When you think about, it is surprising that so few modern musicians of note have drawn motivation and purpose from Dante and his ever relevant inferno. Some darker metal bands have, of course, used their guttural invocations to attempt entry into Hell but, as everyone knows that the Devil has all the best tunes, they were never actually going to get by door security. The ever intellectual Franz Liszt, on the other hand, did successfully apply the symphonic structure to his interpretation of the literary version of purgatory and Ela Orleans takes a similarly considered approach with her album “Upper Hell”.
This album is, however, no mere product in worship of the dark arts and Ms. Orleans’ precisely structured compositions, although clearly comparable to classical forms, seem driven by a certain minimalism as if she were imagining what Ruth White would do with the 23rd psalm. Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprising given that upper hell is traditionally reserved for sins of passion, there is considerable warmth here with these eight connected songs being neither black or grey but flashes of colour that forever point the listener towards the path to redemption. You might even, in that context, consider “The Sky and the Ghost” the devotional marching song of the set.
Ever literate, Ms. Orleans orchestrates her intellect in pursuit of the truths of modern existence and finds her answers in distinctly cohesive musical form. Is it Heaven or Hell on earth? Is it fantasy or reality television? All together or all alone? Truth or dare and, while we are playing this game, do androids really dream of electric sheep?
Even electronic music can have soul. It can even make you think. “Upper Hell” is the proof.