes are at, and the proof of this comes in 'Exceptions To Rules', the dreamy final track that, despite still being subtle, is really quite pretty.
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