SELF-PRODUCED BOFFIN Spencer Sabo churns out his polyglot brand of psychedelic synth-pop from his Boston, Massachusetts basement, under the name Mind The Journey. On his debut album, Color In The Gray Machine, he performs all tasks (minus a couple of bass parts) himself, in the process owing some seeming
influential debt to The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala.
It’s a valiant and reasonably concise effort comprising the predictable balance of intention and accident I’ve come to expect from many self-made debuts of today.
When I say accident, I refer to those unintentional influences that can slip through on a debut created minus a producer keeping things on track. You could suggest Flaming Lips/Tame Impala to be a pretty concrete model to hang your hat on, right? But on the track ‘Atmintis (Pass The Haze)’, at precisely 0m:27s, we slip into
uncomfortable Coldplay/Aqualung hybrid territory. Not the Jethro Tull album Aqualung, but high-tech, smooth UK synth-popper Aqualung.
Perhaps forgiveably unconscious, any musical approach is acceptable, but my
point is that the shoulder of this dress slips off from time to time when it probably shouldn’t. This song section also demonstrates a drop in synthesis sound quality to the level of Pacman. This is unfortunate because we’ve heard some pretty nice timbre textures already, like on the short interlude ‘Dancing On The Sun’ with it’s thick,
slow-modulation invoking Todd Rundgren’s masterly 1975 synthesizer epic, ‘A Treatise On Cosmic Fire’.
Further to this, ‘Delta Wave’ takes us down an avenue paved with ‘80s Yamaha DX module cheese with a garnish of ‘70s boo-boo synth-toms ala ‘Ring My Bell’. But it doesn’t sound the least bit intentional to me and certainly doesn’t sound like a road a Tame Impala devotee would want to go down. Not that it’s certain Spencer Sabo is one, it just sounds like it a lot of the time. If here we had a defined album of ‘80s DX noises that kept temporarily slipping into Tame Impala, my argument would be upside-down and the same.
I’m splitting hairs, but they were worthwhile details to bring up. I’m sure any self-respecting recording artist would rather have a reviewer discuss the actual music than his personal idea of where it’s coming from. I know how important it can be to a young musician to cling to any shred of originality he’s certain he possesses. We’ve all done it. But it is the nature of the debut that it is the outcome of all we’ve soaked up to that point.
Often we are then in goulash mode with our exceptionality still to make its presence strongly felt. I feel that’s where we are with Color In The Gray Machine, and I will anticipate the follow-up. Mind The Journey will be an interesting project to watch develop. PETER KEARNS
Music = 3/5