There are times in your life where you don’t have a map, going through things like you just stumbled into something. And there are times where you are following a line plumbed to an exact measurement. You can be a follower of a map, or a maker of one, and you can explore at either time like there was all or none. What matters most is not that you reach your destination, but that you had fun along the way. That enjoyment, after all, stems back to the whole purpose of exploring.
With no context, ‘Cartographer’ still sounds mighty fine. The informed will know that cartography is the art of creating maps, and exploring those maps is the natural extension. It’s an apt title for the release, Anna Lynne-Williams and Robert Gomez travelling like an important phone call denied a receiver. On the “Horizon: Is Your Brain Male Or Female?” programme broadcast on 29th September 2014, discussion arose of the inner working of male and female brains and how they differ. If you look at the history of folk and pop with electronics from either gender, it becomes apparent that, like in this programme, environmental conditioning would play more of a role than actual neurological wiring. Kim Gordon in Sonic Youth, Siousxie And The Banshees, PJ Harvey, KD Lang — all these women have subverted cultural stereotypes and intentionally polarised the boy/girl divide that man/woman identification on mature records would develop.
It’s the same with Ormonde’s “Cartographer/Explorer”. The whimsical title cut “Explorer/Cartographer” reverses the wording and track/gender roles, the male side hinting “you can be cartographer”, “I can be explorer”, these themes interleaving themselves throughout the piece and the album in metanarrative terms. Quintessential and ruminative all at once, pensive and enchanting. The pencil outlining of acoustic folk as a softer lynchpin of masculinity and feminity, and the dissolution of male/female brain theory, conjoins into a huddled shape; husky lyricism and vocal range gives the music a realness, a timeless weight. It could be argued the lyricism has been honed by Ormonde’s time touring with reputable indie/post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky, John Grant and Feist.
“Threshold” is a gentle folk chug, while “Fast Forward” has a driving guitar groove not dissimilar from Zelienople’s “Give It Up” efforts. “Snake” and its “I had a dream” vocal overlay has a synthesiser line resembling Tears For Fears’ 80s pop classic “Mad World”, here decelerated into a slowcore curtain call. “Bled out” concludes the needle-breaker effect where bodily liquid leaks profusely from worn crevices of the production. An altogether maudlin vibe kept afloat by temperance in structure and pacing, standout track of the album, “Paintings” comes off as some deserted PJ Harvey piece of the 2009 era, shackled by frozen thaws from heavy clouds that hide the sun. It sounds like secrets are being kept, indeed, but the craic seems to be a wish to unattach from evil doctrines, merely lust looking for an answer from the siren of song. Williams and Gomez’ first record, “Machine”, garnered praise from critics worldwide and by the sounds of “Cartographer/Explorer”, this second should too.
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