CMJ 2014: Orchid Tapes Showcase at The Shop

posted by Alyssa Buffenstein on October 25, 2014

R.L. Kelly at CMJ 2014 by Simone Sutnick

Brooklyn, New York -- Something about Brooklyn-based label Orchid Tapes' showcase at The Shop Friday afternoon of CMJ just screamed "Napoleon Dynamite." Before you realized the concrete-floored warehouse space was actually a barbecue bar and motorcycle shop, it felt a little bit like a high school gym. While the beaten up American Flag acting as the backdrop for the exposed-hardware stage totally made sense in the context of a motorcycle gang, it took on a level of suburban irony behind the bedroom pop of the Orchid Tapes artists. The relentlessly supportive community felt like what would have happened if Napoleon had found a microcosm of like-minded people - rather than a standing ovation from a high school student body he worked (danced) to win over, Orchid Tapes created a sense of family outside the cliquey judgment of a high school auditorium and inside a concrete warehouse of sensitive, flannel-clad friends.

While we got there too late to catch the dreamy electro stylings of Emily Reo, she joined the next solo act, Yohuna, for her first song, providing a backing of a second sweet, dreamy voice. Sometimes MacBook-aided music can make an artist sound like they lacked a backing band, but Yohuna’s electric dreamscapes necessitated computer-generated sounds, into which her ethereal voice seamlessly melted.  

Mister Lies by Simone Sutnick

 “How much would it suck if I lost power right now?” joked Mister Lies, the next act, referring to lack of acoustic instruments. While his Michael Bublé-esque croon alone was gripping enough to keep the audience’s attention, his experimental methods would have done the job without it. A two-level setup comprising keyboard, effect pedals and computer was offset by his use of a tape player to add an extra level of ambient noise to his set of elaborate avant-garde pop, the majority of which will appear on a forthcoming album put out by Orchid Tapes. 

Next, bringing the stage back to the world of string instruments was R.L. Kelly, a four-piece made up of members of two other lo-fi girl-punk bands, Girlpool and Slutever. The lead singer was basically Sarah Silverman with a guitar, cracking raucous jokes while setting up and between songs; without her flippant explanation (“It costs a lot of money to practice here; how much are you going to pay us?”), nobody would have noticed that the band had never played their songs live all together before. Sharp vocals cut through the band’s grungy, lo-fi sound, creating a vibe that was simultaneously punk and comforting - the most rock 'n roll that an Orchid Tapes artist can get.  

Warren Hildebrand of Foxes in Fiction by Simone Sutnick

Concluding the daytime showcase was Foxes in Fiction, the project headed by Orchid Tapes founder Warren Hildebrand. They were reminiscent of Beach House but with a more tender, personal edge, and the presence of a guitar and violin added an interesting juxtaposition against the pleasant atmospheric noise. Perhaps the overall feeling of the showcase was summed up best by Hildebrand's final timidly-whispered remark after his set: "Orchid Tapes…forever!"

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