Somnium by Jacco Gardner
I try my very best in these minuscule music reviews of mine to not only illuminate the cold, damp, lonesome shadows of the so-called underground in attempts to exhume the artists, bands, or labels that I consider deserving of the recognition; in hopes to have their work reach a wider audience. Moreover than the latter, however, I also chose my reviews based on the notion that I, as well as the artist, have something interesting to say. Now, the review may not hold a candle to the statement of the artist (and it shouldn’t), but my goal is to offer enthusiastic commentary, understanding, constructive criticism, or at the absolute very least, (usually at my expense) entertain. I hardly ever take into consideration wether the record to be reviewed is even “good” or not simply because if I do not particularly enjoy it, I hardly waste the energy listening to it, let alone review it. I feel there are plenty of run-of-the-mill releases that I chalk up to being “good”, “ok”, or “enjoyable”, and how much fun of a review to read is that? More boring the Maroon 5 at the halftime show (football hate jokes are done I swear). I can tell you it’s not fun for me to write six paragraphs that sum up to a record being “good.” I’d rather write a fire and brimstone fueled scathing review than that vanilla bullshit; and I’m sure you’d rather read that one too. I just don’t see it as my place to hate vomit all over an artists work for the 7 of you that read these reviews. I say, why waste my pent up aggression and dwell in the swamps of negative energy in a music review while there are a multitude of barbells and humans way more deservant? Maybe the review section should just be titles”Death Comes Lifting Recommends…” ALAS I DIGRESS. And I present to you a record I was worthlessly intrigued by, Somnium by Jacco Gardner.
This one’s a little (a lot) out of left field/hyperspace for Death Comes Lifting, as it is not heavy metal. It is not punk. It is not about the Devil. There are no depictions of evisceration and/or plague or even infection. In fact, it is a generally enjoyable listening experience overall. So, many of you may be asking, WHAT THE FUCK. Weird, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself! But, allow me to explore this uncharted territory in the realms beyond our own, please. You see, part of the reason why I included the paragraph above is to explain my reasoning for choosing this one, not that I particularly care or feel I need a real reason other than I wanted to; was to keep it fresher than the corpses we usually dig up in the crypt. I think many of you will very much enjoy this album, as I more than certainly did. Additionally, offering a blasphemous meathead’s perspective on the “indie rock psychedelic proto-synth record”, is something I deemed interesting. Now, my zombie blood and dumbbell fueled brain may not possess the hipster vocabulary of pretentious music sites strong enough to accurately review the record, but who gives a good space-alien-fucking-goddamn? You don’t? Me either, shockingly. Somnium by Jacco Gardner is a transient soundscape of desolate celestial melody, as well as an electronica exercise in analog vintage synthesizer atmosphere, complete with bells, whistles, and Garndner’s signature classic rock undertones. How’s THAT? Good enough? Allow me to translate into horror meathead language: Think Pink Floyd, on some John Carpenter shit. Because in space, no one can hear you synth. DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION YET?
More in line with 2001: A Space Oddyssey than anything robustly masturbatory as Transformers or even Star Wars at this stage of the game; this is a journey through time and space scored by a master of sound architesure and rock n roll that provides much more than flashy instrumentation. In fact, it is hardly flashy at all, immediately giving it and interesting and unpretentious vibe that is undeniably attractive. This instrumental (yes, purely instrumental) album does not flex its hyperbolic muscles in the way modern electronic-era music, in my opinion, does. This is much more of a chill and classic-rock song structure vibe about it. In fact, upon hearing it for the first time with having no prior knowledge of Gardner or his previous body of work (also rad as hell, and I implore you to check it out, by the way), I could not understand why I was SO drawn to it. AND I wasn’t even on ANY mind altering substances at the time, so I REALLY couldn’t figure it out. Doing a little grave-a-robbin’ research, I dug into information about Jacco, his love for the classic rock sounds of the 60’s & 70’s being pumped through his musical spirit and channelled, quite literally channelled, onto this record from pure, vintage, in his words “very bad”, lo-fi 1970’s synthesizers and recording devices. Then it hit me like a slamming coffin lid. That’s exactly what is so compelling about this record, it ain’t the power of Christ, it’s the power of vintage synth. And Jesus died for your synths. Always having a deep rooted place in my heart are the horror and sci-fi soundtracks of the 70’s; and Somnium has something deep in common with them. Despite the poor quality of the synthesizer used on this, it is the focal point of the entire record… planet-sized testicle power move. It may not make sense on paper, but it’s quite easy to see why, as there is an undeniable feel to the sound of it that is simply not able to be captured with modern technology. It’s just comes down to character, really. Tracking the record with such equipment just gives the record a much more urgent sense of legitamacey, rather than an uninspired regurgitation. You can almost hear all that the instrument has been through over the decades, and it transports you much like a UFO to that time. Pulled off with ease, Garnder takes us on this sonic journey back to the motherland of the late 60’s/early 70’s with a reserved, light-hearted ease, that could score a forgotten period of science fiction and horror cinema… which explained my subconscious draw to the album. Suddenly I went from listening to it like it’s a modern-day Pink Floyd to like Halloween on LSD in the 70’s, which is in fact, my precise idea of a good time.
The sounds crated by Gardner range from eerie to triumphant, sonic rhythm to haunting psychedelia, sprinkled with some nuclear ascension for good measure; without being too extra. In all seriousness, that’s where most of the beauty in this record lies, in its reservedness. There’s something to be said for an artist’s confidence in his/her own musicianship to deliver on a laid back approach, especially to an instrumental, lunar traveling, sci-fi based, synth-driven record for fuck’s sake, and NOT taking it over the top. It’s almost wonderful. In fact, it is. It gives the record a sense of confidence and maturity that I feel are lacking in at least the types of music like this that at least I am exposed to; not to mention a good-old throw back to the golden age of music is something that is never band for our society. Speaking of old-school, this is truly set up much like an old-school record, as it should be; meant to be listened all the way through. There is no “single” that I can point out. Each song wonderfully bleeds into the next making this a seamless and seemingly effortless listening experience that bends its way through nuclear elements of outer space. Each song stands unique to another, as I’m not quite sure there’s really a specific narrative, yet flow together much like one, leaving it to the unique individual to fill in your own narrative; as most well-constructed art does.
Based on Johannes Kepler’s literary work of the same name, which is conveniently also considered the world’s first work of science fiction, makes all the sense in the world.. and out of it. Each track is seemingly engineered to invoke a certain atmosphere, headspace, or feeling relative the “narrative” of the album. Tracks like “Rising” perfectly encapsulate ascension into space through a starlit void, the bubbling of the melody layered with soaring synth nodes and deep bass harmony introduces the record perfectly. Other tracks evoke more of a somber density to the record, like “Lagranian Point” with zen layers of acoustic guitar riffs; the desolate and haunting workings of “Eclipse” guaranteed to land you on the dark side of the moon, or the 7-minute epic “Rain” that’ll leave you suspended in dark cosmic harmony. While other tracks like “Past Navigator” channel a more pop drenched vibe of stardust and upbeat riff workings, while the following tune “Levania” explores charismatic melody with the nastiest of bass lines. Cleary, intentional or not, Garnder has something for everyone on this record; and the mere fact that it is such a successful departure from his previous works, makes it all the more necessary of a voyage to embark on. And once again, I didn’t even have indulge in any hallucinogenic compounds. Dig on Jacco Gardner’s Somnium at the link below, if you dare, and just hope you run into a Xenomorph or three.
Gym Rating: Did not have the balls to try it /5
Check him out: