Oranges are tricky fruits. Behind that sweet taste is a bitter acid waiting to bite.
Luminous Orange is a telling name for a band.
The Japanese duo’s music could also be described similarly.
On the surface, it’s sweetness and light, but underneath, there’s something mighty bitter.
Nowhere is this contrast more evident than on the first and fourth tracks of the band’s fourth album, Drop You Vivid Colours.
The album’s title track starts off with a sunny, jazzy verse. If it weren’t performed on distorted guitars, the track could probably work as a bossa nova for Hatakeyama Miyuki or Ann-Sally.
But when Luminous Orange unleashes “Turbo R” three songs later, any hint of the band’s more melodic psychedelia goes out the window. Instead, it’s a Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth feedback fest, complete with an instrumental break that crashes onto itself.
But those are the extremes of songwriter Takeuchi Rie’s aesthetic.
Takeuchi formed Luminous Orange in the early ’90s as trio, but eventually two-thirds of the band departed. She continued on her own, drawing inspiration for Claude Debussy. (Bassist Taro, the only other full-time member, joined in 1998.)
Most of Drop You Vivid Colours manages to balance Takeuchi’s keen sense of melody with Debussy’s Impressionistic harmonies.
“the Sky”, with its spoken verse and garage rock-like chorus, wouldn’t feel out of place on a Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her playlist.
“Starred Leaf” has an easy, almost trip-hop feel, while the French subtitle of “Utatane no Hibi (l’ecume des jours)” hints at the band’s more Europop influences.
“Mother Pearl”, however, manages to encapsulate all those influences on one track — a noisy, scratchy intro gives way to a sweet, almost restrained melody.
Takeuchi enlisted rhythm sections from mash and Number Girl to help out in the studio. Former Number Girl drummer Ahito Inazawa has performed as a support musician for Takeuchi in the past.
For all of the music’s harmonic challenges, her hired rhythm sections do an incredible job of keeping up, pounding when the chords get fuzzy, cutting back when the melody takes over.
Through it all, Drop You Vivd Colours holds together — Takeuchi never loses her melodic gift, and no track is filler. The bite behind all that sweetness makes for some delicious listening.