13th Floor Album Review: Thomas Isbister – #5

The first impression listening to Thomas Isbister’s brand-new album is Beatles. Specifically, 1966 and the switch to studio artists. Revolver to Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. Pop music as myriad and quietly subversive. Psychedelic and hallucinogenic. Unsettling but what a nice trip, and at the end you find yourself in a changed world.

Let me take you down first to Gak. In the middle of the album. Similar sound effects and drone riffs to the Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows. Melodic twanging surf guitar. The drums lead the way as the visual images change kaleidoscopically.

Amazing Brain continues in similar fashion. Vocal chants, keyboards rippling like a river. Baroque Pop Theatre. A sound collage but woven together by bright melodies. Horns adding European Klezmer Jazz accents. On several songs.

Vocal style is deliberately affect-free and understated. Consequently, small shifts can make dramatic effects.

Eggs moves with the jumpy off-beat rhythms of the Mop-Tops Walrus. A bit of Rock guitar is stitched into the quilt. Standing in the way of an alligator. The dislocating nature of the music recalls the early pre-Neil Finn Split-Enz when they were an overtly arty Pop band. The horns have more of a Dixieland Jazz colour.

Giants Feet then does have a more frenetic vocal. The drums drive it along and the horns blow a little Free Jazz.

Cold and Unfair sounds pastoral and Folk, with a flute which could be electronic. No more sun for anyone but we didn’t seem to care. Dances along in a child-like reverie.

Theatrical Pop with many elements stitched into each song. But there is a lightness of touch which keeps everything moving and melody rules this particular dream world.

Thomas Isbister is from Chrischurch and there are four previous albums also worth discovering. Of course. Each one has abstract art covers of vibrant colours.

This Side wraps up this album. Spooky Twin Peaks guitar melodies. It’s all been a warning/ Just sitting there. Sitting in a dream night club with slow motion dancers while the music spins a spell and slowly gets edgy.

There are enough guitar riffs and fast drums to connect its cerebral charms to the body and get you dancing. It also has a weirdness and oddity about it to put the music in Alex Chilton and specifically Big Star territory. Compulsive listening. I like the horns too.

Rev Orange Peel

Click here for more from Thomas Isbister