Reviews: In the Village of the Apple Sun
One of music critic Ken Barnes' favorite albums of 2007! "Fascinating."
Anton Barbeau is one of the myriad cult performers to sprout from the psychedelic family tree. Like Major Stars, the Bevis Frond, Julian Cope and Robyn Hitchcock and the grand pere of psychedelic cult heroes, Syd Barrett, Barbeau has a distinct musical personality: Where Hitchcock's psychedelic world is populated by insects and strange figures ("Madonna of the Wasps," "The Man With The Lighbulb Head"), and Nick Saloman's reflects a sentimental hippy past, Barbeau's psychedelic scenery holds a mirror up to a Sacramento occupied by drug takers, offbeat ideologues and slightly seedy 60s holdouts... In the Village of the Apple Sun is one of Barbeau's more recent efforts, but could have emerged almost anywhere along the line of his musical career, with its melange of daft lyrics, strange guitar noises and Barbeau's distinct vocal snark kept in line by his knack for a melody you can hum.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of guitar in Village of the Apple Sun. But not just any old guitar: Various players get credit for spaced guitar, twittery guitar, chordalfuzz guitar, bell guitar, dawn-eye fade-out guitar, beak guitar and plain old "rock-and-roll guitar." Then there's the riffy guitar, bong guitar, magic christian radio guitar and the always psychedelic backward guitar. As long as Barbeau and his kind wander the Earth, the makers of effects pedals need never go hungry. Elsewhere you can hear the jangle of early Byrds, as in "On A Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9."
Barbeau's distinctive vocals are as quirky as ever, but seem particularly well suited to the weirdo lyrics. If you're going to invite the listener to "rearrange the tables in the lounge car of your brain"—as Barbeau does on "Mushroom Box, 1975" or play the neighbourhood oddball on "The Bane of Your Existence of Your Name" you don't want to sound like a refugee from the Easy Listening charts. "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" also stands out for featuring the album's mental and lunar preoccupation with the line "This is when the moon in your mind comes alive."
Barbeau's tunes contain a healthy strain of power-pop as well, and the distant echo of the Beatles can be heard in a number of songs. The whimsical "Murray Boots Are Conquering the World" sounds like something that a Midwest garage band might cook up after its first listen to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," with some violin drone substituting for the unavailable Indian instruments.
In The Village Of The Apple Sun is a kind of sister/parallel release to Drug Free, a very fine album which you my recall us reviewing last month. Fresh from a fabulous Sunday Times review which awarded Drug Free four stars and heaped praise on the man, not to mention a full-blown interview in this very oracle, Ant's word is starting to spread (we hope!).
In The Village Of The Apple Sun is an underground masterpiece. The opener "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" is an infectious piece of psychedelic freak-pop as you could ever want to hear. The Sacramento-based singer/songwriter (and don't let that description turn you off) makes "intelligent, fractured pop" with nods to The Beatles, the legendary Julian Cope, Swindon's finest XTC or the more esoteric Robyn Hitchcock.
The beauty of this record and sister release Drug Free is that Anton makes accessible, yet diverse psych-pop. His take on psychedelic fun and games is not self-indulgent studio doodling, week-long concept albums or unlistenable sound-experiments. His music demands attention, sure its off-the-wall at times, yes his lyricism is occasionally obscure but his swirling, jangling, uplifting brand of tunes are always tinged with equal measures of pop-madness and genius. Check out the jaw-dropping vocal lines and the sheer joy that "On a Bicycle Built For Bicycle 9" inspires, or the ethereal soundscapes and miltary precision of "Murray Boots Are Conquering The World." Delight in the chopped-up sound effects and infectious pop of "When I Was 46 In The Year 13." Damn, this album is filled with other-wordly delights, you need to listen to the man yourselves to fully appreciate the other-wordliness of Anton's songwriting and crafted playing. If martians landed, and decided to show Earth how to make precise, joyful, original music it would probably sound like Anton Barbeau.
by Brian Baker
Salvador Dali once famously noted, "The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad." That same difference may well exist between Anton Barbeau and Brian Wilson. Barbeau has been issuing home-recorded nuggets of pop genius from his Sacramento base since 1994's The Horse's Tongue—nearly an album a year at last count. In that time, Barbeau has collaborated with the Loud Family's Scott Miller and the Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman while cornering the market on oddball pop brilliance like an American Robyn Hitchcock. In the Village of the Apple Sun, self-released three years ago and now getting wider exposure on Four-Way, is a swirling sonic pop trip that finds Barbeau splitting the same atoms as Wilson, the Beatles, XTC and the Soft Boys without resorting to irony or mere fannish mimicry. Apple Sun is Barbeau's fiendishly original Sgt. Pepper's, but the same could be said of his catalog. Somebody make him rich already.
