Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Record label: Trouble in Mind
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Sooner or later, you realize that beloved childhood fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” weren’t meant to tickle children’s minds as they fell asleep — they were cautionary tales. The fable itself has a moral at the core, and teaches children dealing with the harsh realities of life, such as resisting temptation and learning about the arguable presence of God. Not long after their adventures begin, the young characters realize that even a snow-frosted or gum-dropped fairy world isn’t free of strife, grief, or the heart-aching twinges of a love lost.
In an industrial area 40 minutes north of Amsterdam lives a 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist with a Brian Jones haircut. Jacco Gardner's home is called the Shadow Shoppe Studio, and there, he creates music that hearkens back to the studio wizards of the 1960s: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Syd Barrett, Curt Boettcher, Love, and so on. There's no sense of industry, or really, the 21st century in Gardner's baroque pop, which has a fanciful, sometimes jaunty Lewis Carroll quality to it.
Jacco Gardner delights in a light, baroque chamber pop style of indie music that invokes ‘60s psychedelia with more than a passing nod to the Beatles, Beach Boys, Beck, and Ty Segal (I needed another B band there). Hailing from Zwaag in the Netherlands, Gardner’s writing has an assuredness to it. Something of a multi-instrumentalist, Gardner plays all the instruments on Cabinet of Curiosities, including the wonderful harpsichord, mellotron, flute, and organ, as well as the more mundane guitar and drums.
Jacco Gardner's debut album, Cabinet of Curiosities, is an impressive re-creation of late-'60s pop psych, especially coming from someone who's only in his mid-twenties. The Dutch studio wiz plays everything but the drums, and his music is full of harpsichords, organs, flutes, and Mellotron, taking in elements of the Left Banke, Sagittarius, the Zombies, and a thousand oddly named bands with at least one guy sporting a frilly mustache. The first track alone is like an encyclopedia entry for the sound -- "Clear the Air" is a frilly trifle with swooning Mellotrons, twinkling harpsichords, lyrics that take in ecological distress, war, and trippy dislocation, swirling background vocals, and minor-key melancholy.
In the latter half of the 1960s, artists like the Beatles and the Beach Boys began to make a shift away from conventional three-minute, tour-ready rock and roll and move towards a more studio-heavy, psychedelic sound. On his debut full length Cabinet of Curiosities, Dutch multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner picks up on this tradition of 1960s studio mastery, a practice he skillfully showcases across twelve sweetly-colored Baroque pop tracks. With its ringing harpsichords and psychedelic imagery, Cabinet is sonically steeped in curious nostalgia for the decade of peace and love that, at just 24 years of age, Gardner would have never actually known first hand.
Four decades after the fact, Syd Barrett's London Underground joins forces with Curt Boettcher's West Coast pop on the streets of Amsterdam. Gardner, a 24-year-old Dutch multi-instrumentalist playing everything but the drums here, goes deep down the rabbit hole of psychedelic pastiche. Even so, he never completely surrenders his own voice. Gardner's elemental lyrics don't have the brain-tickling prowess of Andy Partridge, but the headiness of his studied reverence approaches Dukes of Stratosphear altitudes.