Recorded 2006, 2007
The juicy name and squelchy logo hide the considerable talent of keyboard player Dirk Jan Müller who since the early 1990s has been recording increasingly inspired jams in volatile constellations. But mid-1990s he was joined by guitarist Dirk Bittner, but it took several more years before the core of the currently active band took shape.
Electric Orange seeks inspiration in the long tradition of rock jamming, but often straying from the well-trodden format into unexpectedly hooked arrangements and exploratory parentheses. For all those who miss the extraordinary inventiveness of German music over a generation ago, Electric Orange brings a whiff of fresh air, albeit with an aura of healthy déjà vu.
Unfortunately, the musicians insist on filling the available CD space with some marginal material, which somewhat mars the coherence of the sets.
We are transported into the unconscious world of childhood memories filled with amusement park hubbub – merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, cheesy itinerant businesses. Regrettably, this evocative anaphora leads nowhere… Sudden assault comes from a tribal drumming circle that flails its way indefatigably with the hoof-like precision. Jagging guitar sound and a Hammond-soundalike localize the ghosts of their stylistic patrons. An extraordinary power emanates from the band – unwavering, tight and compressed. When the organ begins to chuckle on its own bobsled ride, the Second Hand’s supreme “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” comes to mind. The potent chug-along is vibrant and jubilant, quite unlike the title (“delusion”).
Electronic hairpin serpentines open with pre-recorded, tinny voices in heraus-pronounced German. The organ cradles us in a comfy rut allowing the guitars to explore various registers. Snippets of distorted recitation probe the über-conventional organ & guitar riffing. Impotent trumpet, piano strings, unidentifiable samples and percussive glimmer penetrate the herringbone structure of this track.
In a natural segue, a more resonant guitar grit punctures the trippy organ – bass – drumset perfection. The crystal clear mix allows our senses to tune into the various guitar pitches simultaneously. On top of the range, distant wah-wah scrambles for attention in a patchy cooperation with eerily evocative organ (Dirk Jan Müller must have grown up on young Richard Wright’s fastidious harmonizing). Silvo Franolic’s cymbal splashes pile up layers of dense cloud formations. The rest of the band needs to soar above these vigorous explosions. And soar it does.
The title track sounds like a tribute to Brainticket’s organ-led vortex, spinning tenaciously with the ease of “Cottonwoodhill” and taking us for a whirring steamroller ride. Deposits of annunciatory voices are laid behind these gyrations, while a strained, pentatonic recorder bores holes in this cylindrical domain. A full-scale guitar cum organ convulsion bursts in flames, only to reveal the unstoppable magmatic flow. Screechy recorders will have the last word.
Initially, the organ, guitar, bass and drums quartet adopts a more leisurely, trotting pace. In a monumental entrée, the rhythm section veers off towards the ecstasy of vertigo-inducing passages. Tom Rückwald appears on bowed acoustic bass, doubled on choir-emulating mellotron. Silvio Franolic treats his plump drums and tinkling cymbals with measured, downy mallets. Bittner’s voice is full of painful agony, but despite its menacing quality, the uncanny, tubular vocal carries also crosstextual messages from a long-lost pedigree (e.g. Silberbart, 2066 & Then). Mellotron’s fake celestial strings close this pleasant déjà entendu…
Acoustic guitar succumbs to a sound forest of hand drums, cortales, and thrown coins. A funky interaction arises from the thumping electric bass and teasing soft rolls harvested with brushes by the drummer. The band unleashes sonic debris – stereotyped ‘Bahnhof’ announcements, flippant effects from someone’s oral cavity, persuasive girls, manual tooth brushing, an old-time alarm clock, an electric shaver. But underneath, this is but a circular funky rondo – a fairly conventional musical joke.
We are now almost on a midsummer, Latin party terrain. When the initial frenzy clears, a female voice adapts to the reigning climactic condition. The hyperactive, but harmless, blithe beach guitars are reminiscent of latter-day Can’s dubious explorations into oases of rhythmic optimism. Several isolated notes on a Spanish guitar shut this chapter.
After this 2-track parenthesis, the mood turns again, courtesy a threatening harmonium. This catatonic instrument, rescued from oblivion 30 years ago by Univers Zero, is accompanied here by an intimate guitar, organ, drums and flute. Electric Orange brings yet other memories of their nation’s formative Blütezeit. The way the dispassionate recitation has been mixed in brings to mind the declamations by Walter Wegmüller or Sergius Golowin. Acoustic bass and breathy flute frame the structure, supported by molten organ, much like early Gila – both in gesture and in form.
First, vitreous sound of unknown provenience. Next, a very international sound of a noisy schoolyard. Then, sustained bass notes and mysterious harmonium gear the band to inchoate harmonic trajectory. All these attempts are instantly spoiled by monorhythmic swelling and an angular organ chord. This is a disappointing moment – the band creates anticipation that it does not live up to for several long minutes. The prominence of the organ layer does not allow the muscular rhythm section to generate a punch worthy of Neu’s “Negativland” or Glenn Branca’s “Ascension”. And even then, the idea would have been epigonic. When Bittner’s singing breaks in, one is seriously puzzled – not sure if this is a parody, a dance number or a piece of failed space rock trapped in the troposphere and unable to overcome earthly gravity. The harmonium and synthesizer fail to save the day, as the formulaic, isometric pounding is never too far behind.
This is a ballad for acoustic guitar and bass, delivered with a slightly distorted, rippling voice. The apparent ingredients are there (mellotron, and flute), but the tune correlates poorly with the stronger moments on this CD.
Crippling electronic intro yields to an official pre-announcement worthy of West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Fast bongo runs and a pulsating bass leave much space – enough for the organ and guitar to accentuate the beat. Each time the guitar repeats its two-chord routine, the bongo woodpecker wakes up. Additional distortion is provided by simmering synthesizer effects.
Waves of low amplitude electronics wash on a sailboat fitted with organ and bass. A toned down organ coupled with Josef Ahns’ ascending flute legato has many precedents: Ove Volquartz of Annexus Quam (“Beziehungen”), Herb Geller of Brave New World (“Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley”) or Rainer Büchel of Ibliss (“Supernova”). This engaging opening gives way to sub-Saharan hand drum and echoplexed guitar, with the organ ensuring further continuity. In the final bars, a highly pitched guitar improvises until the final cut.
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Electric Orange” (1992-1993)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Orange Commutation” (1993-1994)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Cyberdelic” (1995)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Abgelaufen” (2001)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Platte” (2003)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Fleischwerk” (2004-2005)
ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” (2006-2007)
I have not heard the first three positions. The general impression is that the band’s inventiveness has progressed on the most recent CDs. “Morbus” was mastered by Eroc, krautrock’s ultimate studio joker.