Archive for Tim Presley

Radiohead Tops Tulip Frenzy’s 2016 Top 10 List

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Disastrous years, moments when the entire world threatens to unravel, produce the best music.  The bumper crops of great albums arise in years like 1968, 1974, 1979, 1998, 2001, 2008, as if the one mercy we may be granted as life unspools is a good soundtrack.

And so it is that as the gang at Tulip Frenzy sat down to discuss the best records of 2016 — a year we all concluded may have been the worst one for our nation since 1862, or at least 1930 — we found more albums in contention for our heralded Top 10 List than in any 12-month cohort since we began formally compiling our lists earlier this century.

Here’s whose albums didn’t make the list, so you get a sense of the competitive sweepstakes: Angel Olsen, Parquet Courts, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Fleshtones, The  Mekons, The Rolling Stones, Kevin Morby, Cheena, Black Mountain, Heavens Gateway Drugs, Feels, Wire, Ty Segall, and Capsula.  Longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy will recognize several of these bands as among our very faves, and each produced remarkable recs we listened to over and over and over again.  We considered Capsula’s glorious Santa Rosa — the most melodic punk album since their 2006 Songs & Circuits — literally until this morning, and in the end couldn’t make room for it.  Kevin Morby’ s Singing Saw was the soundtrack to our springtime.  And yet none of these records made the cut.  Wow, so who did?

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The #10 Album Of 2016: Morgan Delt’s Phase Zero

In August it was abundantly clear that Phase Zero by Morgan Delt was going to be our Psych Album of The Year, virtually guaranteeing its placement on the 2016 Top 10 List. We called it a “gorgeous, weird, melodic, inventive, soothing, trippy self-produced album in which he plays all the instruments.” It held up in the months since, and his show at DC9 revealed him to be a young beanpole hippy with flowing red locks and a kickass band.  We suspect he’ll move up the list in the months and years ahead.

The #9 Album of 2016: David Bowie’s Blackstar

Like a great grey owl showing up on your fencepost, David Bowie’s death coming at the very beginning of the year was a portent of the disaster to come.  That Blackstar was released literally the day before we got news of his untimely end was like a cruel joke, or the most brilliant performance-art piece of all time.  At that time, we wrote, “That he finished with Blackstar is like the Beatles going out with Abbey Road: an amazing grace upon which to conclude one of the transcendent careers in contemporary music.”  Some have put Blackstar at the top of their 2016 list.  We think as a concept it definitely deserves that, but as music, it was merely great — especially the way Bowie’s coda brought him back to his teenage enthusiasm for the jazz of Gary Mulligan.  But whereas 2013’s The Next Day was high on our list, we reduce Bowie’s finale to a few amazing songs, but not anywhere close to the best complete album of 2016.

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The #8 Album of 2016: Quilt’s Plaza

We called Plaza Quilt’s masterpiece when it was released in February, and it has held up well against walk-off home runs, 50-yard field goals into the wind, and the hot streaks of others. “These guys are so much more than an art-school project,” we wrote then, referencing how they were formed in Boston a few years back.  Plaza is to Quilt’s last album, Held In Splendor, as Revolver was to Rubber Soul: paradoxically more commercial and slick, and yet more experimental and ambitious. Anna Fox Rochinski’s voice is in a category with Syd Straw and Neko Case — yeah, I just wrote that — and when she is singing the 60% of the Quilt’s songs that joyfully get released, this Beatles-influenced band is transcendent.

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The #7 Album of 2016: P.J. Harvey’s The Hope Six Demonstration Project

We had high hopes for Polly Jean’s album, which was mostly focused on her drive-by tour of the worst nabes in our hometown of D.C..  After all, in 2012, even though we ultimately gave Radiohead the top honors in Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 List (c), her Let England Shake claimed runner-up honors, and we believe her Stories Of The City, Stories Of The Sea could well be the previous decade’s strongest work.  But it was weird that, as powerful as this new record was, it seemed like a slight misstep.  We said at the time, “when she creates an album this beautiful, and this powerful, she’s revealing, once again, that Polly Jean Harvey is one of the very few artists in 2016 using rock’n’roll to grapple with the world at this level.” Yet over the course of the year, we played it far less than we expected, given how much we adored the original song released from it, “The Wheel.”  This is a powerful, serious work of art, but it’s placement in the back half of this list reveals it to be a little less enjoyable than we would have wished.

