Digitalism Interview

I Love You Digitalism…I mean, Dude

If you haven’t already listened to Digitalism’s new album, I Love You, Dude, you immediately need to do so.  Several remixes of their songs have already been made, and the album has received high appraisals within the blogosphere.  Their single “Forrest Gump” featuring Julian Casablancas has already been added to my Favorites playlist.  It’s one of the many great tunes on their album. 

In terms of music, what’s a good and a bad thing about coming from Germany?

For us and our music, it was good growing up in Germany.  We’ve always been surrounded by techno and electronic music since we were born. There is a long tradition for electronic music, it’s a very technical country and well-known for its engineering and precision.  Just look at Kraftwerk: They started many things but never really saw themselves as musicians, more as “audio engineers.” That is probably the downside: People are too cold or uptight sometimes, or over think things instead of going crazy.

Just curious, in your new album title, I Love You, Dude, were you influenced by the title of the film, I Love You Man? Where did the name of the album stem from?

We came up with the title while we were on a forced break from the album process end of last year in Australia. Lots of people use that phrase there, and it got stuck in our heads.  Just out of a mood we decided to use that as the album title instead of something like “Digital Universe” or “The Return …”, any of that epic stuff. “I Love You, Dude” was meant completely void of any context, and we knew that people would have huge question marks on their faces. We like doing daft things, and we also like to surprise people and not maintain any clichés about us. Looking back now that the album is finished, the title even kind of makes sense because this record is much friendlier than the first one and it’s more about relationships and friendships. The title hasn’t got anything to do with the film though.

What do you think the biggest changes in the electronic industry have been since you have first started? 

The biggest change is the explosion of electronic music in the U.S.  Nearly everything’s electronic now, even Hip-Hop, and DJs and producers like David Guetta are massive.  Artists are lining up to work with them. Look at Skrillex, who is now working with a metal band. It’s great to see that our type of music is now generally accepted “as music” by the people. You would have never heard any electronic music in the charts a few years ago.  Dance labels that have been closed down are re-opening, and there’s more and more electronic festivals and parties popping up everywhere.  It’s all become more “mainstream,” which of course can be a sell-out thing too.

It seems most of your tracks have a heavy indie rock influence to them, do you ever find both yourselves gravitating more towards rock or more towards electronic influences?

We always try to keep the balance in our music and on our albums. Originally, we come from a techno, dance and electronic background, but over the years we really got into indie and punk. You know, we started the band because as DJs we were bored from the records everyone bought and played back then. We wanted to do something different; thus, started making our own edits and shifting our sound spectrum more towards an alternative side, so we included lots of guitar stuff in our DJ-sets.  Since then, we’re hooked up. This mix also means that we can add more song structure and have more choice in terms of the direction of our music.  Whenever we get too excited about one side of the spectrum, there’s a contra-reaction that drags us back towards the other one. For instance, we just finished a remix for our friends from Who Made Who that’s totally epic 90’s dance, as opposed to our album, which is really song-heavy.

When remixing a song, what are some of the elements in a song that you look for? (i.e. pitch, BPM, etc)

Usually we look for the pitch, the rest doesn’t really matter. We’ve changed the BPM of original track loads in our remixes. BPM has to be our choice so we can fit everything around our idea. It has to make sense though of course and should not sound funny. When we do a remix we only take very little of the original and then build a new Digitalism song or track around it.  The approach is kind of the same as when we make an own new song.

What’s your favorite remix you have done?

At the moment, it is probably the one we’ve done for our own single “Circles.” We love them all, it’s just because it’s new. Legendary was the one we’ve done for Depeche Mode’s “Never Let me Down Again,” because we changed it into a heavy, distorted thing from a ballad… And they loved it!

How do you choose what songs have lyrics and what one’s don’t? With the songs without lyrics, do you ever question whether they should have them?

