VEHLINGGO PREMIERE: OGRE’s Compelling ‘Calico Noir’

Photo Credit: Faye Simms.
Photo Credit: Faye Simms.

Vehlinggo is proud to premiere retrosynth powerhouse OGRE’s new album, Calico Noir, a compelling synthwave score inspired by the films of famed director Michael Mann. 

OGRE — a talented UK-based musician known for his scores-to-films-that-don’t-exist and other successful synthesizer experiments —placed number five on Vehlinggo’s Top 15 EPs of 2015 with his galactic, arp-laden Gradients Live. He followed that up with All Hallows’, a haunting collaboration with Dallas Campbell that more often than not recalled the horror soundtracks of John Carpenter or more modern projects like Johnny Jewel’s Symmetry.

As he has in the past, OGRE kicked off production of Calico Noir with a “VHS-box synopsis,” which he used as a point of reference for crafting the entire record.

Here’s the one he used:

Hired as a freelancer by his old employer, the FBI, psychological profiler Jerome Bishop must piece together the most labyrinthine case he’s ever faced. After years of compulsory retirement, his world erupts in violence — a series of ritualistic murders, a wave of panic and fear. When every clue is a dead-end, every crime scene as cold as its victims, Bishop must go beyond fear and reason to delve into the mindset of a most insidious killer. Violent, thrilling, hardboiled explosive action. Nothing is darker than…Calico Noir.”

Check out the new album below before its Feb. 22 release:

Visualizations

OGRE wrote the album a year ago over a period of about two months. During that time, he had video footage as inspiration, he said.

“I’m pretty visually orientated when it comes to writing music,” he said. “I’ll often leave some footage on, or make a mood-board to reference whilst I work, and generate ideas from that.”

Calico Noir’s board looked a lot like he was deeply invested in solving some ongoing criminal spree, which was a good thing for OGRE. He believes that to write a good concept album, especially a filmless film score, requires getting into the right headspace.   

“It’s a bit like method acting for musicians, probably — totally immersing yourself in the subject matter,” OGRE says. “Hopefully, I’m wearing Mann’s Manhunter influence on my sleeves.” He noted that by strange coincidence that film is getting a Blu-ray re-release contemporary to Calico Noir.

“I think Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series also informed the direction,” OGRE says. “It’s a strikingly visceral and visual show — and I feel it’s a successor to where Mann left off in many ways.”

There are also nods on Calico Noir to Mann films like 1981’s Thief and 1983’s The Keep, and all things Tangerine Dream. But OGRE also tapped into the first Calico-coined album for inspiration, he said, noting he made sure not to be too meta with the Calico Brawn references.

“It’s all about capturing and steering that noir-thriller vibe in new directions,” he said.

Production Aficionados Take Note

During the writing process, OGRE mainly worked with hardware synths, he said. He composed the bulk of the record on a Korg Mono/Poly from 1983.

That synth was very kindly given to me by Craig Connor of Rockstar Games fame, and it was used on the early Grand Theft Auto games and Manhunt scores,” he said. “I love to write on it, because I feel it has a pedigree, and an awful lot of history. It’s an immensely versatile instrument with a very wide palette, and is just so inspiring to use. It also sounds amazing, so the most of what you hear on the album was recorded with it.”

The album also has “a lot of paraphonic string action, courtesy of a Crumar string machine, and a Moog Satellite through an ensemble chorus that sort of sum up that pre-MIDI 80s film-score sound.” There are also some digital rack-mount romplers and a Yamaha TX81Z “for those FM synth moments.”

Another production technique was a reliance on a boat-load of microphones. For example, he pieced together the three “Crime Scene Reconstruction” songs on the record from percussion and “found sounds” that he processed.

“The highlight for me is probably a pad sound made from a 12-inch triangle I got in [a] house clearance early last year which belonged to a sadly late, but much celebrated, jazz drummer,” OGRE says. “It’s a great bit of audio curio anyway, as it doesn’t really sound like most triangles I’ve ever encountered. The drummer had acquired it in the 80s too, so it’s wonderfully synchronistic.”

He recorded the triangle binaurally — an occasional experiment of his that ends up creating what he says is a “hyper-real” 3D sound from simple stereo playback, “but when I processed it and spliced it as a tape loop it really showed its potential for eeriness.”

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