We make ample assumptions about forthcoming albums based on the released singles. Too often, by the time you finally get to hear that LP, you’ve already heard its best tracks. Sometimes, that one song streaming all over the Internet, is the only good thing about that record. But once in awhile, an album comes along that lives up to its singles and beyond, and it’s called Orange Morning.
Last September, NEØV released their debut single, “Windvane” – a gorgeous dream pop perfection that curtsied around the ethereal realm of Slowdive. Three months later, the Finnish quintet gave us another taste of their first album with “Morning Fire”, which did not perpetuate the lush and fleeting melodies of “Windvane”, but akin more to the grandiose art rock of Sigur Rós. After hearing Orange Morning in its entirety, the intelligence behind these two singles becomes lucid: had they chosen to release the other standout shoegaze-y track, “Mellow”, before “Morning Fire”, one would have expected a bonafide “nu gaze” album. Orange Morning tightropes between the two shades of NEØV – the airy layers of distortion and the undulating epics, united by an untainted romanticism.
Like a tolling of the bell to signal a new day, “Faces Against Orange Rain” commences Orange Morning, adding each instrumentation to the tapestry of angelic chorus, crescendoing to fill its brim. After almost two and half minutes, we finally hear distinct words from Anssi Neuvonen’s sleepy vocals, mainly repeating the title line until it gets swept away in a storm of guitars, drums, and horns. “Daydream City” turns down the dramatic dial yet still has plenty of textural qualities to keep it from being a filler between the anthemic opener to the album’s prettiest number: “Windvane” – initially the most ear-catching track, it sustains its ethereal charm even after months of repeated plays.
With unanticipated details and turns, Orange Morning keeps from becoming one of those albums you put on as a nice background music while you perform trivial tasks. “A Fall Through The Roofs” initially presents itself as a prosaic number keeping to a steady rhythm. Soon it transforms into a full-fledged post rock jam with oscillating percussion that decrescendos to a flash of silence, before reemerging to a howling abyss of snares that subsides with the weight of a bass synth. Similar undulating motifs occur in “1999” – soothing melodies and gentle strummings transform into My Bloody Valentine-esque ferocity before calming back for its outro. Vocals get a healthy dose of reverb and amalgamated with instrumentation in tracks like “Mellow”, but is also able to shine through the myriad of acoustics as in “Morning Fire” – horns thrusting through the tidal wave of snare drums as Neuvonen’s vocals heroically leads the march.
The last two tracks may be the weakest component of Orange Morning. “Whale Hymn” appropriately closes out the album, building tension to the climax maximus. But after the weighty “Otherworld”, equally laden with weeping brass section, it feels a bit over the top. Until this point, NEØV has kept the drama from becoming histrionic. But they manage to ascend with the final desolate minute as Neuvonen’s weary voice sings , ”In dream, I’m dreaming about another dream… “, floating like a ghost in a haunting universe, suggesting this is a beginning disguised as an end.
Orange Morning could come off pretentious, intellectual, and melodramatic. But there’s a certain candor about NEØV that it’s difficult to accuse them of any contrivance. I suppose living in a sparsely populated Nordic town (in this case, Kuopio) surrounded by copious trees and water would be an ideal breeding ground for an unadulterated music of a mystical beauty. Very rarely an album embodies polarizing attributes so exquisitely – delicate yet discordant, intricate yet spatial, and emotionally resonant; Orange Morning weaves an empyrean sonic tapestry.