It’s rare to find a truly immersive experience in music that strikes a balance between credible musical longevity and pure entertainment. Too proggy and I struggle to make it though the indulgent twiddly bits without my hand straying towards the ‘next track’ button. Too much ‘ambient’ sounds in place of musical talent can leave things too swamped in cheese. What a treat, then, to stumble across Ortega’s 1634 – an album which until now has been harder to find than a Somalian satanic black metal band. Initially released more than two years ago with just 100 copies, it’s back again with less elaborate packaging but destined for a wider audience.
Broadly speaking, we’re talking doom, some might say post doom, with mildly gothic influences and maybe some sludgy rock elements (in parts it even reminded me a little of Baroness’ recent Yellow & Green). The end product is a hypnotic opus which has left my CD review in tray piling up while I struggle with my growing Ortega addiction. Broadly based around an oceanic voyage and shipwreck the album’s lack of availability has caused quite a stir in the underground. Over the past two years it’s had its limited release extended first, and rather oddly, as a cassette last year and then as a download.
The use of other musical instruments like the drifting violins and plenty of repetition feeds into the feeling of undulating waves and the endless sea. These Dutch hypnotists sail through plenty of other genres but the submersive, almost psychedelic soundscape effects they conjure more reminded me of deep funeral doom or drone music than those bands which it is more obviously drawing upon.Isisor Neurosis are easy comparison albeit, dare I say it without it sounding like a criticism – which it isn’t – somewhat more accessible. It’s the cohesiveness and the confident signature which impresses as much as anything else and in that it’s not unlike Mastodon or Opeth.
As for the theme of the album, well, some clever spark, who obviously spends more time on the internet than I do, pointed out that Captain Ortega was a character in a 1980s cartoon, a Spanish sailor, who in 1634 was attacked, shipwrecked and days later came across some tiny creatures called the Snorks – a bit like an underwater Smurf. A little too weird not to be a coincidence. But then just a little too weird full-stop.
Either way 1634 is all too good to miss, superb, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I suggest a double dose of brandy, rum or whatever else takes your fancy, settle yourself in a quiet room with the lights turned down low and prepare for the voyage.
(9/10 Reverend Darkstanley)