Orange the Juice – The Messiah is Back

Konrad Zawadzki (vocals, sounds, noise)cover
Dawid Lewandowski (guitar, vocal, sounds)
Marcin Jadach (bass, double bass)
Anek Kiedrzyński (drums)
Marcin A. Steczkowski (keyboard, trumpet, sounds)
Mariusz Godzina (saxophones)
Guests: Ida Zalewska, Maciej Obara, Erwin Żebro, Maciej Kosztyła, Marcin Taras, Paweł Gielareck, The Cantus Choir of Stalow Wola

Romanian Beach
Summer Sea
The Message
A Body Without A Head
Report
Blame
I Was Wrong

Stalowa Wola and Warszawa 2014

Let’s face it, any band that includes “noise” and “sounds” in its listed instrumentation is making a good first impression with me. And just to give you the headlines (or spoil the surprise, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty) I like this album. I like it a lot. It’s not an easy listen. It’s not the best choice of aural wallpaper for your next polite dinner party. In fact, it’s an often discombobulating sonic experience. Which is probably why I like it so much…

OtheJ packagingFirst, the packaging. There’s an exquisite attention to detail: a red pyramid contains the CD and six pieces of what turns out to be fudge (sweet, rich, yielding, it’s everything fudge should be). The CD sleeve looks like a wedding invitation – all thick creamy paper and gold print – with added blood-stained fingerprints (nice – if this particular Messiah is the one from the wedding at Cana, he’s clearly not interested in water-into-wine this time around) and is wrapped in a band which reads, “If there is a gaping hole where there should be a soul, you mean nothing at all and it all means nothing, we mean nothing.” A little grim, but thought-provoking nonetheless.

However, that’s not the best nor the most quotable quirky message from the sleeve. On the back cover, in the small print: “All rights reserved. We’re a fucking nonprofit. Except we got no government entity watching our backs. Thanks for buying this CD. You’ve just made another Orange the Juice record a possibility. Should you decide to recommend TMIB to someone, please ask them to pay for so we don’t die prematurely. Thanks.”
The disc isn’t even in the player and it’s clear that this band as attitude, principles and balls to spare.

This album is kind of a 50-odd minute history of popular (and not-so-popular) music with its cut’n’paste rapid-fire approach. This is sonic collage at its best. A lot of people have namechecked Zappa when talking about Orange the Juice, and while I see where they’re coming from, I’d veer more towards Zorn’s “Naked City” for its rapid mood, tempo and genre changes.

We leap unerringly from hardcore to 80s funk-pop to soul-lounge to carnival-esque interludes and thrash punctuation… and that’s just the first track, Romanian Beach. If anything, the following Summer Sea is even more eclectic, adding western saloon piano, soothing ambient, and circus oom-pah ska to the mix. From googling about, I get the impression that these tracks represent what the band has been known for since their first album – “You Name It” in 2008. From The Message onwards, we settle down a tiny bit little stylistically; the opening jazz-y, almost Blue Note, guitar riff gives way to a song that could just about be labelled ‘soul jazz’… well, until the 4½-minute mark and then it’s violence all the way. The intermission of A Body Without a Head seems to start with a children’s chorus (I swear they’re singing backwards) before a crackling segue into the blues-jazz intro of Report which becomes an extended workout with mellow sax, electric piano, sampled vocals, tape manipulation, slow doom riffs, and 60s cop movie soundtrack motifs. Blame maintains a louche sci-fi vibe before succumbing to distorted guitar and perky trumpets (if that sounds odd, it’s because it is, nicely so). And with a sense of relief (it’s a wonderful listening experience but a strenuous one) we arrive at the final track I Was Wrong, which is a mere third of an hour long and seeks to re-immerse us in every mood so far, and more.

So… I like the energy, I like the attitude, I like the music and I like the philosophy – Orange the Juice is creative, insistent, unexpected, and relentless. With hardcore vocal yelling, 70s soul, musique concrete scratchings and found sounds, metal/death/doom riffing, pop relaxation, free jazz and Ayler-ish improvisation, blues picking, and electronica… “The Messiah is Back” is strong meat, but if you can take it, I promise you’ll enjoy its pungent charms.

Worth noting is that Orange the Juice also have a live album, “The Drug of Choice” released around the same time. It has most of the same tracks as “The Messiah is Back”, but also a slew of others, presumably from the previous album.

If anything, the energy is ramped even higher and the first two minutes give you a nutshell introduction: Facing the Monsters starts with a spooky, don’t-go-down-to-the-cellar keyboard tone, slowly rising in volume until there’s a sudden death/noise/metal explosion before the cacophony ceases and we segue directly into the jolly fairy-tale intro of Cradle to the Grave (soon to be replaced with fractured heavy metal riffing). And so on…

Check out the trailer below which starts with some ferocious free jazz noise (makes you wait for it, though…) and then runs the gamut of the band’s live stylings – impressive, a little bit scary, and by the look of it, a fairly irresistible experience.

(You can find “The Messiah is Back” at a perfectly reasonable price on Bandcamp.)

http://www.orangethejuice.com