It’s been a long time since I’ve written about rock n’ roll. On the last iteration of Psychedeliacs, I brought to you to Austin, Texas natives White Denim and their brand of calculated chaos. Now, hop on the gravy train as I continue to introduce you to the vanguard of modern psychedelic music and art. This time, I will ramble on about Netherlands’ premier baroque pop musician Jacco Gardner.
As I listen to Jacco Gardner’s 2013 debut album Cabinet of Curiosities, I realize that taking on the task of writing about such lush and complex tunes may have been foolhardy. There is simply so much to take from his music and I don’tt want to miss anything. So, let’s start with the basics.
Jacco Gardner is a Netherlandish multi-instrumentalist whose music can most easily be described as “psychedelic pop.” But, the more I listen to this album, the more I realize just how little justice that term does it. In it, there are influences from music that dates as far back as the early 17th century and yet Gardner’s music sounds as fresh as ever.
Recording alone at his home studio, The Shadow Shoppe, located just north of Amsterdam, Gardner managed to create a modern baroque pop masterpiece. As bold as it may be to say, I feel Cabinet of Curiosities inhabits the same tier as some of the most acclaimed albums in musical history. Both in terms of quality and musicianship, this album continuously impresses me with its colorful arrangements, whimsical lyrics, and incredible studio mastery.
Musically speaking, the album is deeply textured featuring layers upon layers of keyboards, harpsichords, acoustic and electric guitars and even baby laughter. After countless listens, I still find myself discovering all the nooks and crannies Gardner’s work has to offer. The same can be said about its album cover below. Can you find the different animals?
Even though the richness of the overdubs is what initially grabs your attention, what keeps you coming back is that at their core, these are truly excellent songs. The rhythm section features Jos van Tol on drums, the only instrument not played by Gardner himself. Furthermore, the bass holds a tone so noticeably round and delicious that one can’t help but feel as though it is a lead instrument. The tracks are tight, groovy and serve as an amazing foundation on which Gardner can build upon. And that, he does.
The lyrics on Cabinet of Curiosities are dreamy and full of whimsy, perfectly reflecting the music they adorn. However, when I asked Gardner about the source of his lyrics, he mentioned taking inspiration on real life experiences and reimagining them as short stories that you might find in fantasy books. This creates an interesting paradox in his music and makes one wonder what kind of experiences Jacco has been through. Unfortunately, I was too busy fangirling to ask him.
Today, it’s been exactly 2 years since Cabinet of Curiosities was released and over this time, Jacco Gardner has surely been building up steam. Over 2013 and 2014, Gardner and his touring band, then consisting of Jos Van Tol (drums), Jasper Verhulst (bass), Frank Maston (keys), and Ben Rider (guitar) toured incessantly building up a solid following in Europe and the Americas. Also, over the past year, he has paired up creatively with Frank Maston, who is also a brilliant solo musician and have been producing what will be the follow up to Cabinet of Curiosities.
NOTE: Find out more about Maston on: Psychedeliacs Vol 1: I Feel So Invited
Needless to say, I get a metaphorical hard-on when I think about where these two can go musically. The comparison has probably been made before but Gardner and Maston working together is reminiscent of one of the greatest pairings in all of music: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks.
I can say with confidence that although Gardner and Maston have already released what I think are two of the best albums of our time, Cabinet of Curiosities [http://jaccogardner.com/] and Shadows [https://maston.bandcamp.com/] respectively, they haven’t even scratched the surface of their own potential. From having met them, they also seem to be more mentally stable than Wilson and Parks were at the time and that’s definitely a good thing!