A Journal Of The Dark Arts
On his first solo album in 7 years, Wet Hair/Raccoo-oo -oon noisemonger Ryan Garbes returns with his most immediate, vibrant album to date.
As part of some of the most prolific and influential underground psych acts of the 2000s, Ryan Garbes‘ helped to shape and sculpt the sound of “new, weird America,” reminding us both how weak that name is and how truly strange the sound of these small, sub-indie cassette labels popping up like toadstools could be.
The groups that Garbes’ played with are strange even by the psych underground standards, however. Raccoo-oo-oon, in particular, were once described as “campfire doom,” and that’s apt, capturing both the shambolic, ramshackle clatter of a jam session with a little bit of an apocalyptic flair. Their breakthrough album Behold Secret Kingdom was compared to psych 2.0 mainstays like Boredoms and Acid Mothers Temple with its “acid-skronk free jazz, Can-style German krautrock, crusty-punk agit-pop noise jams.” There’s more than a little bit of The Family or Ya Ho Wah 13 as well, though. These death hippy freakniks were just as likely to be flying high on amanita mushrooms and laying siege to the local strip mall as coming for world peace. Their free-wheeling psych is feral, damaged, and perhaps most of all, strange.
Hailing from Iowa initially, Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair take a peculiarly Midwestern take on psych and noise rock. When people think of the Midwest, images of broad-shouldered boys, ruddy-cheeked and corn-fed, and snow white maidens, sturdy as maple trees. These folks have not spent much time in the midwest. While you might think of Woody from Cheers when you hear the adjective Midwestern, you’re more likely to get wood paneling and wood alcohol. You simply have no idea how strange some of the side-of-the-road burgs can be, nor their inhabitants.
And yet, for all of that, all of Ryan Garbes’ acts have a raucous joyfulness to them. This is not the steely gray industrial noise of Wolf Eyes, Boy Dirt Car, or even F/I. Instead of monochromatic white noise hiss, the weirdo Midwestern bands, as the liner notes to Tabbed View put them, overwhelm through melody and over-stimulation, like listening to 7 pop and lite rock LPs simultaneously, and digging it.
That’s what makes Tabbed View so thrilling. Never has Ryan Garbes’ melodicism and songwriting been on such clear display, bright and vibrant and clear rather than muddled and mouldering. Where his work with Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair sounded like something that had been wrapped in felt and gauze and twine and buried in the dirt for 2 weeks, Tabbed View is downright pristine in comparison.
Where his work with Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair sounded like something that had been wrapped in felt and gauze and twine and buried in the dirt for 2 weeks, Tabbed View is downright pristine in comparison.
Note, i said in comparison. Listening to Garbes’ slack-keyed vocals and flying guitar soloes still sounds like something viewed through an aquarium in need of cleaning. It’s still more upfront and immediate, all the better to appreciate its many charms.
There are some types of music that lend themselves to stark, strict deconstruction. And then there are some that defy such over-intellectualization. Tabbed View falls into the latter. Do you need to know that “Fieldhand” has the best steel drum riff you’re going to hear this year to enjoy this album? That “Melted Coins” sounds like ’70s Bowie if he’d broken his decree on only eating white food, switched to brown rice and brown acid and joined up with the Hare Krishnas?Tabbed View by Ryan Garbes
To put it succinctly, Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair sounded like witnessing some strange ritual by the side of the road in on one of those small towns in Iowa or Nebraska or Kansas. On Tabbed View, Ryan Garbes invites you in, to sit a spell and stay a while, only to discover the trailer park contains a holographic reggae band and a funky organist; that the stacks and stacks of National Geographic back issues are sporting psychedelic mold; and there maybe, just maybe, a portal to some astral dimension somewhere beneath the pagoda lights.Tabbed View by Ryan Garbes