BEFORE I EAT MY EYES & EARS - The Setting Son (Bad Afro)
Bubblegum gets a bad rap. The name infers something sweet and insubstantial that loses its taste after a short time and gets spat out. If you agree, adjust your biases, wind your body clock back to 1966 and lap up The Setting Son, a fully-realised retro treasure from Holland.
So here's the goss: The Setting Son started as a studio project for bedroom musician Sebastian T.W. Kristansen, whose tapes fell into the hands of Lorenzo Woodrose (Baby Woodrose) and sparked the interest of Bad Afro Records. Things got serious from there. This is The Setting Son's third album and best to date. Like the best '60s-inspired garage-pop, it's sunny and sad, swept up in bathos and pathos with a psychedelic twist.
At the heart of "Before I Eat…" are the ethereal vocals of Emma Acs and Kristansen's strong songs. Acs has a voice that, although limited in range, suits these tracks to a tee, and Kristanesen swathes it in 12-string melodies, clever duets, deep keyboard washes and dynamic arrangements. The five players backing Acs are multi-skilled and tighter than a hippie's household budget.
Any thoughts that The Setting Son with hired guns (as was the case on the debut album) have long been swept away. If anything, Kristansen has taken a vocal back seat and pushed Acs right up front. The songs are more diverse and more pop than trippy. "Best of Me" (a Kristansen-Acs duet) might be the best summer song to come out of Copenhagen since…someone help me out here…
Speaking of songs, "Above The Rest" stands, er, above the rest, with a killer chorus and cool-as-shit keys and shakers. "Are You The One" borrows a guitar phrase from The Electric Prunes while "All That Candy" bounces off a groove like one enormous sugar hit, with tighly-meshed vocals and a reeling keyboard that yields to a snappy guitar break. The lyrics are a weak point but when the song's this good, who cares? "Death Breath" follows and is so light it almost flies into the ether. The tougher "Butterface" (jangle-flecked riffs with a touch of Morricone) brings things nicely back on track.
Great record but I can't help wondering why it had that artwork slapped on the front. - The Barman
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THE SETTING SON - The Setting Son (Bad Afro)
Danish bedroom musician Sebastian T.W. Kristiansen is the voice, guitar and keyboardist behind this debut, 14-track album on Denmark's always compelling Bad Afro label.
The Bad Afro people stumbled across some demos by young Sebastian, who's reputed to be something of a recluse, put a band underneath him and bankrolled the long-player. It's filed under "bubble gum psych" - which is to say it's somewhere between folk and fuzz while not taking itself too seriously. Lorenzo from Baby Woodrose drummed and produced, so you know it's going to be good.
"In a Certain Way" is the single - on 7" vinyl, no less - and is the poppiest moment on "The Setting Son". Catchy as a cold and more straight-ahead rock-pop than much of the rest of the album.
There's a folky lightness in "All I Want Is You" and "Le Sacre Coeur" that catches a mood. The latter puts me in mind of '80s Australian band The Moffs who've had a bit of turntable time around the I-94 Bar of late. There's more crunch in "I'm Down" than anything The Moffs recorded with Kristiansen's lysergic opening scream and a driving fuzz guitar line.
Some of these tracks are brief soundscapes rather than full-blown songs, with none running to three minutes and a handful ("The Setting Son", "I Wanna Be Your Boy") clocking in at half that. That's not to say something like the spacey "You Better Run Away From Me" doesn't have a beginning, an end and a middle; it's more like The Setting Sons' songs (try saying that three times fast) say what they're all about in a minimum of time and get the hell out of Dodge.
The tendency towards economy is unusual in this genre and a bonus for people with short attention spans or ADHD. For their folky overtones, each of these songs has at least a toe planted in fuzzy rock soil, which should appeal to the rock dogs reading this. The fuzz riffing is more often than not supplanted by prominent keyboard figures and background vocals ("Running Demons", "All I Want Is You") to build an alluring sound.
I'm tempted to throw in some comparisons to other bands in the same headspace, if only to demonstrate hipness and a growing catalogue of psych music in a similar vein, but it's far more sensible to tell you to hop over here and have a listen for yourself. – The Barman
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