Dear Syd Barrett fans, it's time to take off those black arm bands and join in the musical experience that is Anton Barbeau. In the Village of the Apple Sun is part Barrett, part Abbey Road-era-Beatles, part Neutral Milk Hotel, with an added hint of awesomness. Stand-out tracks include "On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9" and the title track, "In the Village of the Apple Sun." So open up the drapes, shave that sorry excuse for a beard, and get out and experience the world through the eyes of one of today's most prolific songwriters.
The grand tradition of psych-tinged '60s-style songwriting, championed by XTC and Robyn Hitchcock, rolls on with Sacramento's own cult genius Anton Barbeau. A perfect blend of weirdo sonics and toe-tapping bubblegum choruses, this new one puts Barbeau in striking distance of indie stardom. Catchy, freaky, tripped-out fun!
by Grant Purdum
I've never heard anointed "cult hero" Anton Barbeau before, and I must say I find him to be quite charming. His voice, an odd distillation of Dan Bejar's smarmy smirk and sixties Britpop preciousness, is so powerful and up-front I find myself forgetting about the background music droning like a Brian Jonestown Massacre roots project. But it's quite alluring, as is just about everything to be found on In the Village of the Apple Sun, an album with marble-solid rock and an unfortunate title. It's hard to regurgitate Nuggets fodder and come out sounding like anything but a starry-eyed dandy that just discovered SF Sorrow, but Barbeau does it successfully, and he's likely to be an appealing entity for people that normally don't find themselves attracted to this kind of music (i.e. me). As the "Satisfaction"-esque buzz guitar of "Mushroom Box, 1975" backs a cutesy chorus, I can't help but wonder if Barbeau will someday be allowed to save the psych scene from itself. Here's to hoping he gets his chance... though the way things are going in the industry these days, it's not wise to hold one's breath.
by Lee Jackson
In the Village of the Apple Sun is one of two albums that Northern Cali multi-instrumentalist Anton Barbeau hatched recently. This one's the psych pop concept album, while his other Drug Free is more Kraut-glam infused. The most obvious reference point that comes to my mind is when XTC reinvented themselves as the Dukes of Stratosphear to indulge fully in a love of mid-late 60s psych pop maneuvers with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Barbeau is a witty, surrealist songwriter that's learned a lot from John Lennon, Julian Cope and even Joe Meek, as his music has an odd charm that's not instantly accessible but undeniably catchy, bizarre and even British, albeit from the removed modern day West-coast American perspective. Tracks like "This is Why They Call Me Guru 7," "Mushroom Box, 1975" and the fantastic title song combine absurdity with nostalgia, modern day concerns, big shiny hooks, head-tickling arrangements and a burly psych guitar edge into fully compacted psychedelic symphonies for the expanding mind. Not a reinvention of the wheel by any means, but Barbeau is successful every second of this free-wheeling head trip and manages to conjure visions of those aforementioned gurus along with California's gone-but-not-forgotten Paisley Pop underground right on up to the Elephant 6 heyday or more recent times. The results are nostalgic without the retro, plus enough modern flourishes to make In the Village of the Apple Sun sound almost out of time completely. Only in California...
by Elton Townend Jones
Anton Barbeau's music has been ranked alongside that of XTC, and one suspects parallels are being drawn with that band's Dukes of Stratosphear incarnation. The comparison is probably unfair, for while the Dukes' village green psychedelia was a nostalgic if unruly pastiche, Barbeau's flowers in a world where punk and indie have definitely happened. In this Village, the vocal mannerisms of Bauhaus, Bowie and Barratt collide with the sound experiments of Graham Coxon and George Martin.
