The Porcelain Throne: Time of Orchids

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Keeping the throne occupied this time is Richter with another strange and wonderful edition. Seriously, you guys have been fantastic about keeping my humble column alive, keep the submissions coming! 

Remember MySpace? I don’t. (Yes I do.) As a foolish twentysomething, I believed it was possible to leverage this silly spawn of humanity’s worst social instincts to discover new music; mostly, it was not. That said, there is one band I discovered through MySpace that has become one of the shining, confusing, and balls-out weird pillars of my music library: Time of Orchids. Due in no small part to my undying, and by that point, pathological nostalgia for the defunct Maudlin of the Well, I discovered the underground New York City, band Time of Orchids (ToO), while browsing The Space for bands who had befriended Kayo Dot. I came upon many curios and oddities—but only one that truly gripped me. My initial reaction to the varied sonic ejaculations of ToO was an overwhelming WTF? However, something stuck. I returned to their MySpace page with regularity (at the time it was the only way to sample their music online—short of piracy) in order to figure out what I was hearing. and if it pleased me beyond that initial WTF? moment. Was it metal? Rock? Prog? Noise? The fact is that it was all of these and yet none. It was difficult almost beyond reason, and it was absolutely for me.

Melonwhisper (2001)

ToO’s debut, Melonwhisper, is their most stylistically schizophrenic work—and also their most metal. It is the sound of a young band giving zero fucks about cohesion or limitations; like Mr. Bungle and Naked City before them, they threw in everything but the kitchen sink, took a moment to reflect, then threw in the damn kitchen sink as well. Over the course of its nine tracks, you’ll hear everything from spastic post-hardcore, mathy noise rock, jazz-fusion, synth-driven psych, poppy indie rock, harsh noise, crushing sludge, whispers of grind, and oh yeah—a nineteen-minute atonal piano piece that somehow acts as the lynchpin around which all the madness swirls (or not, I still can’t tell). The vocal triptych supplied by Chuck Stern (Stern), Charlie Looker (Psalm Zero), and Will Redmond offers sweet crooning, wild barking and mindless shrieks. Looker and Redmond’s guitars flail between tight composure and walls of squealing pseudo-skronk. Stern’s synths serve as some kind of beguiling mystery sauce. The groovy/mathy rhythm section of Jesse Krakow (Haessliche Luftmasken) and Keith Abrams (Kayo Dot) anchors everything, keeping the demons beyond the threshold at bay. Overall, what we’re listening to here is a panoply of catchy hooks and atonal freakishness.


Much Too Much Fun (2003)

For the follow-up, Redmond and Looker were replaced by guitar and vocal weirdo Eric Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald eschews distortion pedals for a twangy and alienating (i.e. un-metal) sound, which will come to define the future ToO aesthetic. His voice, a drastic change of timbre, provides a high, nasal, almost nerdy counterpoint to Stern’s deeper and gruffer vocals. The end result is something equally as spastic and outlandish as Melonwhisper, albeit far less aggressive. The compositions are more focused, and as the title suggests, this album is fun. Labeled by the band as “party prog”, it offers a grand mashup of prog, surf rock, and 90’s style indie rock, all glued together by Stern’s eerie synthscapes. The band dabbles in what I’ve just now dubbed human glitch: bizarre breakdowns which sound like everyone (or just drummer Abrams) fucking up at once, but which are actually calculated moments of time-loss; awkward at first, eventually charming. And hey, there are even a few meaty vocal cameos from none other than Kate Pierson of The B-52s (the blond one).


Early as Seen in Pace (2004)

ToO followed MTMF with the 40 minute quasi-EP Early as Seen in Pace. This four-song offering is a difficult listen—even by ToO standards. Stylistically it is not all that far removed from its predecessor, and yet the fun is nowhere to be heard. Not that it’s all gloom and doom from start to finish—there are plenty of those fractured moments of bright and catchy rock—but it’s all couched in a distressingly noisy and disjointed assault. While the distorted guitars are still MIA, the aggression of Melonwhisper returns in the form of shrieked vocals, whiplash stylistic shapeshifting, and an all around punchiness to the performances and production. Instances of the aforementioned human glitch multiply in extended form. Songs begin with caterwauls and temper tantrums, attempt to pull themselves into something recognizably rockable, drift into squalls of piercing synth, wake back up into deceptively lucid moments of pop excellence, only to deconstruct themselves in glitchy waves of noise or defeatist fade-outs . . . The track “Voice” dispenses with all accessibility or sensibility and is essentially 11 minutes of a band trying to decide if they even want to be a band anymore. This sounds like a breakup album; a courageous band on the verge of collapsing from experimental fatigue.


