Release Date: Nov 25th 2016
Original released on CD 1994
FIRST TIME ON VINYL!
Sometime it feels like we’ve experienced three musical eras—roughly speaking, 1966-69, 1978-81, and 1989-94—where so much great music got made that decades later people are still finding hidden gems from back then that got lost in the shuffle. And even as Saint Marie spends 2016 blasts Dreampop into the future with their current roster, their breathtaking excavations from the early-mid 90’s are staking a claim for them to also be known as the essential Dreampop reissue label.
Their latest find is captured on Orange The Complete Recordings. 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.
Saint Marie continues to find so many great US bands who went unheard because Dreampop wasn’t cool at the time. Which means these bands only made this music because they were truly in love with what they were doing. Their desire to participate in the conversation, to get the sounds in their head onto vinyl or polycarbonate, was greater than their desire to ‘make it in the biz.’ At a time when seemingly anyone back then could don some Converse One-Stars, a semi-ironic striped t-shirt, and slack their way into a major-label record contract, these bands instead chose to create a music that was cloaked in mystery, that spoke in the cryptic language of dreaming and sex, that was a little less obvious and, for the most part, a lot more interesting than what was championed at the time.
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.