Some musicians are perfectionists, fiddling and fussing over every last detail, to the extent that in some cases (hello Kevin Shields) they simply stop releasing music at all. Other musicians are the opposite: they’re ceaselessly productive, seemingly releasing something new every other week, regardless of whether the results appear to have taken any longer to create than to perform (hello Robert Pollard). Falling a bit toward the latter category is Sacramento-based musician Anton Barbeau. He’s written some wonderful, catchy songs – and he’s released a whole bunch of songs that sound pretty much like “Oh – the tape was running? Cool – we’ll release it.”
Barbeau’s problem is not only that he keeps writing songs and making music but that he’s intrigued by (and at least moderately talented in) a number of different genres and styles. So it is that he tends to work better when some constrictions are placed on his creativity. His recent collaborations with Scott Miller in the revived Loud Family were probably strengthened by the need for the songs to work in the context of Miller’s new songs and catalog (as well as, most likely, a desire to do well in the eyes of one of Barbeau’s most-admired musicians). Under his own name, Barbeau has just released In the Village of the Apple Sun, which (as you might guess from the title) Barbeau conceived of as his “psychedelic” album. While some schools of psychedelia might support aimless noodling and pointless weird noise, in Barbeau’s case the concept gave a framework to his songwriting and arranging, one which makes the CD more cohesive (and less full of random doodles, here confined to sub-30-second little sound pieces that could easily have been integrated into surrounding tracks without ill effect).
The title track begins with a folkish minor-key acoustic guitar chord structure that rapidly mutates into a more conventionally “psychedelic” sound with a winding recorder solo, then a crashing, compressed drum part along with fuzz bass. And of course there’s a backwards guitar solo.
Elsewhere, Barbeau deploys “Strawberry Fields”-like drumming along with spacely synth burblings in the first verse of “When I Was 46 in the Year 13” (not such an odd title, really…if you were born in 1967), which leads to a nice piano sound on the iteration of the verse. Plus…acoustic guitar! (If you’re thinking of Viv Stanshall, good for you.)
I’m not sure if any are still available, but a second disc of outtakes, odd experiments, and the like (and finally: the right place for these things!) came with the first batch of orders of the CD. You can order it from Barbeau’s website – there’s an e-mail link if you want to inquire about the bonus CD. Some of those outtakes are nearly entire songs, sometimes in different arrangements. For example, “Eric Has Gone Wrong” is just a stub on the actual CD, but it was originally a full-length song (although the version here lacks a proper second verse).
The nice thing for me about Barbeau’s approach to psychedelia is that it’s both goofy and reverent: goofy enough that the pretentiousness sometimes inherent in the genre is mitigated, but reverent enough to ensure that the songs and sounds work on their own terms and that the whole thing isn’t regarded as a piss-take.