When guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade and lead singer-bassist Esme Dee Hand-Halford tune up together on The Old Blue Last’s tiny stage, they sound better than most bands in mid-set. Henry’s guitar makes extraordinary sounds, while Esme’s bass is tight and heavy. Together with drummer Sidonie ‘Sid’ Hand-Halford, they are The Orielles.

Sets by The Orielles are never predictable, as Henry will decide at the last minute to skip a song, or Esme will think a song’s on the setlist, but it turns out it’s not. Sid doesn’t need the lists and nor do the others really, as Henry announces most of the songs and they know where to go from there. The band had ‘Krewcut’ down on their setlists for both London shows in November, but didn’t play it. Esme had ‘Jobin’ on her list at the OId Blue Last on 21st November, but crossed out, and it wasn’t on Henry’s

They’re not the only ones crossing stuff out — this review was inadvertently scrubbed, but it’s been recovered now — so even though The Orielles entertained London in November, we’ll publish this now. Better late than never. They did play ‘Jobin’ on 1st November at The Lexington, along with ‘Henry’s Pocket’ — the lad’s turn at lead vocals — but we’ll focus on the gig at The Old Blue Last featuring acts that’ll play at The Great Escape festival next year.

’Snaps’ is a new song recorded for the band’s debut album, ‘Silver Dollar Moment’, which comes out on 16th February. As a live opener, it’s perfect — the sugarcoated tune piercing the deviant electric noise of harmolodic wailing guitar and buzzing pop bass, Esme and Sid both singing.

‘Hiraeth’ is all about Esme’s big bopping bass, which carries the melody, and her bubblegum pop vocal delivery, contrasting with Henry’s spacey spiralling guitar psychedelia. The band is unbelievably tight and together, speeding up and slowing down like a car in a video game. Sid veers from drum rolls to smashing cymbals to hitting cowbells that take the song on a funky detour before it returns to that juicy bass melody. “Ta very much,” says Henry. “This is a single from a while ago. Time’s gone very weird this year.” The single is ‘I Only Bought It For The Bottle’, a scintillating tune carried by vocals from Sid and Esme, whose descending bass arpeggios are given extra percussive bite by Henry’s temporary switch from riffing guitar to cracking a cowbell. 

‘Joey Says…’ starts with huge reverb on Henry’s guitar, which turns to deliciously tingling riffs while Esme’s bouncing bass thumps the small crowd in the solar plexus. “Maybe we can’t paint something — an abstract picture that explains all of our feelings,” she sings with honey in her voice. They all sing on ‘48%’, a sonic wall that breaks down into just bass and percussion, with a gentle strum of the guitar, before racing off in double time. Sid’s drumming is like a cavalry charge, backing up Esme’s bass attack while Henry’s guitar carries out flanking moves.

Henry flags ‘Liminal Spaces’ as a slow one (70bpm), encouraging punters to grab a partner for the  country and western waltz, blended with jazzy drums and psych guitar, which runs straight through to the faster ‘Mango’, all three again on vocals as they rock out to a spacey twang. Two more singles end the set energetically at The Old Blue Last — the inscrutable ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’, with its joyful Buzzcocks-style pop-punk guitaring, and one of the most brilliant tracks of the decade, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’. 

They say it’s more than a song. It’s more than just lots of songs mashed together; it’s epic. It’s a huge eight-minute space-rock beast that takes in ska, metal, funk, garage, several changes in time signature, cinematic references, a false ending and insanely good tunesmithery. Esme and Sid give it a big low end, the heavy bass at times reminiscent of Peter Hook as it keeps the coiling and winding track together. Sid’s cowbell percussion picks up on guitar riffs allowing Henry to shred anew. Esme’s voice soars almost disengaged above the tightly controlled monster. It’s hard to believe there’s just one guitar in Henry’s hands — how does he generate such colossal oceans of sound? The final bursts of speeding surf rock give way repeatedly to a recognisable heavy groove, like a living, breathing animal. ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ is an awesome way to end the set and it’s impossible to think of any other band that could pull it off.

The Orielles setlist at The Old Blue Last (21st November):
Snaps
Hiraeth
I Only Bought It for the Bottle
Joey Says We Got It
48 Percent
Liminal Spaces
Mango
Let Your Dogtooth Grow
Sugar Tastes Like Salt

The Orielles setlist at The Lexington (1st November):
Snaps
Hiraeth
I Only Bought It for the Bottle
Henry’s Pocket
Joey Says We Got It
48 Percent
Liminal Spaces
Mango
Let Your Dogtooth Grow
Jobin
Sugar Tastes Like Salt

The Orielles picture gallery from The Lexington (1st November)

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