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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Orange The Juice

Orange The Juice – The Drug Of Choice (CD/DVD, For Tune, 2014) ***½ 

 Orange The Juice - The Messiah is Back (Self Produced, 2014) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

The Polish sextet Orange The Juice redefines the concept of eclecticism. This group is not only genre-blind, but its hyperactive post-modernist aesthetics transforms each of its pieces into a colorful pastiche of colors, dynamics and moods. The group that began working in 2005 can blend what may sound as conflicting, even alienating elements, as surf music with metal, angelic choir singing with aggressive free improvisation, often in the same music sentence, moving organically between styles in lighting speed and millisecond precision.

Orange The Juice is not shy from stressing its obvious influences. The dark sense of humor of Frank Zappa bands, the references to John Zorn work - the concise, tightly dense sonic mayhem of Naked city; lead vocalist Konrad Zawadzki performs with the same manic intensity of Naked City guest vocalist, Yamatsukea Eye, and gifted with charismatic theatrical personality similar to the one of another Zorn associate, Mike Patton; sax player Mariusz Godzina even quotes some of Zorn sax licks when he plays the alto sax; and guitarist David Lewandowski sound owes much to Marc Ribot sound in Zorn’s The Dreamers and Electric Masada. But Orange The Juice musical stew by no means an updated replica of Zorn’s bands. There are many more ingredients in its musical stew, from atmospheric prog-rock to intoxicating Balkan brass band songs, jumping between a mockery of the apocalyptic nightmares of death metal bands as fellow Polish Behemoth to festive ska anthems, Chopinesque keyboard intervals and electronic, lounge-techno beats, spicing it with a disturbing fascination with the Daleks, the notorious extraterrestrial mutants from the TV science-fiction series Doctor Who.

The Drug of Choice is the group first live recording. It is a double Disc/DVD that documents the group performance in Teatr Rozmaitości in Warsaw in October 2012, augmented with three horn players (on most of the songs but excel on moving, poetic arrangement of “Sabat Mater”) and the Voice of Poland finalist Ida Zalewska (on the schizophrenic soul-metal “I Was Wrong”). If one can not experience this group alive, the best alternative is to watch it perform on the almost 80-minutes DVD (the set list is identical to the disc), showing the group as photographed by seven cameramen. The limited-edition (comes with a special cover full with Polish toffee candies) The Messiah is Back is another live recording, this time in the band hometown Stalowa Wola, again with guests, among them sax player Maciej Obara, Zalewska and the local Cantus Choir. It feature the same songs (except the brief “A body without A Head” and a hidden instrumental, loungey bonus track) in similar yet expanded arrangements.

These two live recordings take the listener/watcher into a joyful roller coaster ride. Orange The Juice is a group that feels natural on stage, before an audience, often one that can or does not expect its full palette of sounds, Only on stage the group full potential is realized. The reckless energy, wild intensity, impressive sense of drama, the commanding technical skills of all group musicians and fascinating stage presence of frontman Zawadzki (who seem as totally possessed by higher powers) justify the immediate invitation of this fascinating group to any major rock or jazz festival.