(Review) Kai Orion – Start to End

“Start to End” (Listen) is the second album from local Maryland musician Kai Orion. His music has been praised in the Frederick News Post, DCist, and more where he is often compared to the likes of Peter Gabriel. The comparison to Gabriel went full circle recently when Orion was selected along with nineteen other musicians to participate in a recording session at Peter Gabriel’s own Real World Studios in Bath, England.

Impressed? Well, here’s another rad accomplishment from Orion… He won a cover contest The National held a few years ago:

Orion has perhaps made himself the most intriguing by using everyday objects and found sounds/field recordings in his music.

Now onto the review..

The album’s title track “start to end” builds with a variety of interesting percussive noises (pocket change, bells, and even a tea kettle boiling) and then elegantly transforms as pleasant acoustic guitar and lush spacious vocals take over. Things only get more interesting as Orion’s light flute playing adds more depth (I first saw Orion play when he was focused on playing flute/singing in his band Bare Left – named Bluebeard at that time). A wild and fun keyboard hook with pitch bending/modulation takes place in the middle and end of the track where a guitar lead might typically land for most bands.

“cntrl” starts out with a tribal feel but with beatboxing rather than hand drums. The repetitive vocal is beyond catchy and anthemic – “everything’s in control, take a deep breath, swallow it whole”. The flute comes to the forefront this time along with a dominating distorted bass line and uncommon drum set rhythms that excel into a brilliant mess of loudness.

Layered percussion is at it again in “our tempos turn/every second breath”. Perhaps the most melodic and enchanting song of the bunch. Each note, instrumentally and vocally, is spaced out and executed with raw emotion. Various digital noises create the transitions between the different phases of the unpredictable yet naturally flowing song.

“tiny world” delivers every expansive quality that Orion’s music portrays so well. A song like this shows why this style of music allows for each song to have the same general ideas (eccentric beats, flute, piano/keyboard flourishes and reverb induced vocals) but still sound like no other song from the album.

“regret” relies on its delicately strummed acoustic guitar, vintage country electric guitar licks, organ and spirited singing that make the song a true highlight of a visionary songwriter.

“high iq” has a dark jazzy/lounge feel with a twist of psychedelia. The sporadic flute solos are without a doubt a ton of fun.
“high iq you always said
you’d love me forever we’d grow old together I don’t know what to do now
catapult me through
all good thoughts of you”

“Heartless” ends the album on a somber note. The beautiful and honest lyrics and the way they are sung speak for themselves.

“thought I caught the earth crash through your window
but call me crazy
probably could’ve stopped it if you really wanted
cause you’re amazing
how everyone I know is shedding branches
it’s contagious
said I’d never get this far without you
it wasn’t easy
I couldn’t let you leave without a proper funeral
I’m not heartless

step outside your world and then a thunder
just tremendous
everywhere I go explodes it seems
like it’s relentless
though I’ll never lose this memory of you and me
I wouldn’t go there
said I’d never get this far without you
it wasn’t easy
I couldn’t let you leave without a proper funeral
I’m not heartless”

More from Kai Orion – https://www.kaiorion.com/

Author: whatisfrederick

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