Ormonde are Anna-Lynne Williams (Trespassers William/Lotte Kestner) and Robert Gomez, and Cartographer/Explorer is the Seattle band’s second album, following on from 2012’s Machine which garnered keen praise on both sides of the Atlantic for its delicate acoustic songwriting. Individually, the two members of Ormonde have impressive CVs: Williams toured with Damien Rice, Feist, Broken Social Scene and Explosions in the Sky during her time in Trespassers William (Nettwerk Records) and also co-wrote and sang Hold Tight London on Chemical Brothers’ Push the Button album. Gomez is a respected producer/multi-instrumentalist who has worked with John Grant, Centro-matic and Sarah Jaffe and was previously signed to Bella Union. Ormonde, however, is where the two locate their shared vision, and it’s a spellbinding place to spend some time.
In contrast to the debut album, Cartographer/Explorer is a much more ambitious affair. Primarily written and recorded in an immersive two week period, the songs have a late-night, narcotic quality. They frequently centre themselves around repeating guitar or organ/synth phrases and passages, slowly spinning out captivating webs of sound. Williams concentrates on her words and singing, whereas Gomez provides the lion’s share of the instrumentation, incorporating beats and processed drums into the mix, submerging them under liberal reverb and effects. Gomez himself takes lead vocals on four of the album’s ten songs – with the purity of Williams’ voice winding around his slurred, somewhat sinister tones – with A Grand Design being a perfect example of how the combination of their voices, together and separate, is one of the album’s strongest features.
It perhaps comes as little surprise that Ormonde spent time watching the second series of Twin Peaks during recording. There’s a similar fascination with the undercurrents of love, death, and trust, and the anxiety of whether our interactions with others are harmonious or destructive. The small moments that come to define us over time, a story unravelling: “After you go, I rest my eyes, it’s like they’ve been walking out in storms“ as Williams sings in Paintings, against a backdrop of Gomez’s Morricone-style twanging guitar and reverberant percussion. An entire world barely hinted at in just a few words.
Ultimately,Cartographer/Explorer is a wonderful album, compelling in its subtle moves, finding its own sweet way as only the best records do.