Orange Cake Mix

Another Orange World

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"Your Favorite Coffee Shop" may start the album with samba beats, but when the echoing, soft cascade of piano starts up, it's clear the listener is back in the world of Orange Cake Mix, something the synth bass makes even clearer. Like so many of Jim Rao's albums, Another Orange World features a baker's dozen worth of songs, in this particular case with an emphasis more on rhythms than on unaccompanied melodies. Calling Orange Cake Mix simple synth pop revivalists, though, misses the point -- Rao isn't into replicating as he is suggesting, with songs like "Waves in Space" and "Jai Guru Dev 2" calling up an almost never-never land of the '80s that wasn't quite there. Something like "And I Feel It Coming On" definitely has more of the crisp, almost brutal surge of that time, though, with Rao's candyfloss singing and the reverb on the bass smoothing out the edges. The hints of Beach Boys lushness which appear on other records have a definite place here -- "Heaven Is Rising" in particular is as close as Rao has ever gotten to a full-on Pet Sounds tribute -- while "Get It Together Now" is almost Sly Stone in ways. There are even more modern nods -- "Krishna Vision 3" has something of the same rolling bliss and float of early-'90s Orb or Primal Scream, Hindi recitations blending amidst the drums, while breakbeat rhythms crop up more than once, as on "Waiting for Another Light (To Shine on Me)." For all the connections that can be made, though, at some point everything is best just accepted as it is, an unfolding of lovely melodies and striking arrangements balanced against a core approach that, for all its unchanging nature, never fails to captivate.

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