The title of Orange the Juice’s 2008 debut album “You Name It” quite elegantly sums up the nature of the band. On the one hand, it neatly answers the inevitable “So what do they sound like?” question, and on the other it seemingly defies musos and critics alike to slap a convenient label on what this eclectic Polish ensemble are actually all about. Jazz, funk, indie, iounge, lounge, pop, electro, metal… somehow the band manage to stuff all of this and more into the seventeen and a half minute running time of their latest EP, “Romanian Beach”.
It’s safe to say that Orange the Juice’s sound is all but impossible to pin down, a complex and dizzying mishmash of genres, a collision between apparent stylistic opposites. There are elements of the sonic anarchism of Frank Zappa and maybe the barely controlled chaos of Mike Patton’s Mr Bungle here but ultimately, trying to pigeonhole the band is an exercise in futility. By the time you’ve managed to identify what you’re listening to, Orange the Juice have moved on to something altogether more weird and wonderful, a bit like a sort of musical Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
“Romanian Beach” consists of six tracks in total, three new recordings and an additional three remixes of the titular “Romanian Beach”. The vanilla version of this song starts with a brief but furious thrashing drumbeat before moving to high tempo lounge and slowing down to cool jazz over a funk rhythm with occasional diversions into abrasive noise rock. “A Body Without A Head” is a purely experimental piece, a distorted child’s voice chanting incantations, becoming more agitated before abruptly disappearing amidst off-kilter electronica. The remaining original track, “Something You’re Not Meant To Know”, is perhaps the strangest of the lot. It begins with twenty five seconds of chanted choral vocals faintly reminiscent of “Amidst the Coals” from Cynic’s 2011 EP “Carbon-Based Anatomy” only to rapidly degenerate into the type of unholy primitive black metal that could have been taken from Darkthrone’s “Panzerfaust” or Marduk’s “Opus Nocturne”.
It’s as difficult to draw a conclusion about Orange the Juice as it is to categorise their unique style of music. The musicianship is generally excellent and the sheer number and breadth of influences indisputably impressive but it’s hard not to wonder sometimes if what you’re hearing isn’t simply weird for weirdness’s sake. There’s a loose cohesion to each track but segues from one style to another tend to be abrupt and it’s hard to shake the feeling that “Romanian Beach” is more of a collision of disconnected ideas than it is a collection of actual songs. Interesting ideas for sure, but is that really enough?