Recently I’ve been listening to some singles from Stu Pope’s Hypnotic Bridge label. Based in Southern California and concentrating on psych-pop in all its various forms, in a relatively short period of time over a dozen titles have surfaced on seven inch vinyl. The label’s ‘mission statement’ speaks of supporting “today’s most exciting and interesting psychedelic bands” and being part of a “dynamic counterculture that includes not only music, but art, fashion, unique venues, and other forms of collective inspiration”.
Citing Deram as an inspiration the aim is to “craft a collection of vinyl treasures that will blow minds for decades to come”. The sounds and artefacts created thus far certainly meet those criteria providing both aural excitements and pleasing aesthetics. Hypnotic Bridge is perhaps best known for releasing the acclaimed Triptides’ pairing of ‘Nirvana Now’ and ‘She Is Dressed In Red’ but pretty much everything with their name on is worthy of investigation.
I found them through The Black Watch, or more precisely The Black Watch sent them to me. I’d become fascinated by John Andrew Fredrick’s recent career retrospective 31 Years Of Obscurity and was happy to discover a fresh collection Brilliant Failures was already well on its way. That album is now released on A Turntable Friend but two tracks were previewed on a Hypnotic Bridge single.
For this album singer/writer Fredrick composed and recorded the songs acoustically, and then ceded control, passing them on to Rob Campanella, Scott Campbell, and Andy Creighton to enhance and add further instrumentation. Fredrick likes to speak of his music in contradictions; helpfully indicating “though we might have a sound that sounds like us, we don’t really have one particular sound”; so this move was quite in character.
From Brilliant Failures come ‘Crying All The Time’, featured in a ‘psych mix’ allowing Rob Campanella’s mellotron considerable play, and ‘One Hundred Million Times Around The Sun’ a truly trippy song imbued with shape-shifting bliss and moments of serpentine guitar. Also here and certainly more than a ‘bonus B-side’ is the enjoyable melange of ‘Much Of A Muchness’; an intriguing, driven song with smart vocal variations and a compelling psychedelic interlude carrying tinges of the industrial.
Also of definite interest are The Small Breed hailing from Tilburg in the Netherlands; formerly known as The Black Marble Selection, and as such garage r’n’b merchants they’re now in thrall to the Abbey Road sound of 1967-68 though mixed with a smattering of Curt Boettcher. ‘An Elderflower Parliament’ features robust, vintage Syd-like vocals with telling guitar and organ while ‘Figures Made Of Sound’ kicks off Locomotive-like before happily skimming, ever-changingly, across sonic and stylistic twists and turns.
Then we come to Marshmallow Overcoat; Timothy Gassen’s name is rightly renowned, both for his on-going cataloguing of garage and psychedelic musics under the umbrella of The Knights Of Fuzz and for this band who, hailing from Tucson, have stayed true to this sound for over three decades. Sadly this release coincided last autumn with the news of his passing. ‘Wait For Her’ carries elements of Ian Curtis in the vocals with a jangly undercurrent; Rickys plainly involved; while ‘The Marshmallow Theme’ – “We are the Marshmallow Overcoat, you know there is no antidote”- presents a richer sound by dint of Vox and Farfisa Organs.