Time of Orchids – Namesake Caution

Time of Orchids
Namesake Caution

I always like coming across an album whose predictability quotient nears zero. Sometimes these kinds of albums turn out to be self-indulgent messes, but sometimes they expand our musical vocabularies.

Namesake Caution has its rock and experimental elements pretty evenly balanced. Much of the time it sounds like Chavez played at a Codeine pace. One passage leads to another passage without any warning as to its intent. It might go from a ballad-like beginning to a choppy guitar section to a Pink Floyd piece to a near-psychedelic raga to an abrupt keyboard-based ending (“Gem”). This kind of structure either will probably strike listeners as either a godsend or a nightmare.

“Meant (Hush-Hush)” takes its atonally pastoral groundwork and ditches it halfway through as it breaks into Explosions in the Sky glory before reverting back to peacefulness. I guess Mogwai also had a tendency to write these kinds of pieces sometimes, but Time of Orchids puts more musicianship into its pieces. There’s a lot of syncopation and quite a few non-scale notes filling out these pieces. Usually the singing is melodic and coherent. It’s just out-of-place against the music. It’s a jarring but somewhat novel effect to when it sounds like the musicians are playing a different song than the one the singer thought he was getting. “Crib Tinge To Callow” has almost pop-song vocals but it’s backed by free-rock digressions that compete for your cerebellum.

A very Chavez sounding track, “Darling Abandon,” executes similarly. Its expansive vocals and keyboard chords mix with pleasant chimes, Polyphonic style, but when those die down you hear that the bass guitar has been amped and distorted in a way that belies the pleasantries. The following track “Parade of Seasons” goes all-out math in a show of musicianship moxie.

Namesake Caution takes chances. It puts things together in ways you’re not expecting or are accustomed to hearing them. Free rock, like free jazz, was never meant to be easy listening. But usually the early pioneers, by taking things to excess, blaze a trail that others later follow – careful to dial back the extremes and find a middle path between the accepted and the avant garde.