Once we start questioning, we know that it’s time to add a vocal melody and lyrics. It’s always gut-decisions. Some songs are complete because they might have a prominent element that would replace a vocal layer, but then others just scream for something to complete them. It’s hard to say really.

Do either of you have a favorite song in I Love You, Dude?

That’s a rotation.

If you guys could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

We don’t know, our favorites change daily. We don’t have the one idol or something.

Don’t miss out on Digitalism when they come New York City Friday, December 2nd to Webster Hall!

Kraak and Smaak Interview

? of the Kraak and Smaak trio performed at NYC’s DROM and I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the members, Mark Kneppers.  I was very excited to see their set and especially hear my all-time favorite number, Squeeze Me.  When I heard that track drop, I was dancing like no one was watching. When you are crazily dancing amid bliss, that’s how you know the DJ has done a great job.

Tell me about the origins of your name…

Mark: It’s always difficult explaining when you are not from Holland, but it’s a twisted proverb. It means literally, “crunchy and tasty” but the proverb means “crunchy NOR tasty.” If something tastes really bad and has no taste, in Dutch you say, “This food doesn’t taste nor crunchy nor tasty.” That’s the proverb we twisted said, “crunchy and tasty.”

How did you get the idea for the flip-book themed video for Squeeze Me?

Mark: We had history with the video directors because they did the video clips for Keep Me Home and Money in the Bag.  We are lucky because it fit well.  We gave them the tune, they started thinking, came up with several ideas, and at some point we decided, this is the one.

How do you find your vocalists?

Mark: Sometimes we know the vocalists because when we are performing and traveling, we meet people.  We look for a voice that moves and touches us. That is always what we are looking for.  For instance, Lee Fields has such a voice that’s real, and that’s what we like. Sometimes the vocalists perform live at our shows.  Hopefully next time we will be performing live in the states, especially in New York.

Do you still sample as much as you use to?

Mark: We started as sample based.  Boogie Nights is full of samples. The record company said to us, “Guys for the next records, try not to use a lot of samples.”  Generally, when you use several samples, you lose money. That’s why the last album has almost no samples.  We tried to produce it all ourselves. We would love to use samples because it’s a very nice way to work and it’s very refreshing. We got stuck before finishing our second album because we didn’t know what to do because we were preoccupied with using no samples.  Then we thought “Whatever,” we will just produce with samples. We produced with samples and had no boundaries without thinking of the consequences.  From that, we created a whole new album, Plastic People, from picking out the stuff that was less sample based.

Any songs you would like to remix?

Mark: We always say Radiohead would be great to remix.  Also, we would love to remix Gil Scott Heron.

You have been to a handful of music festivals including Ultra Music Festival, SXSW, and Coachella.  What’s been your favorite?

Mark: Coachella was a very good gig.  Two years ago, we did Detroit Music Festival which was a really good one as well.  Also, we did RainDance in San Francisco deep in the woods which was very special.  Bonnaroo was a crazy gig too.

Check out their new album, Electric Hustle.  I guarantee it will be worth your time.

Gramatik and Michael Menart Interview

Gramatik and Michael Menart Givin’ Us the Lowdown

Gramatik is one of the flyest and most passionate artists in music. I had the opportunity to catch up with him and Michael Menart at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge, where this dynamic duo dished out their thoughts on their art, business, and…tomatoes. 

One of the most difficult aspects of working in the music industry is finding the balance between business and art. Gramatik and Michael Menart have successfully mastered this recipe. They have the perfect varietal blend of samples, beats, and melodies that make it hard to find a genre for their eclectic songs.  Essentially, channeling this constant use of variety makes their pieces simply amazing. 

G: I’ve never been a fan of labeling myself as one genre. To an artists, that’s a total limitation and it’s not natural.  It’s weird to me because we look at it and we are making art, and every art is unique.  My appetite is way more than one genre.  In fact, I listen to twelve different ones on a daily basis.

