(AR GARDEN RECORDS/CHERRY RED RECORDS; 2014)
Writer/artist/songwriter Adriana Rubio is gifted with (or, suffers from, depending on your personal impressions) a cognitive anomaly called synesthesia; basically, it means that a sound or a smell or a texture may evoke a strong visualization of a specific color. She wrote the material for this new project by using the artwork (visual stimulation) to “color” the music (aural realization) as a tribute to the life and works of Pink Floyd’s original voice. The results are, in my opinion, stunning. Whether it comes from having Syd’s music ingrained in her mind from an early age or from synesthesia, this album could, in fact, be the missing link between the Floyd’s Barrett and Gilmour eras and even Syd’s solo excursions before he drifted further into madness and seclusion. Rubio’s concepts were fleshed out by a quartet of extremely talented musicians, the five adopting the name Garden Music Project, even though Adriana doesn’t actually perform on the record.
The album starts with “Garden,” a song that, having that transcendent mid-’60s shimmery English pop feel, could have been a B-side for one of Pink Floyd’s first few (Barrett written) singles. Alexander Ditzend’s voice and guitar are both extremely evocative of Syd and the playful music and lyrics are very much in the vein of those early singles. “Squares, Lines and Polygons” has a heavier, more staccato sound. It’s almost like late ’70s English punk fused with the arena rock that still dominated in the States during that same period; here, Ditzend’s voice reminds me of Gary Numan, but without that famous detached snarl. Track number three, “Isolation,” is a bit more in line with the psychedelic meanderings of SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS, Floyd’s second album (and first to feature Syd’s eventual replacement, David Gilmour). “Transformation” is a nightmare soundscape, with throbbing bass and lunatic sax bleats (from Stefan Ditzend), atmospheric keyboards (courtesy of Fabrizio Gamba) and stinging guitar. The musical chaos may very well have been what Syd was experiencing, as the spoken word lyrics are indicative of a crumbling, fragile mind.
“Bullying” is a flat-out rocker, with great, layered guitar drenched in echo and reverb. As the sound shifts ever-so-slightly, the song melds into “My Ladies,” an acoustic number with a spacey slide guitar used for accent. The number could be an outtake from Barrett’s first solo record, THE MADCAP LAUGHS, without the lyrical lunatic ravings. “Leaving Home” is an amalgam of Syd’s acoustic psychedelia, MEDDLE, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE and, inexplicably, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Alexander offers up another Gilmour-esque slide performance. The darker tonal qualities and spiraling guitar and melody of “Crime Scene” features a sing-song Barrett-like vocal. Overall, the tune is quite disturbing, rather like a mind spiraling down into an abyss of total madness.
“Coliseum” sounds exactly like the name implies. It’s an epic, hypnotic Middle-Eastern “throw ‘em to the lions” SPARTACUS warrior movie soundtrack kinda thing that meanders toward a very Floydian progressive rock before winding its way back to Ancient Rome. The entire song’s success lies primarily with percussionist Nicolas Saganias, who’s work is flawless thorughout the whole of the album. The ebb and surge of the electric piano-led “Tour Bus” is in the vein of DARK SIDE… era Floyd, but with Syd-style vocal whimsey. “Bridge” comes on like a cross between “Sheep” (from the Floyd record, ANIMALS) and “Welcome To the Machine” (from WISH YOU WERE HERE). That combination gives the tune a dismally cool feel that I thoroughly enjoy. The final cut, “Self Portrait,” is a little bit of everything Syd. There’s psychedelic pop, space psych, British Invasion pop, a taste of “Jugband Blues” (the only Barrett credit on SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS) and schizoid solo acoustic stuff. It’s a fitting end to fine tribute to one of the true musical geniuses of the psychedelic and progressive eras.
As odd as the genesis of this group and INSPIRED BY SYD BARRETT’S ARTWORK sounds, I will definitely be interested in hearing future activity from the Garden Music Project. Maybe Rubio should check out the artwork of Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) or Miles Davis or John Lennon. I’m thinking that those three would certainly elicit some very colorful musical pictures.