Dustin Hill, mastermind behind Portland garage and blues buzz-bombers Black Pussy and the psych-sludge collective White Orange, will always treat comparisons of the latter to stoner legends Kyuss as a compliment. Even if describing White Orange accordingly is taking the easy way out.
To engage a White Orange recording is to prepare yourself for rolling ostinato sprinkled with alternative distorto shakes ala The Pixies and Sonic Youth, plus space toaster warps in the vein of Torche, Hawkwind and of course, their more renowned kindred, Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. Even a little Beck-ish anti-hipster hooliganism isn’t out of the question in the case of “…and I Leave the Circus” from White Orange’s newest recording for Made in China Records, Onawa.
The current incarnation of White Orange features Dustin Hill (vocals/guitars), Ryan McIntire (guitars), Adam Pike (bass) and Dean Carroll (drums). From the onset, however, it was Hill and McIntire’s gig.
“I started writing songs and knew from the start I was going to push it from the beginning,” says Hill. “Ryan and I were living together after being in previous projects together. So in the beginning it was Ryan and I recording and putting out albums alone. We did a 10-inch and a 7-inch before there was a full band. I sang, played guitar and drums. Ryan played guitar and bass.”
Appearing on a 10-inch split with The Ro Sham Bo’s in 2009, Hill and McIntire cut the two track God Save the King a year later. The following January, White Orange released …and This is Why I Speak to You in Parables, which included the B-side tune “Middle of the Riddle,” destined to appear on the group’s self-titled full-length debut in September of the same year.
By this time, Adam Pike (also the owner of Toadhouse Recording Studios) had been closely affiliated with the band, engineering the first two White Orange releases before becoming a permanent member. “We would always suggest he (Adam) should be in our band,” explains Hill. “He said ‘Find a drummer and I’m in.’ We only ever checked out one drummer, which is Dean. He jammed with us around two months, then we tracked …and This is Why I Speak to You in Parables and I told him he was in. That was the first time Adam played on a record as well. At that point we had still never jammed as a full band, but that is the moment when four dudes started calling themselves a band.”
White Orange’s self-titled full length was unleashed to rave reviews by the underground press. The album was described as “akin to drinking a vat of liquid acid” by Adequacy.net, while Wormwood Chronicles eloquently charged, “These guys go beyond mere stoner rock and travel into a new dimension where acid flows like water and giant electric seahorses prance through the cosmos while caterpillar armies bow to colossal bongs.”
On White Orange’s latest EP, Onawa, there is a departure from the overt shuck ‘n stamp presiding over earlier songs such as “Catch a Ride,” “Steak Knives,” “Middle of the Riddle” and “Where.” Instead of employing knockout dirt grooves, Onawa slows things down to a winding, empirical drone on “Ehyeh” that would’ve been home on a more alt-grounded Sleep record. Meanwhile, the grunge-slung, mid-tempo drag of “Either-Or” will have ‘90’s-grounded listeners pining for Tad, the Melvins and Screaming Trees. Rounded out by the blip-hop nuttiness accenting the craggy bass lines and hallucinogenic guitar plods of “…and I Leave the Circus,” Onawa proves to be White Orange’s most adventurous outing to-date.
When asked to disseminate the dynamics between his chief creative entities, White Orange and Black Pussy, Dustin Hill states, “I just write songs. Sometimes they’re White Orange songs, sometimes they’re Black Pussy songs and sometimes new projects start forming because I feel like they don’t belong in either. I will say this; the filter to be a White Orange song has a tighter mesh count than Black Pussy.”
Onstage, White Orange is self-described by Dean Carroll as “heavy like a mushroom trip,” with the band partially-shrouded by an “orgasmic, seizure-inducing” lighting scheme. Matched by the group’s excavated repertoire on Onawa, scheduled for release on August 6, 2013, expect nothing short of cosmic in White Orange’s future live milieu.