From the first few piano chords of “Tides and Shadows”, you know you’re in for something different with Ela Orleans’ side of Double Feature. But once “Neverend” kicks in, you realize just how different it is. The steamy, chugging backing music creates a miasma for Ela’s Trish Keenan-evoking vocals to float through. Very much like a lo-fi Nico, the music soars and swells while the voice is inescapable, giving the six songs on Ela Orleans’ side a very cinematic feel, complete with piano interludes. It’s the aura of the tunes and the strength of the music paired with the singing that make Ela stand out from her peers and foremothers. As an artist, she really only has one contemporary who could be considered a counterpart. And after six songs, Dirty Beaches provides the perfect partner.
I’d say it’s smart to have the Ela Orleans half of the album come first. It sets up a new, strong voice (some pun intended) and follows it up with something equally as strong, but much more familiar. Not just because Dirty Beaches’ Suicide-redux is more well known as a musical entity, but because as haunting and hissy and occasionally rollicking (as on the opener “God Speed”) Dirty Beaches can be, and are on their six songs, they’re playing with themes and sounds you’ve heard before. The latter half of the split is less likely to surprise, but if you’re already a fan, you’ll be more than satisfied as Alex Zhang Hungtai continues to hone his modern-day Alan Vega/Martin Rev sound.
Double Feature earns its title as it evokes two seedy, late-night films from a forgotten time in a parallel universe. And as a blueprint for what these two artist can create together, it works masterfully. Here’s hoping Ela and Alex get a little more collaborative on their next venture. That’s something I’d pay good money to see, or rather, hear. Check out “Neverend” by Ela Orleans below and buy the release at Night People.