Setting a powerful pace, "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" with its god-like, post-punk wall of guitar immediately convinced me of its brilliance—no easy feat these days. "On A Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9" pretended it was going in a formulaic or repetitive direction, only to drag me off the path and into the woods where it had its wicked way with me.
This sense of descent / ascent into madness / enlightenment lies in wait throughout the album (the astonishing "Seeds of Space," the spiralling "Murray Boots Are Conquering The World"). "The Bane of Your Existence" blossoms under the influence of Jamie Smith's violin only to be wonderfully hi-jacked by a demon's tribute to Fleetwood Mac. It sounds like the 80s being played 60s instruments.
The stand-out track is "When I was 46 in the Year 13" which starts out like the aforementioned Dukes' "What in the World??…" and transforms itself into something from Bowie's Low period before getting into a fight with the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues. It's like a whole album, a whole epoch in three and a half minutes... In The Village Of The Apple Sun is an indisputable triumph, a treat for the ears, and one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. Go and find it.
THE RED ALERT
by Alexandra Keyes
Midway through In the Village of the Apple Sun, my mind was already concocting a vivid image of Anton Barbeau as a child. My hypothetical mini-Anton wasn't reclusive by nature, but he definitely inhabited his own world. Perhaps he would spend sunny days indoors tinkering with something rumored to be a time machine/magic set/communication device of some sort. He was good-natured and bright, but confounded those who didn't know what to make of his oddly prophetic-sounding chatter. Some even began to wonder whether his seeming gibberish might contain some hidden meaning.
And so it is with his music: baffling statements delivered in a smart, tightly wrapped package, with recurring musical themes hinting that there just might be a method to his madness. In the case of In the Village, the package takes the form of distilled and perfected late-‘60s psychedelic pop, so convincingly executed that rumors of a time machine wouldn't be entirely unreasonable.
Energetic opener "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" establishes his tendency to utilize the restraints of song structure and rhyme to guide his lyrics in occasionally amusing directions. He'll throw out a random image and pair it with an unrelated, easy rhyme. He'll then proceed to belabor the point with further matching rhymes until he reaches a droll conclusion. It may seem superficial, perhaps even juvenile; but it wins you over. "Mushroom Box, 1975," continues to marry humorously bemusing lyrics with fantastic tunes. The Lennonesque ballad "The Eye On My Hand" introduces new lyrical depths, hinting at an underlying warmth and intimacy that the previous songs hadn't foreshadowed. The futuristic, spacey "When I Was 46 In the Year 13" may or may not be Anton's oblique attempt to take stock of his life. He hardly manages to sound menacing on "The Bane of Your Existence Is My Name," but some brilliantly creepy male backing vocals close the song in comically ominous style. Meanwhile, the multi-part, hysterical "Seeds of Space" must be heard to be believed; among other things, it reveals Anton's flair for drama and impressive falsetto. He can do romance, too: one imagines plenty of girls eagerly queuing to accept this oddball's hypnotic invitation to a picnic "In The Meadow Of The Mellotron." The apocalyptic title track is loaded with archetypal symbolism and embellished with a backwards guitar. Why he didn't close with the latter's climactic explosion is beyond me; he seems deliberately to deflate the grandiosity by creating an improbable anthem in "My Hair Is Oily." It's an utterly dispensable song, but so uplifting that one suspects entire stadiums could be persuaded to sing along.
He delivers hook after hook, and songs take unpredictable yet completely logical melodic turns. Though one might expect such eccentric music to scatter in too many different directions, an uncanny sense of unity links the songs. They share the aesthetic of trippy, Anglophilic psych-pop in the spirit of the Beatles and Robyn Hitchcock. I suspect it takes a sober man to perfect this druggy sound, although he may have required a little "something" to achieve the mind-blowing realization that there are "billions of apples, but only one sauce." When he presents a new musical element (such as exotic violins), he'll often reintroduce it in the following track. If the waltzing interlude of "Creep In the Garden" sounds familiar, it's because you already heard a variation of it in a different key on "Seeds of Space," and you'll hear it again on the final track. Similar threads of commonality run throughout the album, strengthening the suspicion that this guy isn't crazy after all; he knows exactly what he's doing.
by Michael Edwards
Any artist who gets to the point in their career where they are releasing album numbers ten and 11 simultaneously must either be very prolific or very persistent, and it looks like Sacramento's Anton Barbeau might be both. Incredibly, Barbeau has been making records since 1993, yet he is still a relative unknown with a devoted inner circle of fans who realise his cult-like genius. This could change soon thanks to a brace of new releases, which simply reinforce what that inner circle have known for some time. In The Village Of The Apple Sun, the poppier of the two albums, will appeal to fans of XTC, Bevis Frond and even Robyn Hitchcock because he also has a good ear for finding the balance between melody and psychedelic freak-outs. Those looking for freakier outbursts with a touch of Krautrock should check out companion album Drug Free, but most people will find themselves succumbing to songs like "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" after just one listen. Unfortunately there are a few too many short interludes punctuating the proceedings and while they might be there to ensure that the songs all flow together, they don't. Instead, it feels like Barbeau forgot to stop the four-track between songs and listeners are getting the entire session, warts and all. Still, that's a small complaint and In The Village Of The Apple Sun could turn out to be one of 2007's first big surprises.
TONE AND GROOVE
by Jen Grover
This album, Anton's 10th, is smoother overall, more focused, and more instrumentally fleshed out than its predecessor, Guladong, and with much less of the hoe-down mood. What Anton presents in Village is undeniably psychedelic in nature, with trippy, contemplative lyrics that contain more than a dash of humor, embellished with dreamily distorted, swirling sounds. His nasal tenor brings Robyn Hitchcock to mind at times, particularly on the jaunty, marching "Murray Boots are Conquering the World". Some songs evoke Abbey Road era Beatles, while others have an XTC flavor. Anton also apparently has a thing for numbers, with titles like "This is Why They Call Me Guru 7", "On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9", "46 Strings", and "When I was 46 in the Year 13". While giving the appearance of specificity, this only adds mystery to the lyrics.
by Dj Astro
Anton Barbeau is a psychedelic singer/songwriter from Sacramento, and prior to this album he has several releases under his belt, although I've only heard King of Missouri that was made with The Bevis Frond. I must admit that King of Missouri got me a bit addicted to Anton, so this latest release was a very welcome new experience. The album surely didn't let me down.
Anton had decided to put one of the album's best tracks called "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7" as the opener, and this one really has some single potential. The repetitive rhythm, great vocals, catchy chorus and a suitable amount of psychedelic elements keep the listener in their grip for the whole ride. An excellent way to start the album! The next work "Mushroom Box, 1975" is equally good and the drumbox gives it a funny atmosphere reminding me of some of the 80's psych bands. The voice of Sharron Kraus works perfectly on the chorus. This rather light and poppy masterpiece also has nice fuzz. "Coffee Pot" is only 22-second-long, psychedelic coffee pot sound followed by the tragic ballad "The Eye on My Hand", that is like Nick Cave on bad acid. Not bad, that is… Lighter, nicely rolling pop psych is again presented with "On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9". This could well be a track by for example The Green Pyjamas or Dipsomaniacs. A great song, anyway, and it takes the listener to its strong and hypnotic grip a bit like good kraut rock does. The instrumentation towards the end is of celestial calibre. The wacky "Murray Boots Are Conquering the World" is the album's some sort of homage to the early psych pop from the 60's, I guess. The end of this short number with its violin and fuzz guitar is heavier stuff, though. After a couple of short bits and pieces follows "The Bane of Your Existence Is My Name", where the electric piano and analogue synthesizer sounds bring in a pleasant, progressive feel. The violin also gives the track a strong gypsy feel. This is a marvellously arranged, produced and mixed track that has some rather surprising elements, as well.
