The sense of spatial dislocation evidenced early in Feather Beds’ album, ‘The Skeletal System’, is further compounded by its creator’s own circumstances. Michael Orange is Dublin born, now Montreal based, and the high vocal drenched in ambient hiss that asks “Am I home?” on opener Walter feels a highly subjective probe.
A busy undercurrent of synth noise and pulsing drones underpins his swathed vocal immediately after on Animal Fat, with Orange singing “I’ve been lost for years/ That’s what they’ll say” That seemingly autobiographical slant resurfaces, amplified here by the echoing wisps that peel off from the vocals.
Orange deals in ambient moods, flitting from Brian Wilson and Bowie-esque vocal sections to instrumental passages that recall an earlier incarnation of Animal Collective. The songs are more anaemic and more difficult to grasp onto in the first half of ‘The Skeletal System’, as if it’s gradually piecing itself together into the more fully formed thing it becomes after the midpoint. It unfolds in darkness, seeming to emerge into a brighter tone after the incessant condensed patter and unsecured chiming notes of the mid-album Swimwear interlude.
Actress is immediately lighter and more melodically playful than anything on the album’s front end, with more clarity in the guitar notes that lead the song. The sweet melody under the trip-hop-beat that dominates Seal Clubbing becomes more abrasively techno-influenced in parts, while on Airbrushed the drums rise to govern the track, leading a military snare march where before there resided a languid atmospheric. The discerning signifiers are less melodically woozy Beach Boys, more Venetian Snares – Drumcorps, even – that draw the album to its conclusion.
‘The Skeletal System’ is certainly cohesive, and as a whole shares a sonic palate that unifies the tracks. It feels like you could dip in at any point and experience the same emotional pull and swathes of sound as another random point. As a result the individual songs don’t necessarily seem to have a unique identity, and the feel of the entire album is one of sweet, buried melodies emerging free from dense synthetic elements. It’s a slow burner, accomplished in its evocation of a dichotomous tussle between these contrasting moods, even if things tend towards the monochrome.