Orphan Swords


Ascent, by Orphan Swords, is a concept album about a mountain – and it's just as ambitious and as ridiculous as that sounds, finds Nick Roseblade

What happens if you mix the French ‘zombie’ show Les Revenants with 127 Hours? Orphan Swords debut album Ascent. Instead of writing a collection of songs to fill the club, the electronic duo instead devised an epic saga about an unsolved disappearance in a mountain range. Not only does it work, the music has an inquisitive vibe to it that ratchets the tension through use of fuggy synths and low tempo breakbeats.

The album starts as you reach the highest town in the mountain, with massive rumbly glitchy electronics that break into a delicate synth melody. It feels very cinematic. It’s the scene in the film where a character says to another “Where are we going again?” the camera pans back but there are just clouds in the sky. Then, as if by magic, they move and we see the characters’ end goal, be that a building, a city, a planet – or in this case, a mountain. As Abandon progresses, it gets more melodic and fractured. The synth motif appears and reappears, but there is a fog of electronics that obscure it from us. It tells us that there is something deeper, lurking beneath the surface, but Orphan Swords aren’t quite prepared to unveil it completely just yet.

This is followed throughout the album. Orphan Swords just give us enough to follow the narrative, but after that slight glimpse, shroud everything in layers of caustic noise, deep basslines. ‘Conflict’ is the main event on Ascent. Hulking basslines and 4/4 beats underpin Vangelis-esque soundscapes full of searing synths and delicate melodies. Orphan Swords use the visceral power of techno to tell intricate stories.

At times Ascent is an unrelenting experience. Everything about it feels caustic and punishing. This is not an album full of big room bangers. But in its way, this is part of its charm. Underneath all the noise, distortion and penance is a compelling and fascinating album. An album that is as large in scope as the breakbeats and basslines that make it up. And just like that story, it is gargantuan and slightly ridiculous.

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