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- Mars Is Heaven by Ela Orleans
9/10 Mike Staff review, 30 November 2011
Office favourite Ela Orleans is back with a whole 'nother album for us after her gorgeous debut and that bewitching split LP with Dirty Beaches, this time with a concept record based around Ray Bradbury's story 'Mars Is Heaven', in which aliens lure humans into believing Mars is literally heaven by creating projections of an idyllic fantasy world, lulling them into a false sense of security before killing them. An interesting concept for an album, but to be honest for me Orleans's lyrics are kind of secondary to what she does with the music. Although the lyrics have apparently been culled from various sources (a fundamental part of Orleans's songwriting technique as far as I can gather) they do stay consistent with the story, and it's a very literal linear narrative. The themes within the story of space and emptiness and nostalgia and longing, of believing things because you want them to be true, are perfectly encapsulated in her consciously lo-fi compositions that pad out the empty spaces in your soul like a dance hall full of ghosts, starting hopeful and uplifting but slowly becoming more awkward and sinister as the album progresses, before closing with a queasily throbbing echo-laden tropical number. It's like dreampop but possessed with the cobwebbed spirits of Candy Claws and the Caretaker, taking us into timeless, decaying spaces. Ariel Pink's weirdo lo-fi would also be a valid comparison point in places, but to be honest I think Orleans's work is more consistent. On 'Take My Hand', apparently a cover but one which again fits perfectly within the narrative, she's accompanied by ghostly choirs of her own voice, and there's always a knowing playfulness to the recording techniques here - for me that's a big part of what sets her apart as a truly outstanding artist. Orleans creates such immersive, otherworldly music with such a completely formed aesthetic of her own that it's very hard to find adequate comparisons. It's better just to say that she makes music that is timeless and unique and psychedelic and experimental and yet always completely accessible and aimed straight for your subconscious. Strongly recommended.
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