The Operacycle – Warmer

I love bands that use unconventional instruments without making inaccessible music. The Black Heart Procession is a good example, as is Cerberus Shoal. The Operacycle, which also has an equally good and unconventional name, have a list of about 30 instruments used on this album, and they add (and maybe more). These include bubble wrap, comb, electric razor, doors/hinges, tire iron, and even some actually instruments like violin, polysynth, keyboards, guitars, bells and more.

The Operacycle is basically the project of Portland, Ore. Native Jordan Hudson. Most of these songs are instrumentals, and while all are based around a more mellow style of acoustic guitar rock, each is very different and very beautiful. In using all of those instruments, Hudson has managed to create a lush, textured sound that is often moody and dark and just as often light and flowing. Think a more grounded Cerberus Shoal, perhaps, without the tribal feel, and you get a sense of what The Operacycle is creating.

The album starts with a rolling western-feeling instrumental, appropriately titled “Western,” that has some bass-heavy flow and a nice rhythm. “How to Walk Classically” is much more moody and melodic, featuring some downright beautiful and complex acoustic guitar. It reminds me a bit more of the Tristeza-style instrumentals. Probably one of the coolest songs is “Funerals,” which uses tape loops, a kind of moaning/chanting vocals, and a slightly electronic-sounding rhythm to provide one of the most intriguing sound collages I’ve yet heard. Every time I hear this song I find myself bobbing along one minute and getting spooked out the next. But then Hudson goes back into one of the more subtle, more sparse songs on the album, “There’s a Grassmower At My Door,” which is almost entirely acoustic guitar. “This is Part…,” on the other hand, is a bubbly, chimey song that uses all sorts of bells and other gizmos. Haunting, hushed vocals are used on the moody, dreary “Gone I’ll Tomorrow Be,” which also has the best title here. “The Carter Break” reminds me of a movie theme song, with a heavy beat, soft piano in the background, and some very intense bass and guitar. “…Two of Two” is haunting and chilling, with soft chimes and pretty sounds over a cacophony of shouts and beats way in the background. It quiets, and then the drums come crashing in. The beauty here is in the conflict between the different styles. “SHS” has the most pop-like and traditional style, and it flows along quite prettily and atmospherically. And the album ends with “Fever,” which is a much more up-tempo piece with lots of jazzy drums and guitar and loads of cool bass lines.

This album is all over the place, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. With this project, Hudson is just as comfortable creating quiet, almost folky acoustic guitar instruments as powerful and moving crescendos of music. And he has used everything but the kitchen sink (at least it wasn’t listed) on this album. I have tremendous respect for people who know what sound they want to make and then find a way to create it. And I have even more respect for when they can use those sounds to create and album as impressive and pretty as this one.