Album Reviews: Sarah Oreggio – Kaleidoscopic Rain (EP) (2011)

This is something of a departure for me as I don’t normally get involved in the reviewing of singles or EP’s as there are just too many of them about, but as this one came with a pretty heavyweight recommendation from someone who had best remain unnamed I thought I’d make an exception. Given that it also clocks in at a healthily respectable 20 minutes, just 12 minutes shorter than a full length album I recieved from a well known band on the same day I’m classing it more as a mini album …….remember them ……. than an EP anyway.

One of the first things that hits you about “Kaleidoscopic Rain” is that it is not at all what you would expect from the packaging. A wistful looking Oreggio looks out at you on the back cover, barefoot and leaning against her guitar giving you an impression that what you are about to hear is all dreamy folky melodies, chocolate box lyrics and a gentle acoustic backing. Well, the tracks may be primarily acoustically driven but all thoughts of nice gentle ballads are blown straight out of the window within the first thirty seconds of the opening track ‘Siren’. A hard edged acoustic guitar that sounds as though it is being played with more than a little venom launches a power pop riff with a driving and infectious melody and chorus. Lyrically this is no ‘safe track for auntie’ either with its blood stained ballerina dresses and shoes. It really is difficult to put across in print just how powerful the track is. My only criticism would be that in places it may just be a little too fast and the acoustic guitar sound is a little harsh and too high in the mix making it difficult to catch all the lyrics without repeated listens. Not that repeated listens is a bad thing. The electric guitar solo is a nice touch as well and with a slight remix it is the sort of song I could imagine getting a lot of mainstream airplay. ‘Hologram’ starts with a more staccato beat and is far slower than the opener. This gives Oreggio a chance to display the gentler side of her voice before the song builds into something much more akin to the opener. However, unlike ‘Siren’ which was all powerpop singles chart material ‘Hologram’ is a far more structured peice and has the feel of an album track ….. and one from a far more experienced performer to boot. ‘Harlequin’ is far closer to what you would expect from the cover and again has radio airplay and single material written all over it. A clever use of pace gives the track a great feel and it is one of those stick in your head songs. Again I would have liked the vocal higher in the mix and the acoustic riffing a little lower with less of the harshness. For some reason ‘Radar’ puts me in mind of “Ray of Light” era Madonna in structure and tempo. It is a total departure from the opening three tracks and gives a better insight to Oreggio’s phrasing and lyrical ability as the vocal is crystaline clear. The only downside for me are the slightly irritating synth effects and programming. The final track ‘Where We Collide’ sort of marries all the tempo’s and structures of the preceding songs into one great finale and would, like the earlier ‘Hologram’, not be out of place as an album track on a far more experienced performers album.

“Kaleidoscopic Rain” is a fine debut for a performer who belies her tender years with some clever lyrics and infectious melodies. Her songwriting ability is already without question for me from the tracks offered on here and whilst it is always difficult to evaluate a performer on such a small amount of material there is definately enough promise here to make the thought of a full length album something to look forward to. Especially if the harshness of the acoustic guitar is toned down a bit.

Oreggio is quite obviously going to be compared to the likes of Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos but frankly those comparisons don’t do her justice. She is far more accesible than the quirky and at times frustrating Amos and would appear from this initial offering to have far more lyrical depth than the disappointing Morrisette. I am put more in mind of Chantal Kreviazuk, especially her debut album ‘Under These Rocks and Stones’ than either Amos or Morrisette. There is the same controlled angst and power on here as on that Kreviazuk album and similarly it has the catchy commercial edge too. ‘Harlequin’ would be the best example and there are even slight similarities in the two performers vocal styles. Structurally some of the arrangements nod in the direction of Heather Nova for me. High praise indeed. Yes there are flaws here, her voice is still not the finished article and you wouldn’t expect it to be….. but the main ingredients are there and Oreggio obviously has an ear for a good catchy melody and a clever mind lyrically. If she manages to get the right handling, one that offers guidance and opinion to hone her undoubted talents rather than being chanelled into a manufactured act then the future for Sarah Oreggio should be very bright indeed …. kaleidoscopic even.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM September 2011

About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
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