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(52:52 / Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. In Color Captivating 1:04 2. Windswept Spectacle 4:39 3. Darling Abandon 4:34 4. Parade of Seasons 4:35 5. The Only Thing 4:26 6. Gem 4:45 7. Crib Tinge to Callow 7:13 8. Meant 5:52 9. We Speak In Shards 10:02 10. Entertainment Woes 5:34 LINEUP: Chuck Stern – vocals; guitar; keyboards Eric Fitzgerald – vocals; guitar Jesse Krakow – bass David Bodie – drums
Prolusion. To be frank, I was not even aware of the existence of an outfit named TIME OF ORCHIDS before I got the latest promo package from Cuneiform Records. The press kit says this is an American band, from NYC, who have been performing live on a regular basis from the outset, and have five studio albums to date, “Melonwhisper” (2001), “Much Too Much Fun” (2002), “Early as Seen in Pace” (2003), “Sarcast While” (2005) and “Namesake Caution”. The last is the object of this review, released last October.
Analysis. The number of artists as well as styles whom / which Time Of Orchids list as their sources of inspiration is simply gigantic, but The Beatles are absent there, while personally I distinctly hear the legendary English Four exerting a fairly strong influence on these musicians, as is evinced on the recording’s first three compositions, In Color Captivating, Windswept Spectacle and Darling Abandon. Well, the short opening cut contains no vocals, being the only purely instrumental piece in the set, but since it’s in all senses inseparably linked with its follow-up, both tracks come across as a single whole. As well as almost everywhere on the album, the vocals on the first two songs are usually multi-layered (the product of intensive studio labor), but the instrumental arrangements here are quite predictable, unlike most of the subsequent tracks. While there are a couple of interludes with a heavier, darker and more complex sound to be found on each, most of the time the music remains melodic and beautiful, a kind of modern take on the mid-60s period of the most influential rock band ever, with the characteristic harmony vocals, from which logically arises that dozens of contemporary performers can also be used as reference points. It is originally a bad job to debate whether Yes’s singing approach (justly praised for its uniqueness) and their chorals in particular, were elaborated under the influence of it’s clear whom. Well, I’ve just tried to give you a general idea of the vocal picture prevailing in the rest of the material and its variety as well. As for what happens with most of the remainder’s instrumental angle, it’s something marvelous, a real phenomenon: driving, intensely developing (in fact ever-changing) music that defies a precise classification. A combination of the vocals, which are mostly either romantic or laidback in character, and the – usually angry, wild and often dark – instrumental part creates a simply wonderful contrast, making the listener perceive the compositions as existing in a few dimensions simultaneously. The album’s six core tracks, Parade of Seasons, The Only Thing, Gem, Crib Tinge to Callow, Meant and We Speak in Shards, are all standouts and simply carry me away, partly because their basic structures are unstable like neutrinos. Just as each of these starts off, everything begins moving, changing with a kaleidoscopic periodicity (sic!), and this is an endless process in a way. Former traps disappear as quickly and suddenly as new ones appear, the instruments, overdubbed included, interlacing into such a crazy, constantly changeable dance that the way becomes confused beyond words, turning out to be impassable upon the first listening journey, even for the most advanced prog-heads. While the classic Yes influence (think mostly maneuvers with guitar at the fore) seems to be prevalent, at times manifesting themselves on all levels, the band may at any minute switch over from intricate Art-Rock to angular Doom Metal, at times delivering quirky moves in the RIO fashion or being up in the clouds:-) somewhere not too far off from Soon (“Relayer”), though some typically Brit-pop hooks belong to this eccentric cocktail as well. The Only Thing, Crib Tinge to Callow and Parade of Seasons each embraces all the implied movements, the first of these being probably the most eclectic. It opens with a heavy mid-‘70s King Crimson-like explosion before moving into a somewhat more delicate theme showcasing the band’s choir singing, then suddenly turns back into a sonic outburst again, but already in a completely new way and so on. Take note that it all often happens within the framework of the same theme, so I hope you can imagine what’s going on in the course of the entire track. At first, the absence of metalloids on both The Only Thing and We Speak in Shards and their abundance on Meant seems to be the only aspect that distinguishes these from the previously described three, while a more intimate examination discloses that the latter is much deeper than the first two. Finally, the concluding track, Entertainment Woes, paints a vocalization hovering in mysterious atmospheric spaces.
Conclusion. My attitude towards music is simple: the more a creation is profound and complicated, securing numerous happy returns to it, the more I like and appreciate it. Since only about 80 percent of “Namesake Caution” fully suits my principles, I won’t add an exclamation mark to the rating, which means, though not a masterpiece, this is an excellent album in my opinion and comes highly recommended with some minor reservations.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: February 20, 2008
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