Mint by Orions BelteRelease date: August 17, 2018
Label: Jansen Records
Here’s a feeling some of you may know. When you’ve been continuously awake for two or three days, it’s a uniquely dislocating experience; things start to look hyper-real, colours are brighter, more lustrous, sounds are impossibly glistening and clear but rarely harsh and the world and its weight seem immense, but somehow benign, not oppressive. When you finally do relax there is a kind of peace, a fuzzy warmth that embraces you, accompanied by an inner tremor or fluttering; life feels fragile but safe. it’s tough to get there (manually anyway; much of this could no doubt be arrived at much more easily and quickly, but analog feels right in this instance), but it’s nice when you do. Mint is the soundtrack to those moments. It’s also, incidentally, the perfect album for the elegiac dying weeks of the summer.
Billed, not at all wrongly, but somehow inadequately, by the PR folks as “somewhere between lo-fi psych, Nigerian 70s rock, underground pop, nu-jazz, world and soul” the album is a mostly-instrumental, woozy, warm and embracing treat. Shimmering, flickering heat-haze guitars, bass that is as much physical as aural in its soothing dub-like hum, superbly tight-but-loose drums and the scintillating cherry-on-top of occasional waves of pedal steel and analog synth; it’s a thing of utterly familiar, utterly alien beauty. Musically, it reminds me of nothing so much as the bands (but definitely not the singers) on the essential (if you like that kind of thing) Sublime Frequencies compilation Saigon Rock and Soul – Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974 which should itself be sought out by those that don’t know it – only slowed down by a fraction, giving the music that otherworldly lustre, weight and depth that made me think of the introductory awake-for-days feeling.
Anyway, the facts; Orions Belte is a trio from Norway, but musically could be from anywhere, or from outer space. Mint is their first album, and it’s amazing.
Most surprising perhaps, is that the tracks with vocals are every bit as good as the instrumentals; perhaps because the vocals are treated like everything else; that is, bathed in reverb and not at all foregrounded; another atmospheric element in the jam. Central among the vocal tracks is the mighty ‘Joe Frazier’, a funky, sleepy blues monster, as simultaneously hot and cool as anything on the album. ‘Le Mans’ has even more understated vocals; just a sort of refrain amid the 70s road movie acid jazz funk, something like Corduroy produced by King Tubby, which somehow minimises the kitchness of the tune without losing the old fashioned charm of such things.
At its most psychedelic, the album has a heavy, Spacemen 3- like atmosphere which peaks in the penultimate ‘Atlantic Surfing’, which revels in kaleidoscopic strobing mutant surf rock guitar and – crucially – throbbing, pulsating bass that stops it all from drifting into the ether. Finally, it all ends, as you kind of know it will, with the warm and rueful smile of ‘Alnitak’, sounds to synchronise with your mellow hangover and usher in, finally, that long awaited sleep. It’s a thing of beauty.