Features New Zealander Sonya Waters (Instigators / Fang / White Swan Black Swan)
Formed in 1992, Orange were a band out of step with their times. In the wake of grunge’s domination of the US marketplace, ethereal bands risked becoming obsolete. Some, like the Cranberries toughened up their sound and emulated the four-chord quiet/loud formula (‘Zombie’). But when Orange, a San Francisco band on an LA indie, were faced with the choice between conformism or commercial death, they chose death.
Which is a tragedy, because with their mix of Sundays and Cocteaus, delivered in a cinematic rush that was purely American. Orange’s core members, singer Sonya Waters and guitarist Michael Papenburg perfected an endless lugubrious swoon that evokes trembling leaves, inverted skies, and chronic hypnagogia. Hear how the melody of ‘Seahorse’ keeps ascending until it reaches the stars, or how ‘Swim’ keeps spiraling down until we look up and can no longer see sky.
There’s a cinematic quality to Orange’s music that separates them from their peers, than transcends their influences. Just listen to the relentless buildup of ‘Daisy,’ or the widescreen drama of ‘Against Nature,’ epic depictions of life & death. Sonya Waters sings in a language all her own. It’s blissful & lilting, longing & lovely, party oracle and part myth.
The Complete Recordings does exactly what it say there in the title, compiling the band’s self-titled 1994 album along with some stray tracks, including a total reimagining of the Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’ that aches instead of pounds, is lost instead of found. The Complete Recordings will make you believe that language is an illusion and there is no death more blissful than drowning. If their music had a ghostly quality at the time, hearing it reborn through Saint Marie records, 20 years down the line, only makes it sound, if anything, even more haunting.