"Seeds of Space" is a relatively weird and experimental number that brings to mind the experiments of The Beatles a bit. Very original stuff, in any case… Then again, follows a short, really hallucinatory piece called "46 Strings". Hmm, he must have been on something. "Creep in My Garden" is a bit challenging but all the more rewarding song that has a lot of piano. Interesting production work. The one-minute-long interlude "Eric Has Gone Wrong" has an odd, medieval atmosphere. The lyrics work very well on the track called "When I Was 46 in the Year 13", and there is also plenty of psychedelic effects and unbelievably sublime chord progressions. Amazing, inventive stuff! "In the Meadow of the Mellotron" is a slower, weird and eccentric track. After the intro follows the album's title track in a pretty traditional singer/songwriter style with acoustic guitar an vocals that are soon joined by percussion, Sharron's whistle and then the powerful fuzz guitars and drum beat. The exquisite melodies are emphasized by the violin in a great way. The Lucky Bishop's Andy offers a more than suitable backwards guitar solo. Amazing stuff! "My Hair Is Oily" is a bit wacky track where Ant plays all the instruments by himself. Then there is still left a half-a-minute-long outro including for example some banjo and violin. This is a totally superb album of timeless psych rock/pop, although not all of the tracks are exactly my kind of stuff.
by Rick Schadelbauer
It's quite evident, upon listening to pop wunderkind Anton Barbeau's latest, that he's been traveling quite a bit lately—though the trips he's been taking haven't involved a plane, or a car, or a train, or any other form of conventional transportation you'd care to name. In the Village of the Apple Sun is easily the most colorfully amorphous psychedelic long-player since the Dukes of Stratosphear came floating down the pike. If you like your music conventional and linear, you'll likely be frustrated by Apple Sun—far better, instead, to "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream." Barbeau's pure pop instincts frequently come shining through, such as his channeling of the Thin White Duke-era Bowie in "This is Why They Call Me Guru 7," or "The Bane of Your Existence is My Name," where he quotes from Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk." The Donovan-meets-Robyn Hitchcock title track is arguably the most conventional song on the disc, until the rush of a backward-recorded guitar solo rockets the proceedings into another orbit altogether. Elsewhere, however, things are far stranger: the inscrutable lyrics of "When I Was 46 in the Year 13" or "On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9" are surpassed only by their unconventional instrumentation and liberal use of bizarre sound effects. And "Coffee Pot" and "Bane Projector" are unquestionably the most literal song titles of this or any other year. The album closes with "My Hair is Oily"—imagine, if you will, a drunken singalong at a pub full of hairdressers. It is, in essence, a microcosm of the disc as a whole—does it make any sense? Hardly. Is it a good time? Hell, yeah.
SCRAM/LOST IN THE GROOVES BLOG
by Kim Cooper
I'm predisposed to laud Anton Barbeau for his yeoman's work luring Scott Miller back to the recording studio (see last year's swell Loud Family CD), but his lush, Bowiesque art-pop stands on its own freaky merits. Kicking off with the glam starburst of "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7," the disc seduces with effortlessly catchy tunes, hyperactive arrangements and a neatly meshed tapestry of electronic and real instruments. The ideas fly furiously, tape runs backwards, cohorts shriek deep in the mix... and yes, you could say much the same about a Scott Miller record. It's no coincidence these two have formed a collaboration, and fans of the Loud Family and Game Theory will certainly want to explore Barbeau's deep catalog of smart, weird pop, with this a timely starting point.
by Jeff Fitzgerald
Anton Barbeau has been around for quite awhile (his earliest releases date back to 1993, and this is his 12th album!) so I confess I was a little surprised that this was the first time I'd ran across his name. The self-proclaimed "singer-songwriter of intelligent, fractured pop" is right in there with guys like Robyn Hitchcock and perhaps Julian Cope (at least Cope in the pop phase of his personality)... The hazy, summery and quite trippy "In the Meadow of the Mellotron" and the wistful, beautiful title track are both real winners... Trippy little psychedelic experiments like the brief "46 Strings" and "Coffee Pot" (the latter which just consists of gurgling sound effects) act as bridges between the pop numbers and add little bits of freaky weirdness to things, which I liked too. The fact that these little bits (like ten seconds of the sound of a movie projector running) are given their own song titles ("Bane Projector") only adds to the eccentric fun of the album... If you like the artists I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, then it's worth your time to take a little trip down that side road and spend an afternoon In the Village of the Apple Sun.
by Michael Toland
One of the advantages of not being signed to a major (or even a major indie) label is the freedom to make the kind of music you want when you want. Sacramento's Anton Barbeau is having a particularly prolific year, as he has three new records out within a couple of months of each other. In the Village of the Apple Sun is, he claims, an attempt to make an overtly psychedelic album, with guests including acid folk luminaires Sharron Kraus and Christian Kiefer, the Lucky Bishops' Alan Strawbridge and the Loud Family's Scott Miller.
