Dynamic pairings are not always obvious. Or logical. Dangermouse and Cee-Lo. Felix and Oscar. Apples and peanut butter. Yet logic need not be a precursor for a union. In fact, what may seem as unusual at first can quickly become the obvious.
So what was the binding element for O+S, the musical collaboration between Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, Art in Manila) and Scalpelist (aka Cedric LeMoyne of Remy Zero)? Location? Friendship? Or perhaps, a mirrored love of music, sprinkled with some good ol' fashioned timing?
What started as a friendship nearly two decades ago in Birmingham, Alabama, has bloomed into an intriguing alliance. "Orenda and I have been friends for 16 years," LeMoyne offers. "When Remy Zero was just starting and becoming successful in Birmingham, Orenda and her musical partner Maria were a 16-year-old songwriter duo that would just hang around. We quickly recognized a talent in them and knew they would do well." Many years, projects and experiences later, for both, an opportunity was born from an atypical source and a location far from Birmingham.
Fink's stint in Azure Ray and their Omaha-based record company Saddle Creek, led her to the "Gateway to the West," which has since become her adopted home. The local esteemed Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts, widely reputed for its strong conviction to support and encourage art, invited Fink to partake in an art residency: one of the aural nature. She quickly accepted the challenge and with no guidelines in place, Fink discerned exactly how she wanted to tackle this project. Her inquisitive and spiritual nature led her on a series of excursions to collect sounds, ranging from homebase Omaha to a church in Alabama and ultimately Haiti. "My idea was to go and collect field recordings from all over. Places that inspired me in a kind of atmospheric way," Fink reveals. With that simple idea in mind, her ultimate goal was to transform these captured moments of time into loops, and eventually pop songs.
Fink invited her old friend LeMoyne to participate in the art project and he soon found himself taking residence at the Center in Omaha, where their early meetings took place in the basement. Fink opened her Pandora's Box of sounds and Lemoyne began to mold them into structures. LeMoyne explains: "We'd take samples of sounds of Haitian rituals, street noises or whatever, then cut them into loops. We'd arrange them into forms and write songs with them, or she might have started a song and I would take some of these sound materials to create bodies of music around it."
As the "experiment" began to take shape, both recognized the potential beyond the Bemis residency and decided to graduate from the art project to a true musical entity. "We didn't know what would happen and that was afforded by the fact that it was an art residency - we had freedom," Fink says. "Ultimately, it ended up working really well. We created a cohesive work."
The result is a beautifully haunting collection that would make Angelo Badalamenti proud. "We listened to a lot of David Lynch soundtracks, 10cc and old 4AD records," confesses Fink. "I was looking for this balance of light and dark. You don't know why it is dark because it is actually very light sounding. That is what I was going for," she adds.
Their debut is a melodious reverie that thrusts forward with the help of the constant thump of drum loops, shifting from acoustic guitar and angelic coos to plodding piano, tinkling bells and a màlange of unidentifiable voices. Fink's celestial vocals float along like a cloud, ever so gently peeking in and out on cue. The production prowess of Michael Patterson (Beck, Notorious B.I.G., Ladytron) helped stitch the jagged collage into a seamless artistic composition.
April 3, 2013