Into the Uncanny Valley


After playing together for nearly a year, Chicago alternative rockers Orange Element feel that they’re nailing down their sound. The five piece will be releasing their double-single across all platforms Friday, 12/8. Both songs, ‘Uncanny Valley’ and ‘Concrete Floor,’ were recorded, mixed, and mastered by Mystery Street senior engineer, Mickey Cushing, and showcase the band’s willingness to experiment with various influences and ideas. 

Behind the Tracks

Orange Element says that ‘Uncanny Valley’ initially started as a joke; guitarist-keyboardist Charlie Ambrose’s stories about AI and its inescapability at work inspired the lyrics. “We wanted to capture the uneasy feeling of this gray-zone we’re approaching with technology, where humans are almost playing God,” says guitarist Charlie Boyle. Held down by Dylan Johnson’s heavy bass riff, ‘Uncanny Valley’ features a long instrumental intro that immediately spoke to Mickey.

“The intro is all about controlled chaos. I knew I wanted to play around with room mics on the guitar amps,” he says. “We ended up trimming the intro in length, but layering microphones and effects to make it sound as big as possible.” The instrumental parts for “Uncanny Valley” are also nearly all original. Live-tracked drum, bass, and guitar parts bring tremendous energy to the finished mix.

‘Concrete Floor’ strikes the same balance of ethereal and hard-hitting as ‘Uncanny Valley.’ “That song had a lot of moving parts that took a while to hash out, but we ended up with a dreamy, more open and melodic verse and then it cuts to a very aggressive, abrupt change for the chorus,” says the band. Both songs display unconventional song structures, tasteful use of effects pedals, and Caleb Gracyalny’s powerhouse vocals.

While drummer Jerad Glore broadly describes Orange Element’s sound as alternative, the group blends elements of psychedelic rock, and 90s indie and grunge with synth sounds and tongue-in-cheek references like ‘Concrete Floor’s western-y bridge. “Most of the time, things will start with a bass or guitar riff. Sometimes a song will be a complete idea by the time it reaches everyone, but more often it’s collaborative,” says the group. “Our process is always evolving, but working through partial ideas together really helped us figure out our sound.”

Rehearsals to Records

Like many MSRC recording clients, Orange Element started off as a rehearsal client. “We were looking for a convenient practice space and just took to the friendly, local vibe of Mystery Street,” they say. “Studios can actually be some of the most clinical, un-creative environments for artists. But the ambience and amenities of Mystery Street really works for DIY groups like us.” Studio C in particular is the band’s favorite practice space.

Catch Orange Element on Friday, 12/1 at 8:00 pm at Montrose Saloon and Saturday 12/2 at Archie’s Cafe 8:00 pm. Keep up with the band @orangeelementmusic on Instagram. Both ‘Uncanny Valley’ and ‘Concrete Floor’ will be available across all streaming platforms Friday 12/8.