 

Sarcast While (2005)

Who could have expected ToO to emerge from the tormented tumult of Early as Seen in Pace with their most coherent, lush, and layered album of all: Sarcast While? This is arguably their magnum opus—the sound of a band discovering a very good reason to exist. All of the stylistic experimentation and hysteria of past releases finally converges here. The vocals are choir-like; the distorted guitar returns for a more metallic edge; a vocal cameo from Julie Cruise (Twin Peaks OST) acts as the perfect centerpiece. From the calm, mood-setting two-part opening of “Advent/It Gone”, to the kaleidoscopic mathcore freakout of “Ours, Engendered”, and on through the epic back-end crown jewels that are “Swarm of Hope” and “All We Ever Wish”, there is not a single misplaced note or lack thereof. Everyone in the band is firing on all cylinders. (Side note: After learning that ToO had disbanded (spoiler alert), I wrote to Chuck Stern to express my sadness and tell him that Sarcast While was on my very short list of perfect albums. In the eight years since, this feeling has not waned.)


Namesake Caution (2007)

And here we get off the ride. Half of Namesake Caution recalls the splendid cohesion and melodicism of Sarcast While. The other half recalls the troubled pessimism of Early as Seen in Pace. It is a conflicted and conflicting swansong: some of the songs sound as fresh and masterful as anything the band has ever produced; others sound tired, muddled, meandering and ultimately unsatisfying. Such is life.

The first two ToO records were self-released. Early as Seen in Pace was released by Epicene. Sarcast While was released by Tzadik. Namesake Caution was released by Cuneiform. All but Sarcast While are available on the bandcamp. In 2010 they released a collection of outtakes and oddities, In Due Time, also available at the Camp. It is a mixed bag of lost treasures and utter bullshit. Half-valid, half-joke: as fitting an epitaph as any.

Thanks again to Richter for this one, and as always, check out The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines

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  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    Omg Richter you bastard. That Naked City reference, I have been playing that shit today ❤

    • Dagon

      I love coincidences like this.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        omfg Charlie Looker did vocals for this band

        • Dagon

          I was fanboying too up there, haha.

        • If you want to hear the distinctive Charlie touch, go to bandcamp and listen to the songs “Scolex Throne” and “Graduation Day” from the Melonwhisper album. Charlie in his indie rock phase.

  • Dagon

    I was looking forward to this since peeping the Psalm Zero and maudlin of the Well tag when this was in the drafts. Good tunes, I love weird shit like this.

    Great writing too, Richter.

    • Thank you. I regret nothing.

      • The W.

        Thanks for writing this, Richter. Going to check it out when I finish the album I’m on.

      • as well you shouldn’t. highly engaging music.

      • The W.

        There’s a part in “Age Gracefully” that reminds of some of the stuff Giant Squid do “Metridium Fields”.

  • Tyree

    So is “The Porcelain Throne” post focused mainly on prog/experimental bands, because it seems to be so? It may have been explained in the first post but I’m not going to make the effort to look here. I don’t think there has been a band on this post yet that I’ve really liked, sorry to say. It always seems to be a detailed write-up nonetheless though.

    • Dagon

      I think it’s just a place for members of the community who are not regular writers to contribute with bands they like and are largely unknown.

      Funny thing that there’s been so many prog bands, really.

      • The W.

        This is exactly it. Members of our community just write about stuff they life. I guess folks round here like prog.

      • J.R.

        It’s for stuff you don’t think gets enough love, from what I understand. So of course it’s going to be weird oddball prog bands no one has heard of. Cvnting hipsters

        • It’s just a coincidence, to me.

          I think every member have put a healthy dose of different genres of music to have a good mix. We also had Cult of Luna, Novembers Doom and Extol, to cite some other bands.

          • J.R.

            Definitely! I’ve appreciated the mix. I was joking a little.

            But of course the bands will most likely be pretty obscure, Bc if they weren’t we would all know of them and they wouldn’t need extra love!

        • THE NOT YET!!!

