VINYL DETAILS: HEAVY WEIGHT AMERICAN VINYL , CD INSERT, LIMITED EDITION OF 500
In between stints on the road performing as their sister group Black Pussy, White Orange managed to get down 25 minutes of psychedelic auditory epicness. Recorded by Adam Pike (the Icarus Line, Red Fang, Black Elk) in Portland, Or, the band finds itself continuing down the hyper-color path it started forging with it’s self-titled debut album in 2011. Beautifully designed and executed, this limited edition release will make the perfect soundtrack for stoners in smoke-filled basements as well as anyone looking for songs to accompany an adventure in the world or the mind. Always uncompromising and exploratory, White Orange is right on time.
The members of White Orange reference the use of psychedelics frequently when discussing their music, and to listen to the band's latest EP, Onawa, it becomes apparent these heavy rockers have indeed indulged in their fair share of mind-altering substances. The three songs follow the trajectory of your average trip: a slow build that gives way to a feeling of body-mind disconnect, followed by a steady melt back to reality.
In White Orange's world, that comedown is an 11½-minute overload of Stooges-like wah-wah guitar and a steady pulse courtesy of drummer Dean Carroll. The landing is rough, to say the least, but the journey to get there is a pure delight.
Opening track "Ehyeh" takes its time building in volume, never really hitting its peak until about halfway through its eight-minute running time. But once it does, Dustin Hill and Ryan McIntire cover everything with heaping globs of guitar thunder. "Either/Or," the electric middle track of this miniature epic, does everything in its considerable power to maintain the high. The band soars forth, only letting up on the gas pedal for the briefest of moments before slamming you back in your seat again.
The next challenge for White Orange is to see if it can maintain these heights over the course of a full-length album. As with any addiction, these little teasers aren't going to be enough to get us by for much longer.
As I noted in my 2011 review of the ...And This Is Why I Speak To You In Parables 12" vinyl single, White Orange has this innate grasp of giving its fans exactly what they need, not necessarily what they might want. Instead of presenting the world with a bloated temple to the gross excesses of metal and prog rock, these 4 denizens of Portland, OR use the 3 songs of Onawa to showcase their stoner rock chops in the most cogent, straight-forward way possible.
Everything you want from Kyuss, Mastodon, Russian Circles, and The Warlocks is here for the taking, but the band gives you just enough to whet your appetite for more. Sure, these 3 songs might clock in at a collective 24+ minutes, but there's no bombast to be heard amidst these big, bold tunes. Heavy '70s blues-psych jams are the name of the game, but there's a keen focus and clear vision on display with how these elements are combined to achieve maximum head-banging with minimum cliche.
This is intense music in the best possible way: the low end hits you hard in the gut, while the guitars dance a jig upon your ear drums and auditory canal Onawa should serve as a clarion call to the contemporaries of White Orange - our band has found the way forward, and you'd be well served to follow us. All the sludge you might expect from a stoner metal band is present, but when listen past the gritty edges, you find a polished core aesthetic that deserves the honor and respect of all metal fans.
When I reviewed that last LP back in 2011, I didn't really know who White Orange was. They were one of those bands that surrounded themselves with mystery, and I remember having a tough time writing the review because there simply wasn't very much information on them online. I definitely sensed a "we're a band who wants the music to speak for us" vibe, so I left it alone. Afterward, I heard from a lot of people who told me they were HUGE fans of White Orange, and that I really needed to see them live to "get it." I never did see them, but I have noticed that the ranks of White Orange fans have grown considerably over the last couple of years. Part of that is because singer Dustin Hill and drummer Dean Carroll also play for Black Pussy, another Portland band that has been reviewed in this blog. (For the record, Ryan McIntyre and Adam Pike handle guitars and bass, respectively.) Both bands seem to be developing parallel yet symbiotic followings.
Overall, the two bands both embrace hard rock, psychedelia, a '70s feel and healthy appetite for weed (look at all those lovely potted plants in the profile pic on White Orange's Facebook page). The difference is that Black Pussy has an almost punk sound straight from the late '70s, lean and aggressive and basic and fast, while White Orange is a big, turgid maelstrom of fist-pumping power. It's a matter of tempo, perhaps, but Black Pussy has more of an immediate appeal, while White Orange requires that you be consumed with the enormous, million-gallon tank of sound--you'll have it all sorted out by the time you float to the top.
In other words, the three songs on Onawa are dense yet simple, basic riffs, a minimal melody that's differentiated more by licks than scales. It is a wall of sound at first, but repeated listenings do pay off. You'll be tested on the final track of three, the epic eleven-minute plus "...and I Leave the Circus," where you'll wonder just how long the band can repeat that riff, and how ballsy it is to do so, but then you'll noticed the slowly evolving textures and realize something much deeper is going on.
- The Vinyl Anachronist