Artists-On-Albums: AOA#1 (Owen Tromans on High Beams)

Owen Tromans on…

Magic Lantern’s High Beams (Not Not Fun Records, 2009)

Magic Lantern - High Beams

Magic Lantern - High Beams

For me the album is a sacred form, perhaps not for those who have grown up with iTunes and YouTube, but I feel that a great album is a mystical object, best enjoyed as a whole.  So much of my life is tied up with particular albums that their lyrics and sounds rattle around my head at all kinds of random moments.  Of course I love a good playlist like all righteous humans, but nevertheless there is something uniquely satisfying about a well-constructed album.

However, when I was asked to write about my favourite album I remembered that I don’t have one.  So I tried to narrow it down. I could have gone for the most perfect document of a moment, undoubtedly Dylan’s 1966 show in Manchester that’s captured on The Bootleg Series Volume 4.  Or perhaps an inspirational, symbiotic display like the Life Without Buildings album; even a ridiculous demonstration of skill and cunning like Sign ‘O’ The Times or something as bluntly brilliant as Neil Young’s Weld.  Lyrical masterpieces such as The Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday, with its beautifully damaged vision of rock ‘n’ roll as a religious experience, clock pretty high up my list.  Then of course, there are the albums I fell in love with growing up: The JAMC’s Honey’s Dead and The Wedding Present’s Seamonsters (not discounting my undying and mildly obsessive love for The Drop Nineteens, with their exquisite guitar hymns to suburban New England).  I even wrote a piece on how Bad Moon Rising is the album that truly encapsulates the transformative wonder of the format.  But you’re reading Adequacy so you probably don’t need me to tell you how great Sonic Youth are.

In the end, I decided to choose something by a relatively new band.  It’s not my favourite record of all time, but it is both great and symbolic of an underground uprising in defence of the album, especially in its vinyl form. Who knows you might even check out the tunes and buy the record (I am told that this still happens in some cultures).

I chanced upon the whole new Californian psychedelic scene though the Raven Sings The Blues blog, which has done sterling work to promote all kinds of excellent musical oddities.  The first band I got hooked on was Pocahaunted, as much for the unique aesthetic of their releases as their drifting, chant-laden soundscapes. And of course one of the best band names extant.  Now featuring the interstellar talents of Diva Dompe of BlackBlack on dubbed-out bass guitar, I was lucky enough to see them live in London and catch sight of some of the many other releases on their associated label Not Not Fun.  I was pulled to an album called High Beams by Magic Lantern.  Again, great name, great sleeve.  Off to a good start.

It’s a dense record that needs to be heard loud and it really rips, creating its own world of heady LA canyons and hidden gateways. At times coming off like the Grateful Dead ensconced with Popol Vuh, its tone is Technicolor and hard not to love.  “Vampires in Heat” is a case in point, all shimmer and push, it allows drums to build and guitars to swirl to Bardo Pond proportions.  “Cactus Raga” takes a more trad approach, with late-‘60s valley riffs and cascading synths welded to a thunderous beat, while wah-heavy guitars reflect off every available surface, hall of mirrors style.  Amazingly, like a lot (but not all) of this crop of acts Magic Lantern have managed to distil everything great about the jamz and vibe of psychedom while avoiding dull hippie cliché.  So it’s a record I often come back to, along with a bunch of other Not Not Fun releases (such as those by Lantern guitarist Cameron Stallones’ Sun Araw project with its delicious tropical drones). High Beams has seeped into my own musical thinking, inspiring some of the further reaches of my Fall Of Acre project and spookily echoing Acre’s own work with The Unseen Temple, a cassette of which will be released on Sacred Geometry in the near future.

So long live the album: it’s a great way to present music and there’s always someone doing something cool with it.  Grab a beer and turn up the stereo.

Notes on the Artist:

Owen Tromans

Owen Tromans

Veteran of DOA-endorsed art-rock trio San Lorenzo and occasional post-hardcore outfit After Rome, Owen Tromans’ latest solo album, The Fall Of Acre, is still fresh on his own Sacred Geometry label.  He has recently secured solo spots supporting the likes of Jason Molina and Mark Eitzel, along with performing live elsewhere backed by The Elders.  In 2010, Owen plans to tour again in April alongside a new single, as well as expand Sacred Geometry into an outlet for releases from other artists and as a micro-publishing house for the likes of Radiator zine.