Listen: Oryx and Crake

For the past several years, Atlanta has been known for both its equally vibrant and diverse music scene. On one end, bands like The Black Lips and Deerhunter have steadily put Atlanta rock on the national map. On the other hand, Atlanta’s hip-hop and R&B tradition has continued to prosper in 2010, with the likes of Big Boi and Janelle Monáe landing at the cross-section of popular and critical success. But for all its musical impetus, Atlanta has had a distinct lack of orchestral-pop bands able to transcend the local scene. But things change, and orchestral-electronic newcomers Oryx and Crake seem posed to become the harbingers of a new Atlanta trend.

In their short time together, Oryx and Crake have quickly transformed from a small project into a nine-piece ensemble, growing nearly as quickly as their critical acclaim from seemingly every music writer in the area. Despite the band’s ever-evolving line up, the band’s current size was by no means the original vision of front-couple Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples. “We didn’t expect it to get as big as it did” Peoples reflects. “We kept meeting these people that liked what we did and we loved these people. Any given song has more than nine things happening anyway. It seemed right.”

The sonic origins of Oryx and Crake initially arose from Peoples’ unique and mixed vision. Between his background as a sound design professor and his longtime involvement in various bands dating back to his youth, Peoples finally struck gold—merging his interests into a sound reflecting both his acoustic and electronic compositional approaches.

After two years of meticulous work with his wife and cellist Matt Jarrard, Peoples finally pieced together their debut eponymous record—an album possessing a precise blend of orchestral hooks and tightly crafted synthesized sounds. The long and winding road for Peoples resulted in music that resonates as melancholic, mysterious, and hauntingly stunning.

While other large chamber-pop groups in this day and age may often appear to ride the coattails of success earned by The Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens, that’s far from the case with Oryx and Crake. Just listen to the first few minutes of their album opener “Fun Funeral”—a dark, looming masterpiece that rings in as one of the best-kept secrets of 2010. But where many of their orchestral counterparts remain relatively straightforward in their instrumental production, Oryx and Crake manage to distinctly create their own sound. Peoples has created a dense soundscape of beautiful acoustic arrangements, crisp electronic percussion, beautifully stark vocals, and tense moments of dynamism.

But to say that Peoples is the end-all-be-all of Oryx and Crake would be far from the truth. One of the first things noticed upon meeting the band is that Rebekah Goode-Peoples stands as the yin to his yang. From her poignant lyrics to her management of band affairs, Goode-Peoples seems to be the glue holding Oryx and Crake together. The group is also home to another husband-wife couple in Eric and Anna Wildes, on guitar and banjo respectively. Oryx and Crake is rounded out by the impeccable strings of cellist Matt Jarrard and violinist Karyn Lu, as well as the unique rhythm section of bassist Keith Huff, percussionist Chris Vanbrackle, and MIDI mastermind Matt Gilbert. This nonet is a large group indeed, but it’s one in which every member plays a necessary part in recreating the layers of layers of musical textures that comprise their overarching sound.

While Oryx and Crake offers one of the more impressive debuts in recent memory, both Ryan and Rebekah Peoples are looking forward to improving upon their initial effort. “For the first album we were hit-and-miss, trying all sorts of different directions,” Goode-Peoples remarks. “I think this time we’re approaching it with a much more coherent vision. I think we can safely say that we were hugely inspired by The Antlers’ album Hospice.”

“Well that’s the stuff we like,” Peoples adds. “We like albums.”

Oryx and Crake was about as compelling of an album as anything released in 2010. Just imagine what will happen once they manage to create a record that fits their own “coherent” vision. The future is bright for Oryx and Crake, and their chances to put Atlanta orchestral-pop on the map are even brighter.

[audio:|titles=01 Fun Funeral]

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