US - Tennessee - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 25 - 11/04/98
I started redecorating my kitchen this summer, around the same time
as I got this CD from our beloved editor. He had received it from one
John Tilson, a Knoxville, Tennessee inhabitant who probably had been
reading these very pages. He thought his new solo project, the
Immature Scientist Vacationist League could be something for us to
consider reviewing. And was he right about that!
The very same
John Tilson is the man behind this project. He used to play in a band
called The Swamis (not very famous, I believe), but this CD is mostly
him with his voice and guitar, but he is helped by some of his friends
on a couple of the tracks. All the music is recorded on 4 tracks in
his basement, and is a little bit low on the fidelity side because of
that, but what the heck; we are not here to test our stereos! It
turned out I was not here to do kitchens up either, not least because
I constantly was drawn towards my CD-player and this particular
I am the first to admit that one voice and a guitar (or
two) not often is a combination I listen to, especially from some
American artists (no names mentioned this time). The urge to release
half-finished records seems too often to be much bigger than the
ability to write and perform real songs. It tends to be a bit boring
after two songs, but Joe Tilson knows what to do about that.
The first thing that struck me with this CD, was the way he sings.
Tilson doesn't have the strongest voice that side of the Atlantic, and
I guess he knows exactly that. Instead of hiding the fact, he uses his
voice powerfully to express the lyrics, doubles it, and in many cases
puts on layers of back-up vocals. His voice is a somewhat intense
blend of Brian Eno (listen to Keweenaw!) and Robert Scott of
The Bats (and it can't be a coincidence that his record company is
called Flying Nonesuch either).
In addition to that, his guitar
playing is most convincing. Again, he is not the most technically
skilled musician, but as with his voice, the playing is distinctive
and effective, and suits his songs very well. His (often) staccato
guitar-playing makes this record a most exciting experience, and the
absence of a band is not at all prominent. In many ways he reminds me
of another Luna Kafé-fave, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, who also
sometimes sounds like a one-man band. And he is not afraid to use
those unusual sounds he finds on his effect box either.
quite sure why, but through listening to Pleasure Map, my
attention was again drawn in the direction of the long lost Manchester
label Object Records, and soon I found myself listening to Grow-Up,
Steve Miro & The Eyes and Spherical Objects again. And I think it must
be the same kitchen sink atmosphere of those artists that I again find
with this record. Hmmm....
This CD has been with me for four
months now, and when I say with me, I really mean that. I often
find myself humming the songs, and at home, I can't stop playing it.
There's only one thing however, I may have lost something in the
translation here, but I just can't figure out why anyone would call a
band Immature Scientists Vacationist League!
My kitchen is not
finished yet, but any day now...I think I'll give Pleasure Map another
spin first, though...
For more information on this and other
records (by some of the musicians on this CD and Tilson's former band
The Swamis) contact John Tilson,
or write: Flying Nonesuch Recordings, 409 Bridge View Lane, Knoxville,
You will not be disappointed.
Copyright © 1998 Pingo