Time of Orchids "Sarcast While" CD
Here's the latest full-length from these masters of madcapped "metal", where "metal" is really just a significant thread in an otherwise chaotic explosion of avant-garde madness that includes jazz, electronic music, brooding melodic ambience, and progressive rock; a mishmash of insanity that includes everything from soft crooning to shouting, yelling, and intense screaming; a musical smorgasbord that touches on lushly laidback synths, piano, and drones as often as it does raw distortion and frenetically abrasive picking patterns. All of this from a band so dedicated to obscure and unexpected twists that this time out they've got some guest vocal contributions from Julee Cruise (who sang on the "Twin Peaks" soundtrack, as well as a few other David Lynch outings), plus some contributions from a trumpet player a second female vocalist. And did I mention that in addition to a traditional core, the band members themselves also dabble in trinkets, machine parts, and... a hairdryer!? The songs range from less than a minute to more than 10 minutes, with a good balance of brief spurts, average lengths, and mammoth epics; and while everything tends to flow together for all intents and purposes, just check out the jarring shifts between the gorgeously lush "It Gone" and "Ours, Engendered", which is by far the most caustic and over the top composition on the entire disc. For the most part the band seems to be coming more into their own on this outing, however. The chaotic passages take a backseat to a generally more restrained approach, but that doesn't mean that they don't continually fuck with weird tactics, be it oddball time signatures or generally strange riffs, period. More consistent and flowing compositions like seven-minute "Harness Well-Wishers" are my favorites on the disc. In this particular piece the vocals act more as texture than anything else, while the music revolves around abstract guitar drones and piano. Towards the end it certainly has its moments of wandering about, but for the most part it has a nice hum to it that stands apart as somehow more emotional. "Earned Over" is easily the band's best "metallic" song to date, employing sick dissonant chords and a pounding tempo that really jumps out at you, whereas some killer percussion work later adds highlights to seemingly less structured areas. "All We Ever Wish" has some beautiful clean riffing that helps create an ethereal vibe along with the vocal tradeoffs and perfectly a delivered performance from the rhythm section that really works between the little spaces. Quite excellent, really. Sound-wise things are as mixed up as they are in every other regard. While the band's songwriting has matured to a significantly more efficient and curious (if not outright listenable) level, the distorted guitar textures are the only thing that I feel hinder the recording from being just as improved. The percussion is warm and natural and has a great sense of density, as does the smooth bass presence, with the singing vocals and synths following suit. But the distorted guitars and more aggressive characteristics are a little too rugged to match. I don't mind the dryness of the clean guitars, which lends a jangly edge to such performances, but something about the distorted passages feels like it needs to be louder and more fully fleshed out to fill the gaps. There are subtle holes in the mix that I think the guitars should be responsible for (not including those created by occasionally overpowering vocal layering), and while good enough to get them by, I think that's the most important area to pay attention to in the future. So, the overall production quality is good, but with some tweaking and a little extra polish I think the recording could help to accent the band's growth even more. Visually things look pretty nice, with excellent use of metallic silver printing and clean text arrangements throughout for the credits and such. The back of the booklet also displays an interesting handwritten account of chord progressions and structures for one of the songs. This is Time of Orchid's most enjoyable release to date for me. I find a number of the songs to possess more feeling than in the past while maintaining a sense of constant movement and artistry that keeps the band from being anything but commonplace. Good work, and I'll be looking forward to what comes next, because I really think they're going to continue to perfect what they do, which could yield brilliant results. (7/10)
Running time - 64:14, Tracks: 15
[Notable tracks: It Gone, Harness Well-Wishers, Earned Over, All We Ever Wish]
Time of Orchids - http://www.timeoforchids.com
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