AMN Reviews: Orca, Attack! – C.M.S.O. (Learning by Listening Vol. 1) (2021; Strategic Tape Reserve)

Orca, Attack! (is that a description or a command?) is the duo of Elizabeth Joan Kelly and David Rodriguez. This EP-length offering is perhaps described best by Kelly herself as “an educational album inspired by spoken word, library music, and the electronic works of Raymond Scott” from “a New Orleans-based electronic-swamp-rock-meets-space-opera-and-folk band.” If that sounds just a little bit weird, you might want to try Kelly’s previous release Farewell, Doomed Planet! With that context, her efforts here with Rodriguez might not be as surprising.

The pieces of C.M.S.O. (Learning by Listening Vol. 1) are titled not unlike that of an academic paper (Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, etc.) and feature heavily processed spoken-word elements and singing over electronic / synthetic percussion and keyboard work. The overall feel is space-age, cosmic, and more than a little strange. Lyrically, the album can be difficult to follow due to the aforementioned processing, but it seems to focus on socio-technological issues from a scholarly point of view, or what Kelly and Rodriguez call Course Management System Optimization.

The coupling of these topics with abstract modern classical and electronics is unique as far as I can tell. And this degree of quirky novelty is certainly in line with Kelly’s previous release. After a few listens, I am not sure what I learned but I do feel a little smarter.

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