Winning Converts with Orthodox

It’s a well-known fact that when you begin a sentence with “When you think about it…” whatever you say afterwards is immediately lent credence. Someone out there is going to say, “You know, that’s right.” So:

When you think about it, doom and free jazz really aren’t all that different, are they?

That’s the question Sevilla trio Orthodox try to answer as they bridge the gap between the seemingly disparate sonics on their latest full-length, Sentencia (Alone Records). Comprised of a religiously-themed trinity of tracks — “Marcha de la Santa Sangre,” “Ascensión,” and “…Y la Muerte no Tendrá Dominio” — the record also runs a solid 33 minutes, so we see the theme of threes (threme?) works on multiple levels right from the start.

Of the three songs, “Marcha de la Santa Sangre” might be the most straightforward, as well as being the shortest at 2:41. Both it and “…Y la Muerte no Tendrá Dominio” are essentially frame pieces for the mammoth “Ascensión,” which towers above its companions at 26:28, but “Marcha de la Santa Sangre” has fuzz bass care of Marco Serrato Gallardo (who also handles vocals, but not yet) and Ricardo Jimenez Gómez’s guitar in addition to its trumpet and the funeral marching snare Borja Diaz Vera, and on that level isn’t so far off from the material on either of Orthodox’s last two albums, both of which had a marked jazz influence. What really separates Sentencia from 2006’s Gran Poder and 2007’s Amanecer en Puerta Oscura (both issued in the US via Southern Lord) is the atmosphere of “Ascensión,” which comes to represent that of the album as a whole.

A short few minutes into “Ascensión,” we do get vocals from Gallardo, and they come on in a warble atop hard-struck piano lines and menacing drums, playing off a tortured clarinet straining and sounding like folk gone bad. The religiosity in this music is palpable in a kind of medieval (more plague-addled Seventh Seal than shining armor Lancelot) ambience; there is a sense of foreboding throughout “Ascensión,” allowed for all the more by the song’s seeming lack of structure and wide scope. Vocals are sparse compared to the piano, clarinet and drums and guitar is basically absent. Trumpet appears and is gone again amid darkening crashes on cymbals and piano keys, and although there’s still 10 minutes to go in “Ascensión,” Orthodox have made it clear that it’s no coincidence this track shares its title with John Coltrane’s 1965 move into free jazz.

There is another slow, atmospheric build from about 18 minutes to 23:30, and then the track picks up again. One can’t help but wonder what Orthodox might have been able to do with more of an ensemble at their disposal than just the two guest players they feature here, but if Sentencia is the beginning of a new phase in the band’s career rather than a one-off exploration, they’ve already got a sizeable accomplishment to work from.

At 4:25, “…Y la Muerte no Tendrá Dominio” closes Sentencia with organ and drum cacophony, throwing yet another unexpected element into the mix before the album is done. It’s here the drone comparisons with which the band has been saddled since their inception ring truest, but even that is only a relative statement. More than anything, Orthodox are clearly in their own territory on Sentencia, and if the leap from Amanecer en Puerta Oscura to this is any indication of their creative growth, it should be interesting to see where they take their sound from here.

Orthodox on MySpace

Alone Records/The Stone Circle

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One Response to “Winning Converts with Orthodox”

  1. greenskeeper says:

    I’ve been spinning this for weeks, great record. Think it might be there best output yet.

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