MM: If you do one thing that’s a signature, it’s hard to break away from it. If you follow one element of style, it limits you to a certain style and feel. It’s hard to have certain elements of music in certain genres that have this categorical feel to them.  Some artists flock to that.  That’s all they do and I never want to do that in my life.

Both Gramatik’s and Michael Menart’s true artistic form beams through when discussing the topic of business.  Even when it comes to their performances, both of them express their desire to make music as an art form rather than being controlled by any source other than their own. Thankfully, they both have the fortunate opportunity to channel their artistic skill and philosophy by being on the independent label, Pretty Lights Music.  From their music to their shows, they are creating an independent avenue that is often rare to find among musicians. 

G: One example is me and Michael are co-headlining this tour so our managers thought we would choose the obvious route when we co-headline where each night, one goes first, and switch off. It arouses two tensions for who’s going to headline the last biggest cities.  In order to avoid that, we came up with the idea that during every show there is going to be 4 slots for 40 minutes.  I go on, then he goes, I go on he goes on, then encore together.  Every night we end up together. If offers variety.  I start off with more hip-hop beats, like more street bangers, and then Mike comes on with his mellow sound.  Then the other two sets, we just kind of crank and go through that glitch-hop.  In the encore, we just go crazy and each of us drops one track.  It’s fun!

In terms the overall music business…

G: We are not competing with anyone and we are not making products.  We are making art and that’s the way we want to keep it. We want money just as much as the next guy, but we don’t want to do it the wrong way. There’s a right way of making money.  We don’t want to do music because that’s the hot thing to do.  We’ve always been doing music and we like it. There are many things in my life I’m not good at, but this is one thing I am.

MM: We didn’t hear music and get moved by it and say, “Oh I bet I could get money off this song.”  Since I was a small child, I was immersed in music and wanted to discover it.  There was nothing to do with money in return.  The return was being a part of the music.

G: To me, music is personal.  People always ask us, “What does your work process look like?” They always presume we have a steady 9-5 working process or we are working in a factory.  It’s never like that.  It’s never in the same process.  When you are making art, you are a slave to your creative impulses and it cannot be predicted or forcibly produced.  You have to wait for it to come and then be ready to seize them because they go away very fast. Many people have creative impulses but just ignore them and go about their life. I have friends that have just as good as impulses as I do, but do nothing with it. You have to try to know yourself as much as possible to see how your thought process works and work within that.  To a certain extent, you have to be responsible. You keep yourself in mind and figure out a way to harvest those impulses.  I used to ask myself, “How can I make a good track one day and a crappy track another day?” You just don’t know how your thought process works.  As you get older, you get wiser and you work around that. The past 2-3 years, I’ve been happy with the way I work and try to keep a system which keeps it all together. I’ve only figured out about 10-20 % of how my mind works, and I’m still getting there. I started being more focused on achieving my goal in music for the soul reason I didn’t want to be doing a 9-5 job.  Humans are dynamic beings that are not robots and putting ourselves in a static environment for 30-35 years destroys you.  I’ve seen what it does to people. It crushes your spirit.  If you have a choice to not do it, why not?

MM: Everyone puts their dream in the back seat and they say, “When I retire I’ll do that.” I don’t even know if I’ll live that long.  I would rather regret doing something than not doing it.

G: “I would rather die trying than die wondering.”  That’s one of my favorite quotes.  Life is short and what does it amount to at the end of the row?  All it comes down to is trying to do your best and be happy.  Me and Mike have been blessed with talent in being able to make music; music that people like.  It would be irresponsible for us to not try and pursue our dream because there several people that don’t have talents and would love to have them.

Not only does this dynamic duo share the same opinions on music, but they share the same opinions on….tomatoes as well. 

G: Mike and I discovered we have alot of points in common; for example, we both don’t like tomatoes.  We always say, “No egos, no tomatoes.”  Egos are bad, but tomatoes are even worse. There’s a holiday in Spain where the entire city is covered in tomatoes and that would be a nightmare for us.

MM: We are going to try to do that for immersion therapy.  Overcome the fear.