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The #6 Album of 2016: Cosmonauts’ A-OK

We have long had a soft spot in our heart for the So-Cal psych-punk band Cosmonauts, and with A-OK they produced not only the summer’s soundtrack, they broke through as purveyors of catchy tunes thundering along with a power and pace that would make fellow Orange County natives Anton Newcombe and Ty Segall equally proud.  A long time ago, when explaining why Elvis Costello got more airplay than the Clash, Joe Strummer said, “Well Elvis, maybe he sings a bit better than we do.” Singing is not Cosmonauts’ greatest strength, though it is serviceable enough.  But the comparison to Strummer’s Clash, yeah, works.

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The #5 Album of 2016: Tim Presley’s The Wink

Tim Presley has been at or near the top of our Top 10 list each year since his Darker My Love took top honors in 2010.  We thought White Fence’s To The Recently Found Innocent was not only the best rec of 2014, it has secured a permanent place in the canon, possibly our favorite album of the past decade.  We know that White Fence could rock hard live, even as Presley’s home recordings under that name could  at times seem incomplete, low-fi psychedelic noodling.  When his collaboration with Cate LeBon, under the name Drinks, came out in 2015, we feared the worst, for it seemed like a return to the bad habit of meandering, underpowered preciousness.  But woo hoo, The Wink was a remarkable “solo album” from a guy whose White Fence recs are mostly made with just him, alone with his cat, and occasionally Ty Segall.  In October we wrote, “The Wink is an astonishingly great album, the product of an eccentric genius with an oddball sensibility and a reverence for the artists he admires. The title track sounds like it was ripped from a master tape of Bowie’s The Lodger — an homage to a dead hero in which Presley took the time to reverse engineer the best songs from Bowie’s best album. A dozen bands before now have tried capturing the spare perfection of the first Gang of Four album, but on “Clue,” Presley’s the first artist I know of who has ever truly caught the interplay between Jon King’s vocals and Andy Gill’s guitar. But of course, the major artist that Presley channels best on his solo album is Tim Presley, for we hear throughout the 12 songs here chord progressions and melodies spanning his career…”

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The #4 Album of 2016: Psychic Ills Inner Journey Out

We were really unprepared for what a great record Inner Journey Out was, writing upon its early summer release, “Inner Journey Out is for playing when heading on a road trip to Big Bend, to Marfa, on that long thin ribbon of highway wending toward the West as the shimmering heat makes the cactus liquid.” The fact that Tres Warren and Elisabeth Hart are transplanted Texans living in New York partially accounts for how their gritty, urban Velvets-inluenced sound also has one foot firmly planted in country blues.  With Hope Sandoval singing marvelously on “I Don’t Mind,” it was easy to think of Inner Journey Out having a spiritual link to Mazzy Star, but the album this most reminded us of, in a strange way, was Exile On Main Street, an ambitious, sprawling work that never drifted far from classic American roots-music idioms.  Every time we played this record, it brought a smile to our face, and from mid-summer on, we were chanting, “Top 5, baby.  This one’s a contender.”

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The #3 Album of 2016: Alejandro Escovedo’s Burn Something Beautiful

For more than 20 years, every Alejandro Escovedo album has been a source of solace, an inspiration.  He is so perfectly placed to appeal to us: an Austin roots-rock hero cum occasional chamber rocker who played in the late ’70s San Francisco punk band The Nuns, and growing up loved Bowie and Mott The Hoople as much as we did.  But after 2010’s great Street Songs of Love, which was the #2 album on our list that year, we wondered if Al would again be so inspired.  What a joy it was to discover that in Burn Something Beautiful, he may have produced his best record of this century.  We exulted when it came out, “anyone who has ever thrilled to hear how Alejandro assembles a classic rock’n’roll album based upon his experiences and unique vantage point will see this one for what it is: his best album in this late hard-rocking phase of an amazing career.” A big part of the joy this record inspired was the sound of his band, with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, mainstays of Robyn Hitchcock’s recent albums, at its core.  The strength of Burn Something Beautiful was Al himself, whose great songwriting and, on this one, fantastic voice made this a record we will playing for as long as we’ve played With These Hands and Thirteen Years.

