Wovoka Gentle - Start Clanging Cymbals - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Wovoka Gentle - Start Clanging Cymbals

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2019-06-07
Wovoka Gentle - Start Clanging Cymbols
Wovoka Gentle - Start Clanging Cymbols

Charles Darwin was correct. (More about that later.)

This album is a somewhat continuous sound cycle, and rather than having distinct songs per se, song fragments flow together through the thirteen clever and experimental pop tunes.

And it just has to be said: There is a musical kinship with the Beatles’ final suite at the end of Abbey Road. Now, don’t expect “Sun King” or “You Never Give Me Your Money,” but this is still really sophisticated pop music. And…echoes of Brian Wilson surf these vinyl grooves.

This is odd music. “Salient Point” begins with a parody of some television advertisement that sings “Good News Music,” and then the song oozes into weirdness with electronics, a recorder, choral vocals (all three band members sing), and spacey ambience worthy of a German prog band, which fades into the second song, “Punxsutawney Phil.” An acoustic guitar juxtaposes the drum and bass dance floor beat. There’s a nice vocal bit. Then a trumpet (Thank you, Freddie Gavita!) takes the tune in a pretty decent jazz direction. Things slow into a lovely vocal melody while the jazz and electronics continue to frame the picture. And that is Wovoka’s blueprint: They toss every sound and any instrument into the mix, and they play the kitchen sink to pop perfection.

Yet another reference point: “Small Victory” could pass for a Kate Bush song from Hounds of Love, with the big drum, melodic electronics, and funhouse rollercoaster vocal ride.

There is more odd music. “[I Saw a Bright White Light]” is a spoken bit about weird stuff and the importance of seeing the white light. Then the song goes sonic and bends universe into the wonderfully titled “1,000 Opera Singers Working in Starbucks” which does, indeed, invoke The Beach Boys euphoria as electronic sounds collide with Good Vibrations vocals. “Peculiar Form of Sleep (Tiresias Theban)” is even better as it resurrects the great sound of 60’s psych and then ups the ante with a modern dance groove. And the tune is just a stone’s throw away from great prog rock, as it turns on a dime and floats to its blissful ending.

“[It’s All OK]” is thirty seconds of musical hall memory.

“Gennesaret” throws away the stone and is dreamy prog rock, Canterbury style. This is pop music with cathedral depth, time changes, heavenly electronics, a languid vocal, more trumpet (Thank you Marcus Hamblett!) and lovely Thomas Beckett drama. 

And then to the best of the bunch: “Tell ‘Em Makoto!” begins with one of the truly sublime acoustic moments with guitar and voice, but then it erupts with emotion with a sampled Mahalia Jackson gospel voice that is, quite simply, sainthood personified.

Now, to that Darwin comment. Yes, this record has psych roots. It has folk roots from the 60’s. You know, Scotland’s Incredible String Band cut an album called The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter in 1968, and that record broke barriers as Mike and Robin tossed every sound and any instrument into the mix.  “A Very Cellular Song” cross-pollinated the universe with fragments that flowed together seamlessly into a classic folk-rock quilt.

But as Mike Heron sang in his song, “Gently Tender,” “See the past tense quietly go.”

And that is the success of this record. It makes the past tense present. There are so many brand-new albums that are imprinted fossilized sounds of the late 60’s. They replay the past. And truly, I love them! But Wovoka Gentle evolved the ethos of that expansive spirit and have produced a very modern album that could, perhaps, be called The Hangman’s Beautiful Great-Grand Daughter, a woman who now cross-pollinates the universe with a broadband kitchen sink filled with brand new dance steps.

By the way, birds are descendants of dinosaurs. It’s something like that.

So, Darwin was right about evolution. And, I suppose, for want of a better term, this is Galapagos Rock music.

The odd tunes continue. “Oystercatcher” is ephemeral voiced beauty with violin and an Eastern vibe. “Xerxes ‘9” is quiet until it breaks into electronic mayhem (not unlike a good XTC tune), that includes a delightful Kids Club Kampala Children’s Choir, a really heavy guitar riff, and (what sounds like) a tribal ritual crumhorn blast. This one is a world-wide wild ride. Seriously, for any multiple answer test question ever asked, this tune’s reply is simply, All of the above.

 “[‘Josh Shout Something!’]” comes and goes as a one-minute wash with a nice title.

The final song, “Sin Is Crouching at Your Door (Sad Puppy!!!1!),” returns to the psych-folk of the band’s origins. But, once again, the tune vibrates in a very modern post-Zeppelin “Kashmir” vibe.

The “Happy Music” intro becomes the “Happy Music” refrain. It’s not exactly an ode to “Her Majesty” and “belly full of beer”; but as always, it’s the thought that counts. The Wovoka Gentle players, Will Stokes and the twin sisters Imogen and Ellie Mason, have talent to burn. And, like the cardinal in my cedars who sings its descendant song from the T-Rex roar, this album is a beauteous thing to hear.


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