In terms of life (not tomatoes), both these fellas should fear nothing and seem like they can take any obstacle that life throws at them.  Their interview was undoubtedly the most sincere, passionate, and refreshing interview I have ever conducted.  Both represent the type of artists who will save the music business from the commercial corruption and they will forever bestow hope for the business. Much appreciated. 

Oh, and did I mention that their show was absolutely ohmyfuckinggawdincredible???

Tender Mercies – Tender Mercies review

An album that’s been 20 years in the making, Tender Mercies’ debut has finally come to fruition. Consisting of Counting Crows members Jim Bogios and Dan Vickrey, along with Patrick Winningham and Kurt Stevenson, the Tender Mercies have released an alt/country album that is rich in both substance and style.

Actually formed before his time with the Crows, Tender Mercies took a backseat after guitarist Dan Vickrey was recruited to play alongside Duritz and co., and even though the seeds were planted, a proper release from them wouldn’t emerge for another two decades. Given how consistently busy the Counting Crows are it’s a miracle this record was even made.  Though the Crows have made a career traveling  all over the world, that laid back San Fran feeling is definitely still here, and at times the vocal styling’s sound eerily reminiscent of other California contemporaries, most notably David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven.

Unlike the Counting Crows, Tender Mercies sports more of a country twang, which in no small doubt is due to Vickrey’s incredible guitar skills. The solos here are amazing, and his gentle bluesy feeling fits the arrangements perfectly. Everything’s in the right place, and even though 20 years is a damn long time to wait, the juxtaposition between Vickrey’s and Winningham’s guitars equal a very rewarding, if not solely relaxing, release.

The best thing about this album isn’t its pristine production, or excellent musicianship, it’s the stark honesty that it conveys. At times Tender Mercies can seem dull, and at others at can seem quite moving. There really isn’t anything special, nothing momentous, just honest, melodic rock n’ roll from a group that’s been a long time coming. Tender Mercies is the product of seasoned musicians that like to make music and have a knack for crafting a tune, which is something that’s always welcome in today’s muddled musical environment.

A hidden gem lost amidst the self-promotion and commercialism, Tender Mercies is a quiet homage to the classic Americana style. At the core of this album there is something beautiful, innocent and brutally honest. A subtle group with a powerful release, Tender Mercies is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise smoggy street.

Zola Jesus – Conatus review

“Conatus” is a term used by the Dutch philosopher Spinoza, most famous for his work “Ethics,” to describe the drive in all animals to stay alive.  So it makes sense that Nika Roza Danilova, the one woman driving force behind Zola Jesus, who grew up in the Merrill, Wisconsin woods eating wild game, should choose that as the title of her latest album.  There is a dire chilliness to the tracks on “Conatus” which reminded me of Ayn Rand, of a forceful individualism impeded by society.

The name Zola Jesus fits into that aesthetic as well. Zola was taken from French nineteenth century novelist and social critic Emile Zola, whom I’ve mentioned here before, specifically in a review of “The Miner’s Hymns” by Johann Johannsson.  Jesus comes from Jesus.  In view of this combination of references, it makes sense that Danilova, who is only 22, spent time studying philosophy.

You won’t find, or at least I couldn’t discern, such intellectual references in the lyrics.  This is probably a good thing.  What you will find are waves of slow synthesizer punctuated by austere electronic beats behind Danilova’s practiced alto vocalizations.  At one time she wanted to be an opera singer, but her voice is probably better suited to what she’s doing now.

Danilova sites influences ranging from Throbbing Gristle to The Swans and Diamanda Galas.  I love Diamanda Galas, and you can hear the same solo power, a power perhaps garnered from an intrinsically isolated spirit, in “Conatus.”  The overall slowness of the album makes the songs sometimes seem similar.  They have an industrial, gothic sensibility that really needs powerful hooks to be truly successful.  But there are some good tracks, especially the mature melodic approach on “In Your Nature,” the echo laden crunch of “Vessel,” and what may be the best song on the record, “Lick the Palm of the Burning Hand,” a new wave ballad.