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The #2 Album of 2016: Thee Oh Sees A Weird Exits

John Dwyer, it turns out, is an old fashioned band leader, a figure as much like Miles Davis as the punk and garage rocker he started out being.  On A Weird Exits (and its shorter companion, An Odd Entrances, which came out last month), Dwyer cranks up the latest incarnation of Thee Oh Sees — a double-drum, bass + all Dwyer combo — to take us on a musical journey through psych, prog rock, jazz, and even blues.  If you tuned in even as late as 2011’s Castlemania, you might never have predicted what this particular Oh Sees album would sound like.  Of course, tucked way in the back of the latest issue of Uncut, we get a sense of Dwyer’s heterodox sensibility, for in a feature entitled, “My Life In Music,” the records he calls out as his favorites are by Can, Grand Funk Railroad, Robert Fripp, Hiragi Fukuda, Michael Yonkers, Uriah Heap, Eric Dolphy, and Henry Flynt & The Insurrections.  What, you were expecting The Germs and Pere Ubu?  I might have… But nah, this guy goes way deeper.  As we noted in August when A Weird Exits came out, it’s time to take John Dwyer seriously.  “In just a 30-minute snippet of time, such a short interlude in your life, John Dwyer has taken us from the most exciting garage rock of the epoch to deep, moving contemplation. The guy has it all, including originality. A Weird Exits, its title rendered ambiguous by the extra “s”, is not only the best Oh Sees album since Floating Coffin, it should be that album that makes audiences of all stripes sit up and notice. It’s time to take John Dwyer seriously.”

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The #1 Album of 2016: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

The only flaw on this album was the absence of a hyphen between “Moon” and “Shaped” in its title.  By including concert staples such as “Identikit” and “True Love Waits,” A Moon Shaped Pool felt a lot like Radiohead finishing up old business before it could move on.  With Jonny Greenwood’s orchestration of amazing songs like “Burn The Witch,” Radiohead came as close as can be to Steve Reich territory, which just confirms they’re playing at a different level from all contemporaries.  We gave The King Of Limbs #1 honors in 2012, even as other critics exalted P.J. Harvey’s Let England Shake and we still think we were right.  With the addition this year, though, of In Rainbows Disk 2 — an unexpected release of companion songs from the 2007 original — Radiohead has spent more time in our earbuds than probably any band other than Bob Dylan, which fans o’ T Frenzy will recognize as a profound statement.  We loved A Moon Shaped Pool, recognized it right away for what it is, a peerless, non-rock’n’roll album that added up to the best music of 2016.

 

On “The Wink,” White Fence’s Tim Presley Proves A One-Man Band Can Still Have A Solo Album

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Tim Presley is an artist of such power, he has twice created work garnering Tulip Frenzy’s Album Of The Year honors.  Leading Darker My Love, a genuine band with, you know, multiple musicians recording songs, um, together, his Alive As You Are was a country rock gem, as meticulously crafted as an Hermes stirrup.  In 2014, For The Recently Found Innocent not only was the best album Presley’s “band” White Fence ever produced, but we’re pretty certain that when Tulip Frenzy looks back, in 2020, on the current decade, our team o’ plucky editors will have an easy time accepting its bid as the best rec since the Aughts.  All of which might lead a casual reader to believe that things are straightforward here — that Presley is a consistently great and major artist, a commodity as predictable as the Beatles in their prime.

That this isn’t the case is both a source of frustration and begins to get at the ritualistic magic of The Wink, Presley’s solo album, which came out one month ago.  The Wink is an astonishingly great album, the product of an eccentric genius with an oddball sensibility and a reverence for the artists he admires.  The title track sounds like it was ripped from a master tape of Bowie’s The Lodger — an homage to a dead hero in which Presley took the time to reverse engineer the best songs from Bowie’s best album.  A dozen bands before now have tried capturing the spare perfection of the first Gang of Four album, but on “Clue,” Presley’s the first artist I know of who has ever truly caught the interplay between Jon King’s vocals and Andy Gill’s guitar.

