If your soul needs a little tune-up to get it feeling clean and shiny again, pop on East Forest’s Orbits. Brimming with cool downtempo tunes and a healthy dose of laid-back spirituality, not to mention catchy keyboard licks and field recordings of frogs, this is a batch of gorgeously infectious work from Trevor Oswalt. Opening with “Code of Ten,” we get those frog sounds and a recitation of ten laws a friend of Oswalt’s lives by. (Said friend happens to be skateboard art legend Vernon Courtlandt Johnson.) In comes a light glitchy beat, a gentle ballad on piano, and vocal drops, and at less than a minute in, I believe you’ll be feeling pretty good. Chilled, anyway. (You can watch Oswalt perform this live at a TEDx talk here.) Although it may not quite be the word the artist would want applied to the work, Orbits is consistently charming, abounding with feel-good touches. Even the way the first track slips neatly into its followup, “Carry Water,” just feels right. “Toad Lick” is the track that first tossed “charming” into my head. It’s an upbeat tune and catchy beyond belief. Oswalt plays with an Asian influence that comes through in his keys. I know the instrument that I think it sounds like, I just can’t grab hold of the word—suffice to say it falls somewhere between music box, kalimba and koto. Meanwhile, violinist Kyleen King and cellist Amelia Bowler bring in their strings to lend the piece some flow-worthy fluidity. Oswalt packs an entire perfect sunny day into three and a half minutes. First time I heard it, I immediately played it again. “Talk the Talk” falls, for me, into the “ambient chamber music” category, a discrete trio of piano and strings with a classical feel. King and Oswalt share the lead as Bowler holds the low end. Field recordings of crickets and footsteps on a path offer a sense of place, then part the curtain and see us into the yogic cool of “Vyana Vayu.” In this I hear the breathy tones of a harmonium and the crisp snap of tabla. When this winds down to a quiet passage where the strings take the reins, I find myself very aware of my breathing, and then comes the realization that Oswalt has gently led me to the next track. The flow between songs—and, really, between musical sensations—is perfectly handed on Orbits. No bumps, no surprises, just flow. It’s one big, groove-loaded meditation session where the mantra unobtrusively suggests you just relax, chill, and feel. (There’s a soul-stirring vocal passage in “Choices” that has more than once brought me near tears, truthfully.) Twelve tracks bring you up to just short of an hour, and it’s one mighty fine hour of listening. I’ve left this one looping over and over, just feeling better and better. A stunning collection from East Forest.
Available at the East Forest web site.