Having produced three full length albums, as well as three Eps, Zola Jesus is steadily maturing.  The band tours with Alex DeGroot on computer, Nick Turco on synth and Nick Johnson on drums.  They are currently signed to Sacred Bones Records.

Still Corners – Creatures of an Hour review

I first heard “Cuckoo” while casually listening to my favorite college radio station, and, needless to say, I was instantly hooked.  Creatures of an Hour is a very alluring album: it’s beautiful, haunting, gorgeous and enticing all at once. The reverb and echo that is persistent throughout bring to mind some old, mossy, 14th century cathedral;  with its rusty  pipe organs, a beautiful-yet typical stain-glass Madonna and child, and of course the old, venerable, and admittedly scary Catholic Priest.

Best described as a mix between Broadcast and Mazzy Star, which coincidentally are two of my all time favorite, desert island bands, Creatures of an Hour is seductive in all the right places.  Singer Tessy Murray is the perfect Dream Pop Chanteuse and Greg Hughes’ sometimes somber, sometimes psychedelic, but always dreamy arrangements fit her atmospheric style perfectly.

If you’re looking for something that will stylistically blow your mind then Creatures of an Hour may not be your cup of tea.  Instead, the simple arrangements are brought forward with much greater intensity by the group’s beautiful lulling melodies, enchanting organs, and, of course, Murray’s amazing voice.  Creatures is a very concise, very developed album, which isn’t usually a denotation of debut LP’s.

“Cuckoo”, the first single off the album, is perhaps the best intro to this group, but certainly not the best song here.  Songs like “The White Season”, with its beautiful harmonics, and “Demons”, which is so pretty that 2:14 is simply not long enough, are arguably the strongest tracks here.  “Endless Summer”, which has been re-mastered from its previous release, is another highlight and succeeds where lesser bands fail by creating a subtle potency. Amazingly, while the aforementioned songs sound great on their own, they sound even better in conjunction with the rest of the album.

Listening to Creatures of an Hour will make you want to call in sick, close your blinds, dim the lights, make some tea, turn the stereo up to eleven, and crawl back into bed.  Still Corners have bewitched me, and I couldn’t be more delighted. I was worried that the songs wouldn’t be able to match what I felt with “Cuckoo”, but this is one enchanting album.  Creatures of an Hour has given me hope that Still Corners may be able to pick off where Broadcast tragically left off.

Comparing Two Big Bangs: Indie and Rock

Rolling Stone is the old geezer of rock magazines. Whether it’s still relevant is debatable, but it is certainly venerated on a social and, to a lesser extent, critical level. It was and is, in people’s memory, foremost among early rock magazines. Just the words “Rolling Stone” call to mind the music of the late 60s, which the magazine fetishizes to an almost myopic degree; within the top 20 albums on their “500 Greatest Albums List,” 11 are from the 60s (another 2 from the very early 70s). And when we say “the 60s” we really mean ’65-’69, as it was with Rubber Soul that modern rock began to emerge from rock ‘n’ roll.

That that period of five years could produce 11 of the 20 greatest albums of all time may seem inconceivable, but it reveals the meaning behind Rolling Stone’s preoccupation with the late 60s: Rolling Stone concerns itself principally with the development of rock. After all, it was not nearly as interested in Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, or any other rock ‘n’ roller as it was in the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, Jimi Hendrix–all early rockers. If we consider that pop, jazz, folk, and classical are the four fundamental musical categories, then rock ‘n’ roll and rock must be separate subcategories of pop.

During the 1970s rock splintered into numerous factions. Of those factions the most instrumental to the next decade were punk, new wave, and post-punk, all products of the late 70s. These genres informed the development of alternative.