But of course, the major artist that Presley channels best on his solo album is Tim Presley, for we hear throughout the 12 songs here chord progressions and melodies spanning his career, from sideman in The Fall to collaborator with Ty Segall, not to mention leader of Darker My Love, White Fence, and Drinks, his 2015 album with Cate Le Bon.

For fans of White Fence, what is immediately apparent here is that The Wink is a great sounding album — that compared to those pre-2013 albums seemingly recorded in his bedroom, this one is a studio product with, dare we say it, high fidelity.  That it’s still recorded by a one-man band, or close to it (a few guests may have sat in, here and there), means it has the angular limitations of uneven musicianship; he might sound like Gang of Four, but the bass and drums don’t really have a bottom.  Performing as White Fence, it took the miraculous Live In San Francisco, recorded in 2013 with a killer backup band, to reveal to the world just how amazing were songs like “Swagger Vets and Double Moon,” which if you heard it only on Family Perfume, Parts 1 and 2, sounded like low-fi psychedelicacy, not the fully actualized, punk-steeped gem it became with a real band.  For The Recently Found Innocent, Ty Segall stepped in offering a kick on the bass drum and, we’d suggest, Presley’s ass, getting him to step up the sonic power of his noodling and produce a real album you could listen to on a real stereo, not a home recording you needed headphones and a lot of patience to enjoy.

The Wink is a real album, and it is great.  We can’t wait to hear it performed live, with a real band.  That it still doesn’t combine high fidelity with an in-studio band doesn’t mean we’re complaining.  Tim Presley continues to defy the world, taking leave from a one-man band and putting out a solo album.

 

We Live In A Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, Thanks To Ty Segall, John Dwyer, and Tim Presley

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Our summer vacation is well planned, though on August 26th we are scheduled to be sitting up straight and paying attention at our work desk.  Somehow we doubt we’ll be of much use that day, given the new Joe Boyd-produced Robyn Hitchcock album and Brill Bruisers by the New Pornographers will both have been released by the time we sip our first taste o’  joe.  Yet we know already that the first album we will download that Christmas-in-August morn will be Ty Segall’s Manipulator, a double album — let that settle for a moment — that Uncut Magazine today declares is the definitive work by the 27-year old tyro.  To say we can’t wait the three weeks ’til it is out slightly understates the facts.

Yesterday, we saw a list put together by GQ of the best albums of the Millennium to date.  We eagerly looked… and found a grand total of one rock’n’roll album on the list that truly mattered.  Lots of Kanye and Beyonce and JayZ, but the only album on the list that we would put on our own compendium was PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake.  This might lead you to believe that, since 2000, there hasn’t been a lot of great rock’n’roll music.  That would be wrong.

It is true that we have had a problem since the odometer rolled over on 2000 to even come up with a proper name or description of the decade we are in, which is one reason why the Teens, or whatever it is we call this cohort of ten years following the miserably named Aughts, seems so shapeless.  So inconsequential.  People don’t even think of it as a proper decade, as if it has been one long continuum since the booster rocket fell off on December 31, 1999.  Ladies and Gentlemen, we are floating in space, and of course no one up here can hear you scream.  But if they could hear us… we would right now be sounding a lot like one of those girls in the old Ed Sullivan Show reruns when the Beatles hit the stage.

Yes, allow me to say that since 2010, we have been living in an absolute Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, and it is largely because of three personalities: Ty Segall, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, and Tim Presley of Darker My Love and of course White Fence.

