By: Eric G.
Orbiter is a Seattle-based duo dabbling in a trip-hop/electronic pop fusion that wouldn’t be out of place on your local adult contemporary radio station. I probably don’t need to tell you that that is not a compliment. There’s nothing edgy or risky about this 7-song EP. The bio uses the term “guitar-erotica” to describe the band's sound, which I can barely even type with a straight face and should give you a pretty good idea where this band is coming from. Evidently, the guitarist met the singer in a karaoke bar. This is not a surprise, considering the amount of straining that goes into trying to sound “soulful.” Fiia McGann’s breathy, faux-sexy singing-style is a staple in karaoke bars.
Beyond the Portishead-lite backdrop is a fairly organic guitar-based structure. The beats are light and airy and keyboards float around the heavily affected guitar bits. Mini LP sounds like an homogenized trip-hop record directed at the lowest common denominator with just enough electronic sputter to make it seem “cutting edge” to the uninitiated. The vocals are far too loud in the mix, which only make the embarrassingly adolescent lyrics stand out even more: “bite my tongue or stick it out/or do something dumb to remove all doubt” (“Stray Dogs”). An even bigger mistake is passing the microphone to guitarist Harris Thurmond, whose self-deprecatory inflection sounds like a confused Randy Newman on “You” and “Paper.” Again, not a compliment.
It’s too easy just to coast on paths that have already been cleared, and, unfortunately, Orbiter makes a habit of it here. “Sentimental” revives late-1980’s pop hooks and light-funk in an ill-advised mix of electronic noodling and saccharine lyrics. “Bribery” sinks even further into no man’s land with a forgettable stab at a noir-ish trip hop. Compared with Thurmond’s contributions, however, McGann’s songs sound absolutely inspired, which is a sad state of affairs indeed. The band should probably focus more on atmospheric instrumentals like “3A.M.” with its layers of concurrent melodies and scuttling percussion because it is the only sign of hope on this EP.