One could argue that alternative deserves its own category separate from rock (so that we would now have rock ‘n’ roll, rock, and alternative, not to mention electronic music and hip hop). But alternative developed fluidly from rock; there was no big bang moment, like the ones that had prompted the creation of rock ‘n’ roll and rock. Every 80s alternative band had its roots in previous rock music, despite certainly adding its own unique stuff to the mixture: the Replacements came from punk and rock, Husker Du from hardcore, the Cure from post-punk. REM, the Smiths, the Jesus & Mary Chain, the Go-Betweens were all pop acts at heart. By the late 80s, alternative had been established as a definite genre, one which Sonic Youth solidified beyond all shadow of a doubt with 1988’s Daydream Nation. But as a mutation of what had come before, alternative was not in a category all its own.

It wasn’t until ’91, when Nirvana brought alternative to the fore with Nevermind, that a separate category was truly created. Once alternative was mainstream, it was no longer an alternative to anything–instead, it was all over the radio. Almost immediately, there was a retreat by artists “with integrity” back underground. What blossomed then was indie music.
Continue reading “Comparing Two Big Bangs: Indie and Rock”

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo review

This publication missed Kurt Vile’s excellent Smoke Ring for My Halo when it came out in March. But now that Kurt’s got an EP coming out, I figure it’s as good a time as any to review the album.

The cover of the forthcoming EP, So Outta Reach, shows a bunch of different shots of an unkempt Kurt Vile asleep sitting up in a big armchair at some party, and in each picture somebody has their arm around him and is smiling at the camera. Your first reaction is laughter, but there’s a certain seriousness to the title that makes you unsure. Certainly the songs on Smoke Ring for My Halo suggest a guy sleepwalking through life. In fact, on the final track, “Ghost Town,” Kurt sings, “It’s all right to peel myself up sleepwalking / in a ghost town / Think I’ll never leave my couch again / ’cause when I’m out I’m only in my mind.” Sleepwalking in a ghost town is a perfect image for a guy who says he can “see through everyone, even my own self.”

Kurt Vile’s spaced-out music, drenched in reverb heightens the effect of separation. It’s as though there were a membrane over whatever it is Kurt’s feeling or trying to tell us. Not only that, but he seems torn as to whether he even wants to say what he’s thinking, often saying dark and immediately countering it with some self-effacing joke. For example, in “On Tour,” Kurt sings, “I wanna write my whole life down / burn it down to the ground,” but goes on to laugh, “Nah, I’m just playing, / I got it made”–and then adding uncertainly after a pause, “Most of the time.” It’s like something is holding him back, making him play down his feelings.

Lyrically the album packs a punch. Kurt’s imagery is personal and dark. But because of the casual way it’s delivered, it comes off more as a prolonged whatever than some attempt at profound insight. It’s much better that way. As it is, listening to the album is like talking to some apathetic friend who’s lost his way, come unattached from the earth and started floating around aimlessly. But if Kurt took the songs more seriously, listening to the album might have been like talking to some insufferable know-it-all who was trying to convince you his feelings were mega important.

The album is not perfect. “Puppet to the Man” and “Society Is My Friend,” both the album’s heaviest songs and also the only ones not about him, are a drag. Since “the man” and “society” are two things people love to stick it to, it’s like Kurt Vile’s gotta get those out of the way before he can keep going with the rest of the album. He does give both themes sort of an original spin, I guess, since in “The Man” he readily admits that he’s a puppet to the man, and in “Society” he seems to lose focus before he can even get to his message. All the same, the tracks feel perfunctory, and stick out from the rest of the album.

But overall, it’s an excellent listen, one of the year’s best. As on the cover of So Outta Reach, there’s an ambiguity to it: underneath the casualness, how serious is he about the emptiness, the detachment, even at times what seems like suicidality? Thematically, that’s what’s cool about it, but the best thing is the music and the way he sings.