They will be seen on no such lists as those compiled by the hacks of the magazine stand.  But any sentient being who cares about real rock’n’roll surely knows that, nearly halfway through the decade, the Teens are shaping up as at least as consequential as the ’90s, which was the best decade for music since the ’60s.  (The ’90s were the ONLY decade since the ’60s when the era’s best and most important music could also claim to be among its most popular, with bands as disparate as Nirvana, R.E.M., Oasis and Blur accompanying less well-known but equally meaningful acts likes the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols, Whiskeytown, Spiritualized, Alejandro Escovedo, and Luna, to name a few, on any proper rundown of the era’s best music.*)

If you read lists like GQ’s, you would be forgiven for immediately wishing to down a bottle of Clorox and ending it all.  But if you think about what pleasure has been handed down to us by Messrs. Segall, Dwyer, and Presley, there is hope.  Better, there is a revelation, milords: this is a Golden Age.

Ty Segall is about to release his 7th album under his own name.  That number doesn’t even include his work with Fuzz, and I don’t think it tallies his collaboration with Mikal Gilmore, or maybe even Tim Presley (Hair by Ty Segall and White Fence.)  Seven of the most exciting fuzz-based, Beatles-infused, punk-rockin’ slabs o’ joy since the British bands dueled with X and our friends in the New York City-based post-CBs cohort to produce that glorious moment between 1978 and 1980, before it all began to go south again, only to pick up the pulse later in the decade with the advent of the Pixies…

John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees have produced so many great albums since 2010 that my playlist is two hours long.  And Tim Presley, confused as he has sometimes been about the right medium through which to capture his muse… a slight man sprinting after Tinkerbell with a cup… who can also morph into a rock’n’roll buzzsaw when he hits the stage… has nonetheless released in just the past nine months a wicked live album and, as of last week, a spectacular White Fence studio album.  Three obscure acts.  A Golden Age.

Look, so far this decade, we have loved work by Capsula, PJ Harvey, the black ryder, Bob Dylan, BJM, Cat Power, Cosmonauts, Crocodiles, Dean Wareham, The Evens, First Communion Afterparty, Kelley Stoltz, Kurt Vile, Black Mountain, Magic Trick, Mikal Cronin, Neko Case, Parquet Courts, Phosphorescent, Quilt, Woods, Sleepy Sun, White Denim, and even Tame Impala.  With all the bad vibes emanating from points near and far, we should settle down and settle in, for the ’10s or Teens or whatever we call it are producing some of the greatest music in the 60+ year history of rock’n’roll.  There is a lot more crap out there, of course, and few of the bands named above are making a dent on the Big Lists by the Big Magazines.  But in no small part due to three men, the aforementioned Segall, Dwyer, and Presley, when the real history… the secret history… of music in the new Millennium is written, it will be written in gold.

 

* We understand the argument that the ’70s, like the ’60s, had some of its best bands also turn out to be the most commercially successful.  The Stones, Bowie, Led Zep, yeah, we get it.  But since we think the truly best albums of the decade were by the Clash and Television and Brian Eno, and since none of them really were all that big commercially (the Clash didn’t become big in the US til 1980), we’re going to let our statement stand, if you don’t mind…

At Long Last, A Proper Studio Album From White Fence, And A Gem It Is

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Keith Richards tells the story of how the hollow-sounding chords at the beginning of “Street Fighting Man” were recorded on a little cassette in a hotel room.  We were beginning to get the feeling that if Tim Presley wrote such a masterpiece — he’s written others — he would have released that hotel output, never bothering to go into the studio.  Thank Heavens the Stones had the good sense to release the song in its full sonic glory, studio treatment and hotel track, tinny chords and all.  And thank God that Ty Segall — maybe that’s redundant — persuaded Presley to go into a studio to create For The Recently Found Innocent, because this seventh White Fence is a beaut.

We knew what Presley could do, not just because his band Darker My Love released Tulip Frenzy’s #1 album in 2010, Alive As You Are.  And in 2012, Presley and Segall collaborated on Hair, which qualified as no less than that year’s 2nd best album.  And then, after we complained for what seems like ever that we wished Presley would get out of the bedroom and take his talents to a proper studio and record with a proper band, not to mention straighten up and comb his hair etc., he closed out the year with a live masterpiece — White Fence’s Live In San Francisco, which made our Top Ten List(c).  What a hootenanny that one is!  Maybe the best punk rock record of the last five years!  You could hear John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees chortling at the knobs, as he recorded Presley in all his barrre-chord glory.  And now we can hear the impact of his friend Ty Segall, who plays drums and produces what is already apparent as the best batch of White Fence cookies to come out of the oven.  Ever.

