[sic] Magazine

Ormonde – Cartographer/Explorer

Always a welcome sight to see the return of one of my favourite vocalists, Anna-Lynne Williams. This time around the former Trespassers William singer has teamed up with Robert Gomez to produce an oddly disquieting electronica record. Anna-Lynne can turn her tonsils to almost any genre be it folk, country, indie… you name it. Electronica was always going to be an easy fit and a good fit. Worry not luddites, there are still plenty of ‘real’ instruments on display. Acoustronica is a recognised and established genre of its own for over a decade now. However Ormonde isn’t merely the latest vehicle for Williams (That’s Lotte Kestner). This is a true collaborative project. Gomez provides backing vocals and even takes the lead on songs like ‘A Grand Design’ and the title track. The effect is somewhat eerie. Much like n5MD artist Tobias Lilja Gomez’ spectral whisperings put me in mind of a dispossessed spirit. Is this particular entity benign or malignant? We can’t quite tell but Gomez’ measured delivery suggests this phantom is at the very least slightly unhinged.

Division of vocal duties is not democratic though, unlike, say, Dead Can Dance. Williams takes the lead for the majority of Cartographer/Explorer. The funereally paced ‘Threshold’ (no, not THAT one) brings to mind her former band, Trespassers William. Anna-Lynnes voice carries such beauty and fragility that she is able to illuminate any song. In many respects Williams is like a modern day Karen Carpenter in that behind each crystal clear note there is an aching sadness. So it is with ‘Threshold’ and indeed something like ‘Fast Forward’ (which might just be my favourite song here but see also ‘Bled Out’) ‘Fast Forward’ recalls the work of Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti for Lynch. It has the same hazy dreaminess with a hint of menace.

The Gomez helmed pieces are effective if a little overlong. I often found that they’d made their point long before the ending. Obviously he’s no match for Williams (who would be?) but he’s a terrific foil and makes total sense within the Ormonde universe. Cartographer/Explorer maps a melancholy, watercoloured terrain. The melodies are eerie, the arrangements sombre and the array of instruments, unusual. (‘Snake’ for example uses comb to wonderful effect, especially during its jamming finale.)

We finish with ‘Bled Out’, the albums most imaginative song of all. Against an ambient synth backdrop Williams posits the suggestion that the recipient of a blood transfusion could also receive little flash memories of the deceased donor. It’s all very Gene Wolfe. Ormonde have created a world of their own here – a twilit, flickering place seen through tear blurred eyes. It isn’t perfect but I think that’s something else I love about it.



Interview with Anna-Lynne