robert zverina

sample works > writing > Sail the Albermarle Sound by The Ladybug Transistor





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What if Don Ho, Alex Chilton, John Cale, Herb Alpert, and the Brothers Gibb were shipwrecked for a year with nothing but their instruments in a lean-to built of coconuts and bamboo? And then they were rescued by a floating recording studio captained by Brians Eno and Wilson? The result might sound something like The Ladybug Transistor's third album, Sail the Albermarle Sound, which bubbles forth from a deep pure source like mountain spring water.

That source is Marlborough Farms, the house in Brooklyn the band calls home. And though it's not a lean-to built of coconuts and bamboo, it does have a recording studio in the basement where Gary, Jeffrey, Jennifer, Sasha, San and Mike spent the last year crafting this sure-to-be classic of '60s art pop revival, which captures the depth and spontaneity of the Beatles, Big Star, and the first Bee Gees album without being derivative.

It is less an album than a voyage. Most of the tracks evoke something wet, either explicitly through lyrics ("surf..swimming hole...summer rain...oceans...tears") or simply the music which fills your ear the way water fills your mouth--a perfect fit. From the first lines of the album opener "Oriental Blvd" ("and I can see the bay / through the trees / and in my car...") to the dreamy surrealism of "Oceans in the Hall"--whose swelling horns, strings, and harmonies overwhelm in the same slow certain way that floodwaters rise to submerge a town--this lush album lifts you like a lunar tide, bringing you that much closer to the stars.

Which is not to say the record doesn't celebrate other elements as well. "Cienfuegos" is a galloping charge across a Mexican desert which ends with a shot of tequila in the shade of a cactus. The closing cut "Aleida's Theme" is a calliope dance of death ("oh poor old maria / I'm sorry you're destined to die") which recalls the mood of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life," the daring arrangement of the Velvet Underground's "Murder Mystery," and the same goofy morbidity of children's favorite "My Darlin' Clementine," which despite its cheery tone, is a song about drowning ("...blowin' bubbles mighty fine / now she's gone and lost forever / oh my darlin' Clementine").

It's quite a journey for an album which logs in at a scant 35 minutes, but that compactness makes it the perfect accompaniment for that short summertime drive to your favorite swimming hole for a picnic. And if you've got no car, swimming hole, or picnic basket, fret not, dear reader, these are eminently portable tunes you will be carrying around in your head for a long time after just one listen.

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First published at earpollution.com

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