Whether he’s an introvert, or just likes the freedom of recording at home, the intervention by friends Dwyer and Segall to get Tim Presley to share with the world a better sounding version of the magic that takes place the moment he picks up a guitar is surely welcomed.  We are done comparing Presley to Kurtz, gone up the river.  On For The Recently Found Innocent he has brought his jangly guitar, his reverence for early Who and Kinks dynamics, his fondness for psychedelic chords, wispy vocals, the patchouli ambience… brought it all to a studio where Mr. Segall himself plays drums and marshals the Dolby hiss fighters to render this in damn near high fi!

If you think we’re enthusiastic about this, you’re right, and aside from dropping a big hint that you’ll hear more about this when it is time to lasso the best o’ 2014 into our little compendium, we should quit the writing about it and get back to nodding our heads to the beat. Yes, it has one.  Tim Presley has recorded a proper studio album and White Fence can get the Spotify airing and due it is so solemnly owed.

Ty Segall-Produced White Fence Studio Album Coming On July 22nd

Posted in Music with tags , , on May 31, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Woo hoo!  As Tulip Frenzy readers know, we have wished for a while that Tim Presley would bottle up that awesome White Fence sound in a legitimate studio, with a legitimate drummer, and not just record album after album in the comforts of his sleeping nook.  And — where were we? — we found erstwhile White Fence collaborator Ty Segall has persuaded the boy to follow our instructions to a tee.  Here’s how Presley put it:

Fear, anger, pain, anxiety. Guilty! I needed something new. I needed to be free and innocent. I was floating in my room. Sick of the wall Bounce-A-LuLa. I could not get high. I wanted to put some songs in someone else’s room. I wanted to see what they sounded like with a real drummer. I wanted to see what it would sound like using an Aliens ear. For a lack of a cooler/humble word, Ty Segall “produced” this album.

I had to choose the songs. We then went into Ty’s Fiat-sized garage and recorded them. He placed the microphones, hit record and played drums on some songs. Then Nick Murray was called in to finish the rest of the drums. Nick was perfect, seeing as he’d been a solid member of the live group, and I had played demo versions of most of these for him during car rides. This all was a bit different to the WF formula. I had to put dates on a calendar. It forced me to pick the best songs of the litter, and apply those to the tools I had: Ty Segall, Nick Murray, musical instruments & tape. We then dumped all that LA jive into Eric Bauer’s studio in San Francisco. Added some things, and then Ty mixed it all up. I was the farmer and this was Ty’s soup. He somehow knows exactly what I hear.

This record, I had to make a change, not drastic, but a change nonetheless. My room was tired of me, so we took a break, and I fucked some other room.

“Credence of substances, rights of any sex, and situations of finding a place in this world now next. From the drug dealer, to the honest stealer. From the homeless ex-solider to the privileged creep, to the fine Latina walking down the street. We are all guilty of anger, pain, envy & greed…..to the recently found innocent …. we all will soon be freed.”

The #9 Album On The Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Is White Fence’s “Live In San Francisco”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on December 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The fundamental dilemma of Tim Presley’s White Fence was solved, as we discovered, when you got the guy out of his apartment and onto a stage with a killer live band.  No more soft and ethereal vocals, no more wispy guitars weaving in and out like Casper The Friendly Ghost.  Instead, the kind of straight-ahead rock we’ve yearned for from an artist, who with Darker My Love, and then Ty Segall, has ranked in our Top Three twice in the past four years, and lives on to fight from the #9 spot this year.

When Live In San Francisco came out last month, we said:

“It is one of the hardest, bossest punk-meets-Byrds-in-Andy-Warhol’s Factory documents that you will ever hear.  Ever.  Great bashing drummer, multiple guitars, Presley singing into the microphone like he means it, it contains none of the fey and tentative, dreamy pop chops that the prior White Fence albums have.  ”Pink Gorilla,” which was one of the best songs on Cyclops Reap, is magical, as is the other song from that album, “Chairs In The Dark.”  ”Harness” is such gob-flying late ’70s British punk, you can imagine Fred Armisen playing on it.  So of course the Great Man of the Epoch, Thee Oh See’s John Dyer is a prime mover behind the release, and we can only imagine his no B.S. admonition to Presley: Tim, get out of the house and play these songs with a real band.”