          • J.R.

            Bruh. So el Brother-o is staffing Philmont till August. He just got NRA certified to teach pistol, rifle, and shotgun Bc they put him in charge of Poniels’s firearm range. Extremely jealous.

            TL;DR no music from him for a bit. He is out west.

    • my next one is a Satanic grind band with soothing female vocals.

      • Dagon

        Tyreeing intensifies

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      Stay tuned until 3:00 pm CST *wink*

    • That’s a paddlin’

      In the beginning there was doom and then there was mdm.

      • Tyree

        Oh yeah, didn’t you do a few? I remember you had a lot of doom bands.

        • That’s a paddlin’

          Yeah I did. And maybe will in the future again if it seema like there isn’t going to be another one of these for a while.

        • Reverend Bizarre/Opium Warlords, to be more specific:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUNVPtZfpwg

          • Tyree

            Mmmm, that’s the stuff.

          • That’s a paddlin’

            You picked the song well. I also did Cirith Ungol the band.
            They were the poorest Tpt posts ever done tho.

          • That Cirith Ungol TPT was my entry to that band! e_e)

          • That’s a paddlin’

            I remember buying their sophomore ’cause I recognized the artwork and Elric makes me jizz.

          • I find a lot of albums because the cover art, I pay too much attention to that. But, it was good, in the beginning I couldn’t digest the vocals, but then the riffs were nomnomnomnom, and I said to me that it’s great music.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Thanks for the link Link! Keep getting shit for only prog bands but there is variety if you look back.

          • Yeah, keep it up. There were good bands reviewed here! We just need moar submissions!

          • unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to find bands that you flushers HAVEN’T already been exposed to!

          • I sent to @masterlordsteeldragon:disqus a list with 10 different bandcamp kvlt bands and his reaction was:

            “Jejejeje, I know about them all, peasant”.

            http://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/41/285×214/147311_1.jpg

    • Howard Dean

      I’m there with you. I keep hoping someone will tackle a classic-but-underappreciated traditional or thrash or black or death metal discography. But it ends up being something like this. I can appreciate the effort that goes into writing all of this, but I end up usually skipping these posts.

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        That’s the difficulty with “one band focused” articles. You either buy in or don’t. Personally I’ve been introduced to some great bands through these detailed discographies, but they all can’t be for everyone. I take every band I get.

        • That’s a paddlin’

          Wow, you’re… commenting!

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            I’m struggling on my poor reception phone, but yeah I’m super bored at work today

        • The W.

          Thanks for putting in the time to edit and compile these!

      • Guacamole Jim

        Be the change you want to see in the Toilet.

        • Howard Dean

          I honestly don’t want to change the Toilet. Changing it so that it better suits me is not best for the greater good (I’m not going to get completely all John Stuart Mill/John Nash on everyone, no worries). The Toilet coalesced into its current form for a reason: that’s what the majority of its readers want. It would be wrong of me to attempt an overhaul–I may get upset, or vent here or there about the content and how I don’t like the bands that are being covered, but that’s just the nature of the internet and its tenuous relationship with people’s opinions.

          I don’t want to change the Toilet, and I don’t need to change the Toilet. I find the things I’m interested in. There are lots of metal related places on the internet. Every nook of the entire metal spectrum is covered somewhere. I rarely find new material or relevant metal-related news at ToH. I find it elsewhere. And that’s fine. I do enjoy discussing some of these finds with the ToH crew, and that’s why I’ll often bring up something unrelated to the article.

          • you COULD start your own blog… that’s what my arch-nemesis did last year…

          • Herr Schmitty

            Who the fuck is your arch-nemesis? You HAVE an arch-nemesis?

          • joe relaxnchill, huehuehue

      • Tyree

        Hey speaking of Thrash. I just found out about this band and album. I’m jamming it now and I think you’ll like it. Ripping blackened thrash that goes fucking hard.

        https://bloodlust666.bandcamp.com/album/cultus-diaboli

        • mmmmmm, tasty!
          more bands need to know that putting “666” in their URL guarantees them a listen

        • Howard Dean

          That’s pretty good shit! Too bad the CDr is sold out, or I might’ve grabbed it.

