Orion Rigel Dommisse is, tragically, not a musician who is well known. Her music is imaginative and creepy, both beautiful and unsettling, and each song spins its own elaborate web of mythology. From visceral tales of the vicious conditions encountered when leaving home to mournful ballads that offer her cello as a sacrificial lamb, Orion Rigel Dommisse plays the minstrel of the most macabre folklore she can muster. And muster she does, with a complexity and ruthlessness that belies her timid demeanor.
Take for example, Fake Yer Death, the very first song from her debut album, What I Want From You is Sweet (2007). The song’s first notes are so subtle, you could almost miss them. The simple string arrangement swells into a romantic and whimsical jaunt of a melody. Then a high, gentle voice sings, “Fake your death, if you need to avoid distractions from the living. You can make a body out of plaster, soaked in your own blood…” The song goes on to paint a morbid scheme that is plotted out in which two lovers rob graves to construct bodies in order to fake their deaths and be free to focus on their art.
It is the beginning of an album in which each song tells a different, though equally morose and creative, tale. The instrumentals combine with the lyrics to weave a tapestry of what alternates between powerful personal experience and mythical folklore. In one song, two young girls must relive the same dream, every night, where they must outwit a dragon when it comes for them. When they are awake, they debate if their bed is haunted. In another song, Dommisse, as a child, explains her mother’s death to another, younger child.
Dommisse doesn’t shy away from the darkly intense topics of her songs, but her voice and melodies juxtapose the gloom by adding a sense of beauty and wonder. It is through these conflicting feelings of darkness and light that Orion Rigel Dommisse acts as a minstrel of the macabre; a purveyor of folklore.
The title song of the second album, Chickens (2011), tells a detached but brutal account of farm life. Soft vocals gently croon the grotesque details of what starts as a harmless narrative but quickly morphs into the darkly pragmatic inner world of the narrator. Then, Dommisse injects a bit of her dark humor, singing, “I unhitched the trailer and pushed it towards a cave. It rolled down the hillside, killing raccoons on its way. Hey raccoons, I need some help. I can’t slow down this trailer by myself.” With this sarcastic line, she elevates the song to a place where it is safe to contemplate the disturbing without having to take it too seriously.
This is the genius of Dommisse’s art. She adds so many layers of contradiction to her music that it is easy to be swept away with one aspect before being taken completely by surprise when another crops up unannounced. It would be hard to enjoy fantasy or Gothic storytelling, or the Brothers Grimm, and not appreciate the talented bard found in Dommisse. Her instrumentation drives the mood, her lyrics tell the tale and her clever mind keeps her audience on their toes. Her vocal style hardly ventures beyond that of meek and mild and yet manages to maintain a commanding presence through the gravity of her words.
The video below is an example of her work. It is a live performance of Skinwalkers, off the album Chickens.
Here is another live performance, this time of two songs, Squirrels and Richard, also found on the album Chickens.
Music isn’t the only talent muscle that Dommisse flexes, however. She has demonstrated quite a bit of skill in animation as well. Here is a video of one of her projects, a music video featuring the song Suicide’s Kiss, from the album What I Want From You is Sweet.
Another example of her animation and video making skills, as well as a sample of Fake Yer Death, can be found in the video she made for her Kickstarter campaign. Very recently she has reach her goal in Kickstarter and is now fully funded to make her third album. At this point, one can only speculate as to what kind of macabre journey Orion Rigel Dommisse will bring with her third collection of folklore, but with two artful albums under her belt there is no doubt that this brooding minstrel will continue to impress.
By Vanessa Blanchard
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