Considering that everything Barbeau has ever done is overloaded with eccentric lyrics, odd noises and gloriously catchy pop melodies, that seems like an extremely fine distinction. Tracks like "Seeds of Space," "On a Bicycle Built For Bicycle 9" and the title ditty do seem particularly inspired by 60s psych/pop melodies, but even so, they're not much different than other bizarre pop gems like "Mushroom Box, 1975," "My Hair is Oily" and "The Bane of Your Existence is My Name." Upon closer listening, In the Village of the Apple Sun boasts more of a unity of purpose than a lot of Barbeau's projects, but it's still ultimately "just" another strong collection of strange pop songs from one of the underground's most fertile minds.
DEEP WATER ACRES
by Tony Dale
The work of peripatetic Sacramento musician Anton Barbeau is a reminder of a time when great songs with naggingly-insistent hooks roamed the earth in giant primeval herds; as opposed to now, when they are more likely to be found in barely sustainable numbers in fenced sanctuaries. In the Village of the Apple Sun (Four-Way Records) is classic 60s-influenced psychedelic pop, stalking everything from The Who circa The Who Sell Out to the likes of Skip Bifferty and Blossom Toes in its feverishly intelligent search for the perfect audio high. A swirl-up of psych-pop, mini-symphonies, song fragments and found sounds it ping-pongs the listener between delight and bemusement, satisfaction and sonic-interruptus, and has the most potential for melodic skull lodgment of any record I heard in 2006, and it's not always the bits you expect or even want to that stay with you.
Featuring special guests Scott Miller (The Loud Family), Alan Strawbridge (of The Lucky Bishops) and the wondrous Sharron Kraus, this album is a beauty!!! Ant's take on psychedelia is not self-indulgent studio trickery or difficult sound-experiments, but uplifting lyrics & beautifully played music. And the more you play this, the greater the rewards. A little 1960's in feel (hooray) but also completely fresh & NEW. A little psych/pop masterpiece.
THE BROKEN FACE
by Mats Gustafsson
This disc is overflowing with the same kind of classic old school power pop songs that characterized this Sacramento musician's debut album but it's at the same time as much about British psychedelia and regularly ornamented with all sorts of experimental tendencies. Quirky and surrealistic lyrics are just the icing of the cake of this highly recommended disc... Just pick it up, ok?
by Phil Jackson
2006 has been a great year for lovers of the "intelligent fractured pop" of Sacramento writer and musician Anton Barbeau. I was impressed by Anton's Guladong and intrigued by Ant's collaboration with The Loud Family but am absolutely blown away by In the Village of the Apple Sun. The format is a gamble with 19 tracks spread over just 46 minutes (not that I'm complaining about the length, ideal for me!) but the whole thing flows like a stream of psychedelic consciousness with a brave experimental touch—the 22 seconds of "Coffee Pot" for example is just that! "Witty" and "idiosyncratic" are the adjectives chosen to describe Ant's lyrics on the press release and as to what they all mean, well, don't ask—who else would start an album with a song called "This is Why They Call Me Guru 7"! I know I have commented on this before but it takes a very courageous artist to open up and take others into his own personal world the way Ant does. Listen for example to Ant staring into the crystal ball on the irresistible "When I Was 46 in the Year 13" cemented together by some very Beatlelish piano chords and bass lines.
