Apothecary Hymns - 2005 - Trowel and Era (Locust Music, locust 69)
Apothecary Hymnsis the pseudonym of the Court & Spark'sAlex Stimmel, who makes his full-length solo debut on this Locust Music release. Whereas Stimmel's other band has more of an alt-country feel, this project is filled with a '60s vibe that will probably be very appealing to fans of southern California psych revivalists like Beachwood Sparks and Greg Weeks' band Espers.I've seen a lot of other reviews that have comparedStimmelto Syd Barrett, but I'm hearing more of a Meddle-era Pink Floyd sound going on, and other moments are a little bit reminiscent of early Brian Eno. Toward the end he goes into more of a garage rock thing with fuzzy guitars and Rhodes organ. Overall it's a nice record, ably written, produced and arranged, and not quite as druggy as the band name might lead you to expect.
Tracks : 1 Abandoned Factories 5:43 2 The Father 4:58 3 The Marigold 4:15 4 The Human Abstract 2:45 5 Watching the Bay 3:27 6 (A Sailor Song) 4:44 7 The Conclusion, In Which Nothing Is Concluded 2:46 8 All True Love Is Happiness 2:49 9 In the Icy Beds 4:30
The one man bandAlex Stimmel(a.k.a.Apothecary Hymns) send us a link for listen to their first albumTrowel and Era (available on Locust Music).
Thank you Alex !!!
"Hi! I've been a long time fan of your blog/site. However, since I noticed that you've been doing a lot of recent releases so wanted to offer you a link to my old-school psych band, Apothecary Hymns. If you enjoy our first album (second one is already finished but not released), you should feel free to post it!"
Review from BlogCritics.org : Apothecary Hymns, huh? Could there be drugs involved? All signs point to hell yes. If you’re looking for a rave, however, you’re in the wrong place.
The closest you’re likely to get fromAlex Stimmel, a.k.a.Apothecary Hymns, is an Acid Test. This is psychedelia from the old school, mostly delicate psyche-folk, some sweetly crunchy guitar textures here and there with the occasional foray into full-on feedback get-the-thorazine-dude freakout.
Trowel and Era teems with banjo, acoustic guitar, recorder, and organ, with a few flatulent analogue synths (hey, it’s the nature of the instrument) thrown in for a little variety. Says here there’s a glockenspiel and an autoharp on board, too. Guess I missed 'em.
Do not let the lyrics of the opening track, "Abandoned Factories”, frighten you off. Yeah, it’s pretty dire stuff – "Abandoned factories are ghostly mirrored minds / their corners tuck away all clarity / Deep within gray areas, and lost between the lines / lie clouded crystal shards of memory” - but just think of Stimmel’s warm, Eno-esque voice as simply another instrument in the mix, let it carry you along, and all will be fine. ("Warm and Eno-esque” is not an oxymoron, by the way. Go back and listen to some of Brian Eno’s vocal work, both solo and with, say, 801, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The lyrics may be cold, but the voice is not.)
Lyrics are not really the strong point here, with the exception of "The Human Abstraction”, and it’s William Blake set to music (organ, banjo & recorder). Not really a fair comparison, is it?
No, what makes the disc in question worthwhile are the sonic textures on display. Listening to this album, I’m put in mind of nothing so much as that most precious relic of the psychedelic era, Spirit’s 1971 opus, The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus – only the greatest album of its day*and certainly one of the top five of all time. Not that Trowel and Era is that good, mind you, but it would hold up relatively well played back to back with it.
Stimmelis no Randy California, but fuck it – who is? It’s not that the two albums sound so much alike (they don’t, really) but that the (forgive me) spirit of both is fairly similar. It’s a late-sixties/early-seventies zeitgeist we’re looking at. A light-filled lysergic smile plays across its face of "Watching the Bay”, for example, with its slight taste of, say, Moby Grape, or maybe Quicksilver Messenger Service. Its companion piece, "(A Sailor’s Song)”, sails a darker sea, but still sparkles plenty. "The Marigold” has something of a "John Barleycorn Must Die” zest to it. You’ll wanna skip right over the pretentious sound collage of "The Conclusion, in which Nothing Is Concluded”, though.
The title alone sound be warning enough, really, but I know some of you are gonna feel a little adventurous and want to see what’s up. Well, what’s up is some found sound and backwards tracks and yada yada that never really goes anywhere. Forgo, I say, forgo this temptation and save your ears for the "Syd Barrett fronting earlyBlack Sabbath with smaller amplifiers” treat of "All True Love Is Happiness”.Stimmel’s vocals even sound a bit like Jay Ferguson’s on this one, which leads us back to the waiting room of Dr. Sardonicus. Neat, huh?
Look, if psychedelia leaves you cold, this ain’t the disc for you. Many people dismiss the sounds associated with the exploration of inner space, man, as nothing more than "hippie wankery”. They’re entitled to their opinion, of course, and in a few cases (cough-Grateful Dead-cough) they’re absolutely right. For those of you willing to dive in, get your hair wet and have a look around, though, the genre offers some real delights. I don’t know that I’d start somebody off with Trowel and Era, but if you’re already an initiate you could do worse than to check it out.
*Hyperbole? Well, maybe. A little. It’s a mighty fine album, though, and if you haven’t heard it you need to remedy that post-haste, toute suite, and pretty damn quick, too.