‘Tuned In’ review: Orbe playfully reigns over ‘Invisible Kingdoms’

'Invisible Kingdoms' by orbe orbe

"Invisible Kingdoms" by orbe orbe

You might never know what Cristina Orbe is getting at on “Invisible Kingdoms,” and if that bothers you, chances are you’ll be frustrated by the new release from her act orbe orbe.

Orbe is a New York native who freed herself from television and moved to Seattle in 2001, eventually becoming a spoken-word poet and activist for food justice. So she’s swimming outside the mainstream.

“Invisible Kingdoms,” a first-time orbe orbe collaboration with producer/engineer Jahon Mikal, is a wild half-hour of whimsical mayhem available through digital download and on vinyl. It almost goes without saying the release is self-consciously eccentric and by extension a bit self-important. Yet more than anything, it’s playful and unusual.

Orbe is a vocal maelstrom, talking and vamping through lyrics that occasionally land on great lines, such as, “If she says nothing, it doesn’t mean she has nothing to say” (on the track “Circus Star”) and, “You came on strong, like dime-store man cologne” (“Parasol”). She also brushes on more existential matters, declaring, “This mirror won’t let me in” (“Let Me In”) and, “We’re figuring out who we are” (“Instead”).

Mikal amps up the excitement as he bounces the sound through carnivalistic romp, punk chaos, dark cabaret and electronica theater. He keeps Orbe on her toes, though she keeps up, starring in the exotica-for-fairies “Lady Bug,” funneling the propulsive Daft Punk-esque dance energy of “Wait’ and hammering down the dreamy, cartoonish foundation of “Orangutan.”

Orbe and Mikal take it home with the ragtime-like, springy jaunt of “Winner,” where the vocalist closes with the refrain, “There’s nothing left to talk about.”

This is performance art of the playful kind; searching for conventional meaning is counterproductive.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

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