"On A Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9" could easily have been on The Beatles Revolver album—yes, it is that good—and the shuffling drumming of Rick Lotter and McCartney-esque "hypno riff" bass playing of Gabe Nelson is just perfect. What totally lifts the song though is an exquisite synth line played by Ant himself and Jaime Smith's ascending violin lines. Jaime adds a psychedelic violin break to "Murray Boots are Conquering The World" and mixing up female vocals with Ant's tenor and falsetto works well throughout the album, nowhere better than on "The Bane of Your Existence" on which Ant himself takes the drum stool and adds some nifty Wurlitzer and Korg synth lines. It's also nice to hear the bass so high up in the mix! Before you can pause to catch your breath Ant comes up with another thought provoking song, the eerily hypnotic "Seeds of Space" (the longest on the album at 5:11) with a myriad of musicians (including banjo). Acoustic guitar and Wurlitzer feature prominently on the hauntingly infectious "Creep in the Garden". (I loved the description of "a restless ghost thrashing about on an upper floor", applied to Ant's drumming but equally apposite for pieces like this one—a part of it reminded me very much of Zappa and Ant's short howling guitar break just adds to the sense of "ethereal disembodiment" referred to in the press release). Speaking of Zappa, there's a lot of wry humour in Ant's music, sometimes it can be a bit annoying like the throwaway lines of "My Hair is Oily" that stick in your head like glue! "In The Meadow of the Mellotron" has an "otherworldly" sound with a namecheck for Oxford, apparently the inspiration for the title track on which co-producer Alan Strawbridge plays two backwards guitar solos once it begins to rock out. It even has a short pennywhistle break played by Sharon Kraus and at one point Ant sounds like he's singing through a loud hailer, a definite Tiny Tim moment! The Kurzweil also does a passable mellotron impression and Gabe's "double fuzz" basses are simply stunning. My only complaint is this track should have gone on much longer! Just when you think it's all over there's even a violin "raga" hidden away at the end!
In the Village of the Apple Sun celebrates psychedelic rock in a way I've heard on few other albums. Anton's "eclectic ensemble" does him proud and the approach is as idiosyncratic as a Syd Barrett or a Kevin Ayers and on some of the songs right up there with The Beatles and XTC. Don't miss it!
KFJC ON-LINE REVIEWS
Psychedelic Wonder Pop. Sacramento-based Anton Barbeau put together an album I didn't even know I was looking for. His lyrical mysticism had me tied up in knots for the first few tracks, but once I let the words just roll over me the meaning became clear. Almost a constant stream of one-liners that leave you astounded and bewildered. From lines such as "Cantaloupe is what you called the fruit you had for breakfast" and "This is why they call me Guru 7" you become trapped. It is as if Anton is a blind mad puzzle master working the pieces of a endless white puzzle without forcing mismatched pieces. His 10th album in a hopefully long career is out on San Francisco's Four-Way records should not be missed. This one is destined to be a classic.
by Jeff Penczak
Sacramento singer/songwriter returns with his tenth(!) album (which he began back in 2003 following the recording of his collaboration with The Bevis Frond, King of Missouri), and although his previous efforts have dabbled liberally in psychedelia, this is the first time he admittedly set out to make a "psychedelic" record. I don't think I exactly caught why they call him Guru 7, but the expansive sound and catchy chorus to the opener finds Barbeau sounding like an intriguing cross between Bowie and Bauhaus front man, Peter Murphy. I'm not suggesting a new three-headed hybrid (Goth/Glam/Psych?) is gonna be a sudden craze, but it's an interesting concept and I am always open for something new to come down the pike. The 30-second "Coffee Pot" sounds more like a bong hit than a percolating coffee maker (Oh, now I get it!), but "The Eye On My Hand" quickly overcomes the distraction with the first of many examples of Barbeau's surrealistic lyrics – this one evoke images of an old "Twilight Zone" episode or a scene from one of Stephen King's short stories (in fact, I'm pretty sure an old edition of his first anthology "Night Shift" used this image on the cover).
Our wonderful Terrastock veteran Sharron Krauss contributes a capella vocals to "Mushroom Box, 1975" and the Beatlesque jangly pop of "On a Bicycle Built for Bicycle 9" (what's with these mysterious numerical suffixes?) will prick up the ears of all you Green Pajamas and Dipsomaniacs fans. I'm not sure if there's a boot manufacturer named Murray, but if there is, "Murray Boots Are Conquering The World" should be their adopted slogan. The track also fondly recalls those phony adverts The Who sprinkled throughout their attempt at psychedelia, 1967's Sell Out. Jamie Smith's violin and Barbeau's Korg MS-10 synth add a progy aroma to the three-part suite "The Bane of Your Existence Is My Name," which features another Terrastock alumnus (the album is chock full of them), Scott Miller from The Loud Family, who drops by for some Pythonesque, beer hall backing vocals. "Seeds of Space" is another multi-key, multi-part suite, which ultimately sounds like an operatic convergence of "the killer B's" – Bowie, Bauhaus, and the Bonzos, and the weird folk (as opposed to wyrdfolk) music and surrealistic images of "Creep In The Garden" recalls latter day Bolan, ca. "Zoot Alloy."