Chromeo at NYC’s Terminal 5

Chrom-e-o, ooh-oh.. Chrom-e-o, ooh-oh. Those three syllables strike a chord in my soul the moment I hear them because it will forever bring me back to the other night, when I saw the incredible Canadian superstars.  The anxious crowd was waiting with an unsurmountable suspense for the duo to take the stage. Then, the famous ritual chant began, blue rays of light flooded the crowd, and everyone loudly screamed ’til their lungs got sore. Welcome to the night of 11/5/11 at Terminal 5.

Chromeo began their set with their classic single, “Fancy Footwork.”  The perfect song to get everyone’s feet jiving.  Throughout their set, they played all of their hits “Bonafide Lovin,” “Tenderoni,” “Hot Mess,” “Momma’s Boy,” “Don’t turn the Lights On,” as well as many others.  It’s always enjoyable to see electrofunk come to life from your headphones to the stage.

There’s something about Chromeo’s tracks that always make it a danceable song, regardless of how good the track really is.  I always ask myself, what makes Chromeo so good? Is it their 80‘s era-inspired dance music that permeates the floor and makes the audience naturally conduct their fancy footwork?  Is it their theatrical performance including their recognizable suit and bow-tie ensemble, as well as, their back-up synchronized female dancers? Is it their hilarious sounding talk-box they use to speak to the crowd which always pleases the audience? Or it must be because they’ve been in the industry for a handful of years (circa 2004) and they have mastered the art of performing.  Regardless, I think it’s plausible to say, these righteous fellas have got their heads in the game.

 

PG Six – Starry Mind review

Electric folk with subtly complicated jams. Doesn’t really sound of this era, which is part of what makes it interesting–it’s refreshing to listen to an old-sounding record and know that it’s from today. One song is called “Wrong Side of Yesterday.” True, this record sounds more 1960s than 2010s, but it also sounds more San Francisco than New York, which is where he’s from.

“January” is an Irish traditional, but the way they jam on it sounds very much like the Grateful Dead, the quintessential hippie Californian band. This song fits the album’s cover, a landscape scene viewed by some psychedelic somebody dreaming of old English kings and knights. The lady down in front looks like some horny-toad librarian that hallucinations have turned regal and armored.

PG Six spends the entire album with one foot planted amid 21st century ordinary things and the other ankle-deep in trippy, archaic dreamy stuff. “Letter” is about pretty much what it sounds like–“I wrote a letter / to try and speak my peace / to try and set things straight”–while “Palace” details the hanging gardens he and his true love walk through… in his mind, man! It is all awesomely jammy, with the exception of “Days Hang Heavy,” wherein he retreats from the album cover’s green field into his house as it starts to rain, standing in the kitchen by the window and looking out, with only the gray light filtered through the dark clouds. All the songs are good, but that one and “Talk Me Down” are particularly moving.

With psychedelic music the lyrics generally aren’t what’s important, but as with the Grateful Dead, PG Six’s lyrics are full of pleasant surprises that can grab you even if you’re not listening closely. Thematically, the contrast between the psychedelic stuff and the ordinary stuff is cool. It’s as if when his head comes down below the clouds he just can’t latch onto anything substantive enough to fill him up. “Wrong Side of Yesterday” finds him sober, unable to help contemplating the years during which “all the girls I knew [became] strangers.” It is certainly a melancholy album, though you might not guess it just listening to the jams.

Of course, the emphasis here is on the times when he’s feeling low and needs drugs to rise above it. This album isn’t any kind of comment on the long-term effect of psychotropics. It’s just a slice of his life. What he wants to tell us about is his starry mind; the fact that sometimes little messages from his sober self slip in to the story, and that they’re not very happy, isn’t supposed to make us question the rest of the album. Least I don’t think so.

Here’s something interesting: the whole second half is like a come-down. Notice how much softer it ends compared to how it began. The last song is in the same key as the first and has the same guitar tone and everything–clearly it’s meant to be a bookend. But it’s soft and quiet and slightly sad–that’s the progress he’s made over the course of the album.

This is worth a listen if you like psychedelic rock.