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Ryan Peoples - vocals, guitars, synths, singing saw, programming
A commitment. An adventure. A journey. Peoples use these words all the time in relation to marriage, in vows and explanations and elegies. So, too, do husband and wife Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples of Atlanta's Oryx & Crake. Though, chances are they mean it in a totally different way.
"There's a beast in me/and I know you know this," Ryan sings on "Strange as You Are," the opener of the band's latest album, Marriage. But knowing and seeing are two different things entirely, and Oryx & Crake make hay of the tension that lies between the two loading on Patterson Hood's "duality of the Southern thing," abandoned religion and nods to more than one of the great post-apolcalyptic novels of our time for good measure. Ostensibly, Marriage is about commitment - in a broad sense, not just between romantic partners - but it's even bigger than that. Marriage is also about ambivalence.
For an album to tackle such big and slippery themes, it almost has to be cinematic, and in that regard, Oryx & Crake do not disappoint. Marriage displays the grandeur of Arcade Fire's finer moments with the lyrical and emotional heft of Sufjan Steven's more personal cuts. Tracks like "The World Will Take Care of Me" show off the group's range, beginning with nothing but a voice and a guitar and gradually sneaking in layer after layer of sound, creating a sense of something rich and organic, which permeates the album.
Crafted in the Goode-Peoples home over the course of four years (and blooming with little intimate Easter eggs, like a recording of their friends sining at a Christmas party, or the voices of the their children), Marriage sounds much bigger than the rooms it was made in. This is thanks in large part to strings form Matt Jarrard (cello) and Karyn Lu (violin), as well as Ryan's sound design tinkerings with audio both "found" around the house and created.
Such big sounds, themes and richness of detail could have made the record sag under its own weight. But Rebekah - who did her masters work in epics - helped give it structure in the well-worn fashion of the classics. The songs, like the epics, move in cycles - from the first blush of a thrilling new thing to the "underworld moment" of the "The Well"'s dirge-like crawl to the woozy singing saw and blistered toes of closer "The Road," which tips its hat at - who else? - Cormac McCarthy.
The album art. by Bo Bartlett, is the perfect visual representation of the multi-layered themes on Marriage. On the front, in "Car Crash", a couple embraces beside a crunched and overturned car, under an ochre sky. On the back is that painting's equal and not-quite-opposite, "A Miraculous Outcome." It's exactly the same scene, only now the sky is blue and fairly clear. It's "The Well" versus "The Road", two sides of a coin that will be familiar to anyone who's ever stuck it out - whatever "it" is.
It's not the kind of journey that looks great on TV. But it's an important one. Because it's real.
"Recorded in the home of band leaders Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples, the latest album by Atlanta’s Oryx & Crake has lofty ambitions sonically, taking great inspiration from such Canadian acts as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. However, the aptly titled Marriage remains refreshingly grounded throughout, the band’s lavish orchestral pop meshing with exuberant new wave influences. A fine example is the late-album track “Hold Hand for Dry Land”, which locks itself into a mighty groove, Moog synths and fun vocal “whoo”s accentuating that lively mood." -Adrien Begrand
"Oryx and Crake offer imaginative lyricism and interwoven harmonies that bleed together and produce an orchestra of delight."
"Oryx and Crake was about as compelling of an album as anything released in 2010. Just imagine what will happen once they manage to create a record that fits their own “coherent” vision. The future is bright for Oryx and Crake, and their chances to put Atlanta orchestral-pop on the map are even brighter."
"A cacophony opens Oryx and Crake's forthcoming album, Marriage (out in August). Accompanied only by the light strum of a guitar and ambient "ohs," Ryan Peoples' voice creates structure that sits atop chaos. It's a jarring opening salvo that demands a full investment. With Marriage. the group refines its avant-garde folk approach with a more realized foundation. The distance the group has come since 2010's self-titled debut is staggering. — SZ"
"Still, it wasn’t until yesterday when Oryx & Crake unveiled Marriage’s first single, “Hold Hands For Dry Land,” that everything crystallized and came together. Finally, evidence of new music was tangible, unedeniable. Picking up, to a large degree, where their debut left off, the track finds the band operating largely in their chamber pop comfort zone, while finding ample space to layer in new wrinkles. The brooding atmospherics that marked their debut have — for the moment, at least — subsided in favor of a buoyant groove and big hooks. The tone is more vibrant, the music more effusive and upbeat, although the overriding sense of melancholy continues to linger throughout. Overall, it’s an impressive start, a stirring return for a band hoping to make the leap to the next level."
The first time Ryan Peoples and Rebekah Goode-Peoples met, they were working together as teachers in the same classroom. Through that experience, they developed a relationship that’s become collaborative across disciplines ranging from parenting to their music partnership as Oryx and Crake’s front couple. Between their marriage, two kids and current careers, they’re constantly spinning life’s plates -working side-by-side to make it all work. But as they approach their fifth year together, it's clear music remains the tie that creatively binds them together.