Reviews: Heaven Is In Your Mind
by Neil Hussey
The scarily prolific Anton Barbeau brings his unique brand of “pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop” back to the wonderful Fruits de Mer label once more on a four-track EP featuring one original and a trio of well-chosen covers. On his own wonderfully-titled ‘Secretion Of The Wafer’ he seems to evoke the spirits of early Bowie and Daevid Allen, positively glowing with that same aura of appealing eccentricity and boundless creativity. He has a fantastic knack for reinterpreting other people’s songs; thinking hard about them, digging deep, and then bringing out hidden aspects of them that he polishes until they’re gleaming. His version of Big Star’s ‘September Gurls’ is still a fantastic pop song, even re-imagined under a shimmering haze of synths and ghostly, barely-there electric piano. Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters’ gets a marvellously off-kilter electronic treatment that makes it sound icily strange and eerily spooky, while Traffic’s ‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’ is simply, erm, heavenly.
by Ian Rushbury
Three of the four songs on the Heaven is in Your Mind EP are covers. If you’re looking for slavishly note for note recreations, then look away now. Barbeau has taken the bits of the songs he likes, grafted them on to bits that really have no business being there and has punted them out to a bemused but appreciative audience. The title track sounded pretty far out when it was first released by Traffic in 1967. Fifty year later, Barbeau cranks out his drum machine and some analog synths and makes it weirder still. What’s the point in making a pale facsimile of something when you can have a little fun with it, right? His own “Secretion of the Wafer” is typical Barbeau—all elliptical melodies and playful lyrics. It’s psychedelic, but its “See Emily Play” psychedelic rather than the “fifty-minute guitar freakout” psychedelic—although Barbeau would probably make a good job of that, too.
Bowie’s “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” gets off pretty lightly—maybe because the original is pretty close to Barbeau’s own brand of nicely deranged pop. The most contentious tune is the version of “September Gurls” which opens up side two of this vinyl only release. Most versions of this—the powerpop “Johnny B. Goode”—are almost evangelical in their reverence to the original. Barbeau however, replaces Alex Chilton’s chiming Stratocaster guitar intro with a synth sound that sounds a lot like a musical doorbell. For the middle eight, he switches from the not-quite-falsetto that he’s being using in the verses, to an off-kilter croon and the guitar solo is forced through a variety of peculiar and unsuitable signal processors. It’s great. He may receive death threats from Cuban-heeled Big Star diehards, but it’s nice to hear a different spin put on it.
This isn’t the best way into the brightly coloured and twisty world of Anton Barbeau—his Magic Act record, or the two albums he made with Three Minute Tease, will ease you into his repertoire in a gentler fashion. This is Barbeau at his most playful and it’s a joy to behold.
by Dave Thompson
Three covers and one original serve up a remarkable summary of all that there is to love about Berlin-based, Sacramento-born Barbeau—and that’s a lot to cram into a single EP. A voice that echoes mid-period Peter Murphy opens with a title track that takes the classic Traffic number and wonders what a Scary Monsters-era Bowie might have done to it, then closes with “Scary Monsters,” and doesn’t wonder what Traffic might have done.
Which is impressive enough, but there’s more. Big Star’s “September Gurls” unfolds as summertime sensational as it should, and still Barbeau’s own “Secretion of the Wafer” is the highlight of the package, a song that slips easily into this most elevated company, while leaving you convinced you’ve heard it before, buried deep inside some long-running psych anthology, probably by a band with a ridiculous name.
DAYZ OF PURPLE AND ORANGE
by Andy Uzzell
One of a raft of upcoming releases from the ever reliable Fruits De Mer, this EP from Anton Barbeau is a little gem of psychedelic pop. Anton is a bit of a legend in psychedelic circles and his back catalogue is filled to the gunwales with joyous, catchy psych. This EP sees him cover three other musical legends—Traffic, Big Star & the godlike genius that is Bowie.
Title track "Heaven Is In Your Mind" is of course a cover of the Traffic song and Anton pays due deference whilst instilling it with his own brand psych pop. There is one original recording—"Secretion Of The Wafer"—and it is a thing of lyrical beauty that harks back to the golden age of British psychedelia. The cover of Big Star's "September Gurls" is yet again a respectful version of one of their greatest songs... Alex would approve! I am always wary of a Bowie cover version and when I read that Anton had covered "Scary Monsters" my blood ran cold... of all of Bowie's songs, surely this would be one of the trickiest to cover. However, Anton has done it justice... it has the same aura of malevolence but with a mischievous glint in the eye... good job dude! Fruits De Mer have yet to release anything I haven't liked but with this EP they have surpassed themselves.
by Simon Lewis
Anton Barbeau offers three covers and one original on a sixteen minute single, opening with “Heaven Is In Your Mind” (Traffic) introduced by a distorted electronic beat and strings before Anton's distinctive voice takes over, the mood softened by a warm organ tone and acoustic guitars, a delightful end section adding extra loveliness to the song. On his own composition “Secretion of the Wafer” things get stranger, synths creating an other-worldy atmosphere that is vaguely unsettling and definitely dream-like, especially in the middle section, what the fuck the song about however is anyone's guess, which is a good thing given the music. Originally by Big Star, “September Gurls” is an established classic which, on this version sounds like it was recorded in 1967, the original jangle almost lost in a haze of confusion, a brave mood, make up your own mind but for me there is something missing. Finally we are treated to a distorted and noisy version of “Scary Monsters” (Bowie) that will definitely divide the room but has plenty of ambition and drive, I kinda like it myself.