I decided to make a new page to review artists and recent releases I come across that I like. Only music for now, but who knows? …the sky is the limit. This is the very first review!
JEREMY TUPLIN-“ORVILLE’S DISCOTHEQUE” ( Trapped Animal)
The decline of the music industry has been heartbreaking to me. The hostile takeover by streaming companies pulled the rug out from under the independent scene, which is where 90% of the interesting stuff used to happen. Robbed of their ability to sell recorded music, for indies the only stream of income left is touring. Alas, gentrification, then Covid has caused many small and medium-sized music venues to close, the bread and butter of small tours. Beloved indies like Santigold and Andrew Bird have announced they can no longer afford to go on the road. Inevitably music becomes a hobby for those who can afford it, and it shows. Music has degenerated into sonic wallpaper, the soundtrack to life glued to various screens.
So discovering an artist like Jeremy Tuplin is refreshing to say the least. I was first introduced to his work when I reviewed his albums I Dreamt I was an Astronaut and Pink Mirror for Folk Radio UK. Like any true artist, Tuplin follows his own muse. He has been charting his own path for years, and with his latest Orville’s Discotheque, he is taking his musical journey to a whole new level.
“Orville’s Discotheque” is presented as a ‘disco concept album’. Not exactly what the world has been waiting for, you might think. But this is the same guy who coined the term ‘space folk’ and… made it stick. Jeremy Tuplin is an artist who is adept at transcending expectations and combining unlikely musical elements into a style all his own. So what we have here could possibly be called ‘indie disco’. It has the familiar thumping 70s beat, some spidery Nile rogers-like rhythm guitar, with fat analog synths to round out the sound. But this is not a retro 70s album by any stretch. Rather, it takes the elements of possibly the most un-cool music ever created and rearranges and rethinks them in yet another sonic tour de force for Tuplin. As always, the production, courtesy of Mark Estall is excellent, and Tuplin’s band, both understated and powerful, provide the perfect accompaniment to Orville’s tale.
And what a tale it is! The press release describes it as an Orphic tale peopled with different characters. There is Eugenie, Orville’s love interest (whose lyrics are sung by British indie singer heka) but also Hermes, Hades and Persephone.
Like many recent creative endeavors, “Orville’s Discotheque” was apparently started during Covid lockdown with Tuplin noodling around on an analog synth. Sure enough, opening track “It’s a real World” features Tuplin’s deadpan vocals over a bed of gloriously bombastic synths and sparse rhythm guitar.
But it’s with the second track, “Dancing on Your Own” that the album really comes into its own. Instantly danceable and irresistibly catchy, the tune sets the template for the rest of the album. It also shows us the kind of discotheque Orville, AKA Tuplin, inhabits. Not exactly a place of joy, although certainly one of abandon. A place where strangers meet, mingle and sometimes mate, to forget their loneliness for a night or two.
The search for love is a recurring theme throughout the album, with no less than three song titles featuring “Love” in the title. A recurring character and potential love interest is Eugenie, with whom Orville seems to have quite a tempestuous relationship. Sadly, love seems to forever escape our anti-hero. Still, he can always dance.
“Love Town” is haiku-like in its simplicity, evolving from simple guitar and synth into a minimalist but gently grooving folk disco tune. “Wonderful Time” is another gloriously raucous tune worthy of 90s rockers like the Pixies et all, made all the more striking by the contrast with Tuplin’s deadpan vocals.
“Devil Dances” is reminiscent of Space Oddity-ear Bowie and tells the delightful story of a discotheque run by the Queen of Hades, but with closer “Dancer Must die” we have quite literally come to the end of Orville’s story. Or is it? The stream-of-consciousness lyrics on Orville’s Discotheque don’t exactly lay out a neat narrative, and perhaps everything only happened in Orville’s mind, sitting in his room playing his synthesizer as the world stood still.
One thing is for sure: this isn’t your mom’s disco. Orville’s Discotheque is an ambitious, fairly sprawling and at times positively brilliant addition to Tuplin’s body of work.
Perhaps there is hope for the music industry after all.