Psychedelic maestro Jacco Gardner needs little introduction. His stellar debut album, 2013’s Cabinet of Curiosities, swept the psychedelic world away with its baroque elements intertwining perfectly with Gardner’s lo-fi vocals and charming melodies. In little under a month, Gardner will release the hotly anticipated follow-up the Cabinet of Curiosities, the 10-track long Hypnophobia. Can’t wait that long? Then read on for a full track-by-track preview of the record.
An eerie, descending synth line makes way for a more polished, spruced up sound which sounds not too dissimilar from Gardner’s breakthrough single, Clear the Air. This time round, though, the influence that two years of touring had on Gardner are very much present, with a harder, possibly even rockier sound being demonstrated. The song is very much layered to all the standards which Jacco has always obeyed, in particular the underpinning vocal harmonies and subdued acoustic guitars which accompany the synth melodies. As album openers go, it’s a strong one which takes little time to introduce itself before coming at you in a full-on psychedelic storm.
Grey Lanes introduces itself with an arpegiating, old school mellotron and acoustic guitars which hark back to the baroque elements littered throughout Cabinet of Curiosities. Flourishes of mellotron keyboard take the helm for the first half of the song as one melody is followed by another with effortless ease. Just as with Another You, it’s very clear that the album has an extreme emphasis on synthesizer melodies. Although the same could be said for Jacco’s debut, Hypnophobia pushes it that extra length. Towards the end of the track, a slightly distorted electric guitar enters the frame and repeats the previous melody as the track comes to a sudden end.
An opening acoustic strum turns into a fingerpicking melody which accompanies Jacco’s vocals. “All the colours on the outside have been changing” he starts, before referencing colour-changing demons and the awaiting of the future. The chorus is simple and upbeat, with just Jacco and a guitar present for the most part. As more instruments enter, the song slowly becomes more layered and serene in a way we can only expect from Gardner. Brightly’s chorus is one of Gardner’s catchiest and ‘poppiest’ yet, as he sings of finding “darkness in light”. As the song fades out, beautifully eerie wailed vocals quickly arrive and depart in conjunction with powerful drums and a more noticeable guitar line compared to the previous two songs.
This is one that we’ve all heard before. Find Yourself, the lead single from the album, is in a similair vein to a majority of the record’s melody-heavy emphasis. The vocals are more lo-fi this time round, as Jacco sings, “find yourself now, in the shadows” in and amongst the occasional xylophone twinkle, haunting backing vocal and mesmerising melody. In terms of structure, you could consider it the “perfect song”, although you could also say that irrespective of its structure. The only thing which holds it back is its tendency to stay too downbeat during moments in which other album tracks got more powerful.
FACE TO FACE
Another selection of fingerpicked guitar melodies help this track start, before Gardner sings of wanting to split himself in two. An eerie synthesizer melody appears throughout the track as a darker, bass-y drone underpins the verses in haunting fashion. “I want to see the world through his eyes” sings Gardner as a shaker accompanies the already present instrumentation, helping the track build up in brooding swathes of dark intensity.
A campfire-ready guitar chord progression accompanies Jacco’s opening verse as he sings, “I’ll be waiting, I’ll be waiting”. Outside Forever is the first song on the album which places much emphasis on a catchy bassline, one which underpins the verse as much as it takes on a life of its own in places. “It’s been years and I’ve been travelling through the changes” he sings in what could possibly be a reference to the past 2+ years of touring which accompanied Cabinet of Curiosities. As with a lot of Hypnophobia, Outside Forever would not be out of place on Gardner’s debut record, as it bears most of the hallmarks which made Cabinet of Curiosities so great. That said, though, the Hypnophobia songs do still carry their own, more polished sheen which helps set the two albums apart. Around a minute before the end of Outside Forever, the track fades out as a heavily baroque-influenced instrumental segment appears out of nowhere. It’s completely different from the song itself, yet still seems to fit perfectly.
BEFORE THE DAWN
At eight minutes long, Before the Dawn is Jacco’s longest song to date, kicking off with a simple combination of drums and a melody. The melody is eerie and hypnotic in its composition and tone, making way for nearly indecipherable vocals from Gardner and his effects-laden guitar. The pace at which the drums play give the song a whole “journey”-esque feeling, almost as if Gardner is about to take the listener on a ride which they can’t escape from. The main melody is
present for the majority of the first three minutes, before which the track changes its direction. The drums, a repetitive synth note and brooding mellotron melody all combine before a selection of different synthesizer sounds join together to form one nearly-chaotic whole. Everything comes together just before the six-minute mark as synths swirl and the melodies become more and more encapsulating. It’s interesting to note how the drums don’t change pace for even a second, only becoming more powerful when the track morphs into chaos towards the end.
The title track starts with a mixture of ambient noises, strummed guitars and a clavicle melody which are underpinned by a drum pattern slowly building up to add a feeling of intensity. Jacco’s vocals are yet again hard to make out, sounding very much like they did two years again (aka minus the polished sheen of earlier tracks on Hypnophobia). Although the melody is very much the focal point, the percussion is also paid attention to in the way that it slowly builds up at different points throughout the track. Whereas the first half of the song introduced the melody and played host to a brief selection of vocals, the second half went full-on psychedelia with a cacophony of noises all coming together before slowly dying down.
MAKE ME SEE
The penultimate track on the album, Make Me See, also doubles as the shortest song on the record at just over 90 seconds long. All we hear are Jacco and his trusty mellotron keyboard playing arpegiating melodies, with the track going nowhere fast whatsoever.
Album closer All Over introduces an antique Steinway piano to the proceedings alongside the previously heard clavicle, making for an extremely baroque-sounding intro. More instruments enter the frame at just over a minute, yet the main emphasis remains around the clavicle melody and occasional hints of vocals. The clavicle is later accompanied by a synthesizer which echoes its melody, eventually building up to the point that it breaks down and leaves the Steinway piano all by itself briefly. The final section of the song includes some more uplifting piano chords alongside the melody, with Jacco’s vocals not featuring whatsoever on the track.
With Hypnophobia, Gardner has proven himself to be one of the finest psychedelic musicians of modern times. What the record lacks in quantity is certainly made up for in the quality of each and every track, in particular its opener, Another You, and the sprawling epic that is Before the Dawn. If this doesn’t launch Gardner into the psychedelic stratosphere alongside the well established likes of Tame Imapala, then we’re not sure what will.
Hypnophobia is out on 4 May via Excelsior Recordings.