THE ONE TWO BIRD AND THE HALF HORSE

Released on CD in 2009 on the Japanese FLAU label.

 

 

When it comes to Orla Wren the music is the artist bio you need;
all the personal and personnel information you need is already laid out in the songs.
The One Two Bird …’ is the second album from Orla Wren
and it works as both an incredibly lovely listening experience and the sound of
an artist stepping into his own unique musical identity.
‘The One Two Bird and the Half Horse’ begins with a lovely electric guitar refrain
playing over and over as a variety of instruments play around, above, next to it.
Some parts feel random, some feel intentional.
Most of opening song“First Wooden Words” feels like a mosaic of melodies.
Ethereal vocals kick in with lyrics in a language not easily identified.
Instantly we feel as though we are being dragged off to some other place,
but not just some other place, some place other worldly.
And really that word, ‘otherworldly’, tends to some up what makes Orla Wren works so magical and again ‘magical’ feels like an excellent word for it.
Second song, “Seven Papers Torn” is a melancholy number with some lovely vocals
to guide us into this strange new place.
The voice is painfully human, but the language is difficult to detect again,
and that’s assuming these are even words at all.
The song begins in a seemingly traditional way but slowly the structure becomes looser;
it’s as if looking at a pastiche where all the fragments are indiscernible, there is only the whole.

Two songs into ‘The One Two Bird…’ it’s clear that this is a different animal altogether
from Orla Wren’s debut, ‘Butterfly Wings Make’.
The songs of the debut felt like, well, songs.
What we get here feels more like sketches: it’s a bold way to begin a sophomore album.
By third piece “Tugboats and Railroads” Wren has completely transported us.
It’s as if wandering through some fairy tale land, some mystical place.
The song has some lovely acoustic guitar work, but by now it’s clear that to
focus on any single element of a song rather than the whole is a mistake:
there’s too much to miss.
One of the wonderful things about ‘The One Two Bird…’
is that it often times feels like the less traditional the pieces become,
the more enchanting the album is.
The thing is that when you operate in a musical language as mystical as what Wren offers up here a sketch is more than enough.
As an album it does not seem particularly interested in offering up songs so much
as it is interested in creating a whole document within which each piece
feels like it contributes more to an overall picture.
One can sense from the music itself that this work is about documenting a sort of personal philosophy.
If debut album ‘Butterfly Wings Make’ was like that first great novel
and each song like a great chapter,
then the‘One Two Bird …’ is like a dictionary and each song is a new word.
Sure, in theory a novel may sound like the more thrilling endeavour,
but when you operate in a language as unique as Orla Wren there are worlds to
discover within each phoneme.
Orla Wren’s ‘The One Two Bird…’ is an important album for the artist(s)
and was an important hallmark for the underrated Flau label.
It’s a sophomore album where the work is more abstract,
and yet, at the same time, the artist’s message seems clearer than ever.
It’s a bold second album, and the sound of an artist confidently proclaiming his own musical identity.
There aren’t many albums that can do what ‘The One Two Bird…’ does;
it has you enchanted as you listen, and when it’s finished you walk away re-invigorated.

Brendan Moore|FLUID RADIO