‘Scene to Scene’ – LP – Out Now
Scene to Scene, the new LP from New York, NY songwriter Josh Allen can be a bit disorienting on first blush. Sheets of buzzing texture shift in and out of focus, while plaintive vocals pierce the veil and plunge straight to the heart of vulnerable humanity.
You could call it a concept album, but Oblivion Orchestra’s writer, singer, arranger and only member Allen might bristle at the term. Less a concept and more an act of creative necessity, it is still the case that the only instrument played on the record beyond one guitar and voice is cello. Yet, that one instrument is broken fully out of preconceived notions of its sound. Each track on Scene to Scene features layers upon layers of the cello, sometimes up to twenty or more; strummed, screeched, run through reverbs, knocked on, bowed and manipulated, weaving their way around the stark core of each song.
While working as a film composer and sound designer, the cello first came to Allen through a documentary film. ‘I was asked to score a documentary, and when they sent me the temp music, it was all cello” he explains. “I couldn’t play cello, and, because of that, I developed this way of working where I layer different performances together, running the signal through an old guitar amp. Eventually it took on a sound all its own.”
Forcing himself to work with these self-imposed constraints proved an inspiration. The layering and listening required in sound design, the way that music and the different textures of ambient sound wrap around the dialogue in a film, has had a profound effect on Allen’s approach to his original music. “I did break the rules a couple of times, though” he admits. “There is an occasional tambourine, or a shaker. On one track two bottles clink together.” Allen recorded the songs quickly, while still brand new to him, sometimes while the ink was still drying on the last lyrics.
Written and recorded at his home in Manhattan, Allen began each track by framing out the core of what, arguably, are indie folk tunes. As the cello textures swirled into the mix, the songs began to swing and sway, the focus becoming deeply blurred at times, and then intensely sharpened, sometimes within a single line. Once the tracking was complete, Allen enlisted Alan Weatherhead (MaryTimony, Sparklehorse) to master the record.
The process of creating Scene to Scene was both courage and cathartic for Allen, at turns satisfying and stupefying. “Lyrically, I suppose it’s an introspective record, but that introspection can get a bit foggy sometimes” says Allen. “I don’t think I can explain it really. I was thinking about making a record where things come in and out of focus… for the singer, and for the listener. Between being blurry and being clear, or maybe between conscious and unconscious. How would it sound, if the singer himself is trying to find his way among his own stories?”