Tuesday, June 14, 2016
By Jerry Herrera
ORAX has been, to me, a fixture of the synthwave scene, releasing tracks here and there for as long as I can remember. There is a darkness to his sound and I think that while he’s been a prolific and great artist, the channels (literally) through which his music has been released have gotten him all wrong. Forgive my criticism but I’m very tired of a “retro” image and a logo slapped onto it passing for a video.
Enter Cometa, the first full length album from ORAX. It’s one of those albums that grabs you right from the beginning and makes you wonder why our little genre isn’t bigger than it is. It’s ten beefy tracks long and full of a lot of imagination and intricacy. Broken is the first track and it’s one of those songs that you start off listening to and maybe you nod a bit and say “okay I like this” and then it hits its stride and you go “GOD DAMN” and suddenly you’re a fan.
The way the album is constructed is very smart as well. Each track is its own entity but as you go through the album you notice certain hints of a theme, recognizing certain instruments and progressions as though you were reading an author who wrote ten different novels but you understand his style. ORAX figures out a way to weave his signature into every one of the songs on Cometa.
I also feel like these songs are incredibly personal to ORAX. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but each track, with their succinct titles, is meant to convey a certain emotion or atmosphere. I think that the person behind the music went very deep into his life and experiences and composed from the gut. I say the gut, as opposed to the heart, because the heart heals extremely quick but I can remember every single time I’ve been punched in the stomach.
Cometa is thusly an album full of darkness and plodding, thundering noises. Even though there are jazzy, R&B inspired songs on the album, they still stick to the roots of morose wandering. This album is the perfect soundtrack to a broken hearted exploration of your nearest gathering of tall buildings.
Here is where I begin my criticism of Cometa. It’s not a synthwave album. There’s nothing resembling synthwave tracks at all, anywhere. I didn’t feel like I was breezing through a coastal highway during the sunset, I didn’t feel like I was being chased through grimy city streets, I didn’t picture myself at the club where the Terminator finally caught up with Sarah Connor.
What I did experience was a dark journey down the avenues of an odd mind. All the thumping kicks, the glittering, glassy melodies, the sad horns, all came together in a strange way and while ORAX is a synthwave artist I think this effort goes further beyond genre and the trappings you’d expect.
Is it game changing? No. But there is a lot of meat to Cometa and it is not so easily tasted or digested. It’s a very different album than what we are used to and I think it’s also very personal as well. It’s an achievement in that the retro sound is used to explore the heart of a man as opposed to setting the scene of a cheesy narrative. Of course it’s been done before but ORAX has composed an album that is unique in how personal it is.
ORAX presents Cometa, which is available through New Retrowave Records here and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.