Orchard Thief: “4 New Songs” Review

Local experimental musician Orchard Thief (Sam Molstad) recently sent over a link to his newest set of tunes, along with a cryptic reference to them being “jammier” than his past work.  And jammier they are – though not in the traditional sense you might think (at least the word for me generally connotes endlessly noodling hippie guitarists).   The new material, simply titled 4 New Songs, is expansive and wandering (longest tune clocks in at over 12 minutes) but it is also stark, minimal, and ominously brooding.  It’s also, I think, Molstad’s most impressive work to date.

While 4 New Songs has a psychedelic heart of darkness at its core, it begins innocuously enough with “Gribble Grobble’s” sparse ambient drone punctuated by the occasional guitar chord or tittered drum pattern.  “Gribble” soon gives way to “SpaceDetective/WeedBrownie/DadsaPunk,” which sounds a bit like what Brian Eno’s nightmares might sound like if he were haunted by the ghost of Jimi Hendrix.  It’s all moody acid-funk guitar curdling in a desolate sea of drone, eventually turning into a more rhythm focused piece as sporadic drum parts are added in in addition to various noise elements.  The tune floats along hypnotically for eleven-plus minutes until the equally weird “Bunny Found the Door,” begins its own epic druggy journey.

“Bunny” begins with a sort of Blaxploitation guitar groove that showcases Molstad’s impressive chops.  The song’s relatively upbeat beginning though is deceptive – at around the five minute mark the funk drops away completely into a free-floating cloud of ambient sounds – the pitter patter of high hat’s here, flute/string samples there – it’s a bit of a surreal waiting room for the song’s bass-driven back half.  And when said back half kicks in the tune again gains steam, finishing with a thrusting funk groove that evokes strains of Are You Experienced.

“Dye Phases” finishes the collection out on a solemn note with four minutes of textured ambient drone that’s accented by a very pretty repeated series of guitar notes.  With the two short tracks bookending a couple of length psychedelic opuses, Molstad’s 4 New Songs makes for a pretty nicely done package.  It gently draws you in before exposing you to the hallucinogens, and then provides a chill antidote to benignly draw you back out of the trance.  Molstad continues to impress, despite the fact that he’s still a young artist, and I have a feeling that he is far from finished yet.

— Jon Behm

Orchard Thief

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