Holy Jesus. I thought I would be pretty much done with blog posts for the summer, but I had to gush out once more. This summer I have been making an effort to listen to everything in my music library, and slowly re-evaluate/delete stuff that I no longer like or listen to. It’s not a real project, but just something I have been doing.

Today I finally got around to listening to the Adrian Orange and Her Band self-titled record. I have let this gem simply sit in my library for over a year. I have always liked Thanksgiving (aka Adrian Orange, aka AOK, etc), especially Welcome Nowhere, which I wrote about in a 2010 KZSU program guide. I can say that only the Welcome Nowhere and Thanksgiving albums have won me over in a big way up until now. Adrian Orange’s brand of acoustic lo-fi experimentation often gets lost in the sea of similar prolific Northwesterners. Indeed, it is difficult to keep up with the Phil Elverum/Adrian Orange/K Records/Marriage Records/Karl Blau/et al scene and all the cross-polinated projects. Last year when I listened to Adrian Orange (AO)’s strange dance-electro-pop abortion of a release, I couldn’t stomach to return to his music for a while.

Adrian Orange and Her Band – Adrian Orange – K Records (2007)

The man is an eccentric artist. The 2010 dance-electro direction was shocking and unexpected. As was the 2007 jazz-funk-world feel to Adrian Orange and Her Band. Surely a lot can be speculated about the socio-implications of the bizarre gender pronoun reversal, but I listen for the music. Initially I thought the first track was an interesting diversion and upbeat experiment. I didn’t realize that the big band horns and grooves would be on every track. I was expecting some minimalist, scratchy lo-fi stuff, but here was this rich, full-band retro goodness with phenomenal rhythms. This type of music definitely scratches some itch of mine. Warbly horn solos and chaos along some simple guitar chord structures with strident percussion. It’s nice to hear something different from the 1-2-3-4 numbing simplicity of most rock-based music. Maybe it’s from listening to all the drone and psych-kraut stuff that I buy into the long, hypnotic rhythm forms. I don’t know what it is, but the stars aligned perfectly for this to scratch my indie rock spot, my jammy percussion spot, and melodic acoustic soul spot.

The album features interesting contrasts between the non-singer, off-the-cuff vocals by Orange and the relatively polished studio sound. Most of his previous recordings sound like a lo-fi campfire, and Orange takes the same unabashedly imperfect approach to this record’s vocals. Although there are fewer vocals and a larger full-band emphasis, it is a unique meshing. I’d say the album’s sound is closer to Tito Puente than Microphones, for what it’s worth. And there are points on this where the rhythmic guitar and horn lines border dangerously close to something like tropicalia or some slowed dub-ska-reggae combo. Orange could care less about sounding hip (I think the top google result when you search “Adrian Orange and Her Band” is Pitchfork’s trashing of a review), which was presumably why he made such a left-field change in sound. If selling records or appealing to a wider audience was a priority for Orange, I assume he would have continued mining the same campfire folk of Thanksgiving. Luckily, he could care less.

What a fascinating experiment. I guess there are ups and downs with an artist like Adrian Orange. Each point on the career trajectory is going to be unique. I wonder what will happen the next time he resurfaces