The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Orphan Fairytale
My Favourite Fairytale Matthew Foster , February 17th, 2014 06:36

According to a recent study, those treasured childhood memories you've been clinging to in order to cope with the cruel adult world could well be a load of rubbish. Asked to recall positive and negative events from their early days, the study's subjects were able to remember broadly what happened and where, as well as the characters involved, but fell down on the details, exhibiting a tendency to pepper the past with extraneous bits and pieces they can't possibly have recalled. In other words, our memories of those untouchable, halcyon days are often caked in bits of carpet fluff.

Despite the cutesy moniker, penchant for plinky-plonky instrumentation, and track titles like 'Dragons of the Deep', Eva Van Dueren's Orphan Fairytale ain't no stroll through M&Ms World, but rather the musical equivalent of having your childhood memories shoved in a blender with some bailiff's letters and fired back at you. The record is full of innocent, playful signifiers - space-race sci-fi synth sweeps; sweet, meandering keys; winding compositions that unfold with all the fuzzy logic of a dream - yet nothing is quite right; the real world keeps creeping in.

Take 'Dragons of the Deep', which opens with a burst of cutesy bells tripping frantically over each other, but is soon strangled eight minutes in and replaced with a patter of toms and a theremin played by killer robots who only want to imprison you FOREVER. Or 'Abracadabra', which distorts and pitch-shifts those happy chimes until they risk inducing a mild panic attack, undercutting them with a horror-movie string swell. Eight minutes in, having led you down the garden path, the track takes a left-turn and chucks some dub sirens in your face, and then leaves you stranded for the final two minutes in a gated-synth, White Rainbow-esque hell.

Van Dueren packs her compositions with so many little details, so many subtle shifts in the scenery, that each listen gives up something new. In places - the soft, somnambulant second half of 'Neverending Waves' - you'll spot something beautiful, but, more often than not, it'll be a noise just off-screen that you can't quite make sense of, like the alien chatter half-way through the record's straightest cut, 'Hummingbirds'.

Although ostensibly a collection of four Orphan Fairytale's tracks over a three-year period, this double LP works surprisingly well as a full-on, lights-off, hour-and-a-half outing, and goes nicely with a cup of tea and the other side of an agoraphobia-induced panic attack. Although heavily reliant on a similar palette of washy keyboards, cheap-electronics and tape loops, each track builds a little world that's both pretty and unsettling. Constructing music that relies so heavily on repetition while managing to stay unpredictable isn't an easy task, but Van Dueren is a clearly some kind of master, and this record is your passport to her head; just don't expect to remember any of it quite right.