A few ideas are half-baked: the aforementioned "Coffee Pot" along with the blink and you missed them "48 Strings" and "Eric has Gone Wrong," but they can be forgiven as palate-cleansers in much the same way that the goofy adverts in Sell Out retain little beyond their novelty value. I'm still trying to uncover the mystery hidden within the time-warped "When I Was 46 In The Year 13," which might make sense if Barbeau was born in 1967 (do the math), but I've been unable to confirm this. Krauss returns with pennywhistle in tow for the title track, a tribute to my home town's sister city, Oxford, England, and another successful melting pot of late-period Beatles psychedelia, with a mind-numbing backwards guitar solo from Lucky Bishops (another Terrastock fave) guitarist Alan Strawbridge. Finally, the nonsensical "My Hair Is Oily" boasts the album's catchiest melody and could, within the album's twisted logic (and in keeping with the little adverts running throughout), be the backing track for a shampoo commercial.
Steeped in the knowledge of British psychedelia and with signposts clearly pointing to the heady pop psych of Julian Cope, XTC, and Robyn Hitchcock (all of whose ideas Barbeau readily admits he pilfers), In The Village Of The Apple Sun is highly recommended to fans of same, as well as Asteroid #4's brilliant take on Brit psych, King Richard's Collectables, The High Dials' War of The Wakening Phantoms and anyone who still frequents the Children of Nuggets box set of 80's and 90's psychedelia.
Three records in one year is only task for few. Three great records then nor if speak. Therefore, Anton showed that she has bullet in the needle and launches In The Village Of the Apple Sun for a new house, the Four-Way Records.
This record is an old one known mine, therefore promo of it has almost one year I had one, sent for the proper Anton. That it is good some is not newness.
Anton continues with same its and excellent formula: inspired, full letters of mood, touching some instruments, short vignettes and aid of its several and inestimable friends.
Thus, the record opens in the excellent "This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7", followed for the beautiful "Mushroom Box, 1975", with pretty vocal of Lara Miyazaki and Sharon Krauss.
Mnaravilhosos moments if follow with the beatleniana "On the Bicycle Built will be Bicycle 9", "Seeds of Space", "Creep in the Garden" and excellent "46 When I was in the Year 13".
It joins the natural talent of Barbeau to write, to compose and to touch and adds to Scott Miller, Alan Strawbridge, Kevin Allison and alone it could leave a masterpiece. Most impressive it is that the bard of Sacrament pára one minute and already does not have more bullet in the needle for 2007.
This name does not rest? It produces in a similar speed to the great jazzistas of the past, as John Coltrane. He takes off vacations, Anton!
Translation by Sue Trowbridge:
An American living in England makes psychedelic pop / rock with deep roots in the late 60s. What the album is lacking in musical sophistication, it makes up for in originality and a delightful "don't give a damn" attitude. Several times, it's almost as if an old venerable Idle Race has been revived. With titles like "Eric Has Gone Wrong," "My Hair is Oily," "When I Was 46 in the year 13" (which sounds almost like a parody of the Beatles' "Tomorrow never Knows") and "In The Meadow Of The Mellotron, we can at least say that we are dealing with a guy with a skewed view of the serious side of rock. Wonderful fun for all who like British 60's psychedelia.
Amerikaner bosatt i England lager psykedelisk pop/rock med dype røtter i sent 60- tall. Hva skiva måtte mangle i musikalsk finesse, tar den igjen i originalitet og en herlig «gi faen»-innstilling. Flere ganger er det nesten som om gamle, hederskronte Idle Race skulle ha bli vekket til live igjen. Med titler som «Eric Has Gone Wrong», «My Hair is Oily», «When I Was 46 in The year 13» (som låter nesten som en parodi på Beatles' «Tomorrow never Knows») og «in The Meadow Of The Mellotron», kan vi i allefall fastslå at vi har å gjøre med en fyr med et skjevt blikk på den seriøse siden av rock. Herlig moro for alle som liker britisk 60-talls psykedelia.