          It’s funny: sometimes–particularly after buying way too many things and spending too much money–I’ll almost be relieved that something I like isn’t available on CD. This is one of those times. After buying more CDs this morning (I ordered the “One Tail, One Head” compilation CD and the old Nidhoggr demo Ravens Over the Road of Kings from Terratur), I don’t need to spend anymore!

          Side note: That Nidhoggr demo is glorious. It’s from the early 90s and is the only thing the band ever put it. Burzum styled black metal. Has always been way under the radar.

          • Tyree

            Oh, good choice on that One Tail, One Head compilation. I have that shit too. I recently got the Mare Spheres like Death from Terratur.

          • Howard Dean

            I need to pick up Mare at some point.

            I was a late comer to the Nidrosian scene, but I’m slowly making my way into it. Vemod and One Tail, One Head have been impressive thus far.

          • Tyree

            Yes! Glad you dig them, especially Vemod. Mare is great too, I was furtunate to get the Spheres like Death / Throne of the Thirteenth Witch comp on vinyl too.

          • Tyree

            My next Terratur haul, Ill have to pick of that Nidhoggr demo.

          • Howard Dean

            They are a great label, and as a distro they have a lot of stuff you can’t find anywhere else–sometimes stuff that you can’t readily find (for less than a fortune) on eBay or discogs. That’s actually where I originally bought my Deathspell Omega/Moonblood and Deathspell Omega/Clandestine Blaze split CDs. I was going to buy that Nidhoggr demo on discogs at first, but it disappeared before I acted on it. Glad Terratur still had it.

            The new webstore is awesome, and has made them even better. Plus their shipping is now more reasonable, I think because every order is no longer coming from Norway (my shipping for the two CDs today was only $6.83).

          • Tyree

            The new website is nice too. They have a few kink they need to work out still though. They billed me over $100 for a CD and patch. I had to email them and set them straight. I almost had a heart attack when I first got that email from them.

          • Howard Dean

            That happened to me, too. Last time I ordered. The second invoice they sent said “Total: $363.00.” I nearly shit my pants. However, I knew that I had only sent them like $40.00 with Paypal, so I wasn’t too freaked. I emailed him about it, and he said it’s just a glitch.

          • Tyree

            WOW! That’s a lot of U.S. Dollar bills. Hahaha!

          • Howard Dean

            Haha, yeah. Three CDs. I think two were billed as $100.00 a piece, and one was $150.00 or something like that. Certainly raised my eyebrow.

      • I’ve been thinking about writing one on Nocturnus. I’d need to re-listen to their discography. It has been years since I listened to them.

      • sweetooth0

        I was considering submitting one for Brazilian Patho-grind masters Lymphatic Phlegm since I spent years tracking down every single one of their releases except the original demo tape (which is the same tracks as the splitwith Fleshgrinder anyway).

        • Tyree

          Lymphatic Phlegm are crazy, That drum machine though.

          • sweetooth0

            I think it adds to their cold, dehumanized style. But then I listen to all together too much shitty 1 man basement goregrind

          • Tyree
          • sweetooth0

            Oh yeah! Total LDOH style gore brutality!

          • sweetooth0

            These guys are part of this sick ass split tape:
            http://deathrattles.braindeadzine.net/

            Definitely check that shit out if you like filthy as fuck goregrind on obsolete formats!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7wl7Zmx4jE

          • Tyree

            I’ve seen this before but never listened.

          • sweetooth0

            It’s awesome. Pierre from Braindead Webzine compiled it and it’s all quality ultra underground filthy gore. The tape format was even intentional to add to the rawness.

  • OldMetalHead

    The first song kind of reminds me of Frank Zappa mixed with the Dillinger Escape Plan.

  • That’s a paddlin’

    I’m kinda liking some parts here. But honestly, I’ll probably never listen to them again (playing the last song now). You had me all worked up with Maudlin of the Well.

  • Paris Hilton

    TAKE ME DOWN TO THE NAKED CITY WHERE YOU CAN FREE YOUR PEEN AND SEE THE GIRLS TITTIES!

  • Listening first song and I like the rhythm section and sounds. It’s a good piece, but it’s too much scattered around, so it’s one of those bands to not listen with too much repetition.

    Good induction, Richter!

  • Guacamole Jim

    Just tuning this in now, but I’m digging it! Good n’ weird.

  • KJU’s Dancing Testicle Teethys

    I vaguely remember hearing these guys a while back. Good stuff from what I remember.