We called it the Punk Rock Album Of The Year, but what we really meant was it was Number 9, Number 9, Number 9…

Up The River In Search Of Tim Presley And White Fence

Posted in Music with tags , , on May 18, 2013 by johnbuckley100

In Apocalypse Now, before Captain Willard is sent up the river to kill Colonel Kurtz, there’s a review of Kurtz’s accomplishments, his military CV, which shows just what an amazing officer he was before he went off the deep end.  And so we begin our story about Tim Presley, whose weird/magnificent Cyclops Reap was recently released under the band name White Fence.

Not three years ago, Tulip Frenzy called Presley’s band Darker My Love’s Alive As You Are the Album Of The Year.  Last year, we awarded Hair, the collaboration between White Fence and Ty Segall, half of the the runner-up position to Woods in the Album Of The Year honors (the other half going to Ty for Twins).  So we climb into our little PT boat heading up the river after Presley with admiration, respect, and gratitude for the pleasure his music has given us over the past several years.  And also puzzlement.  How has it come to this?

The reason we have embarked on this voyage is that, since 2010, when Darker My Love was put on hiatus, Presley’s White Fence albums have been tantalizing, frustrating lo-fi oddities, recorded in his bedroom, under the influence of, what exactly? What’s happened to the guy, his state of mind?  Presley has now entered the category of pop genius-savants-eccentrics that include Syd Barrett, The Residents, and The Shaggs — in all cases, musicians you marvel at more than you enjoy.  We’ve listened to each of the White Fence albums, and the feeling is this: you begin by hearing glimmers of pop smithery that brings a smile to your face, and then you wait for it to congeal into some kind of solid form, but riffs come and go, melodies dissolve faster than snowflakes in Los Angeles, and unless you are in, shall we say, a state where psychedelic albums can be understood in their fullest, you just have to wonder: what the Hell is he doing?

Last year, he put out the massive Family Perfume in two parts, released a few weeks apart.  It was said that Part One was curated by Ty Segall, and in fact it came out just a few weeks after Presley and Segall’s great album. But after listening to both parts several times, we found it really hard to want to listen some more, because it was just too frustrating — too fragmented, ethereal, the sound quality too low, as both the key and the meters in which the songs were being played shifted in swirling mists. We gave up… And went back to listening to Darker My Love.

And yet our little boat takes a turn in the river and we can hear, from loudspeakers above the bridge ahead, Presley’s new ‘un, Cyclops Reap.   One song (“Trouble Is Trouble Never Seen”) is sung in the exact phrasing as Eno’s “The True Wheel.”  In another song (“New Edinburgh), we hear the riff from “Needles And Pins” float in and exit like it got poked by a pointed object.  “Pink Gorilla” sounds like an outtake from a lost ’60s artifact. Whole segments of Nuggets get thrown in a Cuisinart, along with jimson weed, nutmeg, and yage, and out comes… out comes… well, damn if this doesn’t sort of begin to work…  If you get into the spirit of things, you begin to realize… yummy, this is eccentric garage psyche, but it actually sounds like… an album, replete with music spliced into units we generally refer to as… songs.

First, the sound quality no longer makes you think he recorded the whole thing on his iPhone.  Second, there are more recognizable, longer-lasting fragments of melody on this one.  Sure, this is surpassingly odd music, but… if you have the inclination to sit still and listen to what has to be one of the strangest career detours in the history of rock’n’roll, you will find Cyclops Reap to be a confounding, ultimately intoxicating album.

Which explains why, when we finally found him, Presley was sitting there playing sitar surrounded by naked Montagnards and a babbling Dennis Hopper.  And having invested the time to discover how genuinely interesting this is, we think we’ll stay for a while, happy to discover we don’t have to carry out our mission “with extreme prejudice.”

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