Very seldom does a modern artist capture my imagination in the same manner as Swiss popsike warlock Balduin has with his upcoming release, ‘Bohemian Garden’. Due to be unleashed in October, Baldiun’s magnum opus wears its luminous sixties influences proudly like a DayGlo tattoo sleeve, yet achieves a unique atmosphere, something all too uncommon for modern day purveyors of psychedelia. The album represents one of those strange and rare instances where a vast smorgasbord of disparate sounds and ideas mesh together seemingly with absolute harmony.
What makes this all the more mind-bogglingly impressive is the fact that Balduin achieves this with no band behind him. Playing all of the instruments himself, his intricate arrangements cast him as a Brian Wilson type character in terms of his ability to command a wide range of instruments, including sitar and harpsichord, to complete his ever so un-evil bidding. It is this remarkable level of competence with several musical styles and forms that fuels the experimental playfulness of the album, and is perhaps why ‘Bohemian Garden’ appeals so much.
The title track is particularly sublime, establishing the effervescent tone of the album in a manner similar to the similarly jaunty Blossom Toes excursion ‘We Are Ever So Clean.’ As for the ebullient vocal performance throughout this LP, Baldiun manages to both evoke and shed his influences to become something wholly original. For example, whilst both the lyrics and title of ‘Teeny Weeny Queen’ evoke early Marc Bolan, elsewhere he manages to remind of the softly spoken and crisply pronounced delivery of British popsike merchants such as the Zombies (the cheerful beauty of ‘I Am Here And You Are There’). My play-through of this record reminded me in part of the Beatles’ ‘Love’ remixes, namely where parts of seemingly unrelated songs are blended seamlessly together to create something new. The keyboard in ‘Bohemian Garden’ is often more in the melodic Country Joe and the Fish style to the more repetitive playing of Ray Manzarek, whilst the fade out of the blissfully baroque ‘St. John’s Shop’ combines the feel of ‘Future‘ era Seeds with the psychedelic bridges of the Mirage’s ‘Wedding of Ramona Blair.’ The spiky sitar flourishes subliminally ingrained in ‘Mr Bat’ sound satisfyingly sharp in the mix which, combined with the repetition of the trance-inducing chorus reveals perhaps some inspiration from Indian classical music. Balduin is very clearly a man with excellent taste and an even more impressive streak for musical arrangement.
The marriage of old and new is prevalent throughout and offers a pleasingly contemporary take on the genre. The instrumental ‘Libelle’ starts out as a marriage between ‘Three Kingfishers’ by Gabor Szabo and ‘Flute Thing’ by the Blues Project before a surprising electronic flourish approximately midway through that supplements the retro style rather than standing at odds with it. These excursions into electronic music massively boost the album. One of my personal highlights, ‘Cap Fréhel’, manages to summon strong memories of George Harrison’s ‘Wonderwall Music‘ and whisperings of the the Zodiac’s ‘Cosmic Sounds’.
Balduin kindly agreed to speak to MOOF, offering us some insight into the creative process involved in crafting this blissed out oeuvre…
MOOF: What are the primary influences upon ‘Bohemian Garden’s eclectic sound?
Balduin: ‘The album title, ‘Bohemian Garden’, came up during my excessive Czech art period. I travelled to Prague seeking the surreal alchemists of film like Jan Švankmajer, Karel Zeman and many others. For rounding the title up I thought of a ‘bouquet’ name and that became ‘garden’. For me it’s a colourful garden full of influences. Polish films, especially Polanski’s ‘Dance of the Vampires‘, along with the composer Krzysztof Komeda, were huge influences. Vampires are spread everywhere, so there are contrasts. My last album, ‘All In A Dream‘, was about dreams. ‘Bohemian Garden‘ is about waking dreams.’
MOOF: How long did the album take to create?
Balduin: ‘The following songs were composed a long time before: ‘I Am Here And You Are There’, ‘Your Own’, ‘Teeny Weeny Queen’ and ‘Mr Bat’. I had several demo takes for those but they were re-recorded for the album. The whole album ‘puzzle’ took about two years.’
MOOF: What is your favourite track from the album and why?
Balduin: ‘I’m proud of many songs from this album. To choose one is a tricky thing because they’re mostly connected. Maybe the wicked ‘Mr Bat’, a clever, witty ditty.’
MOOF: The arrangements on this album have a very ornate, intricate ‘Sgt Pepper’ sort of vibe. How much trial and error was involved in creating these songs and on average how many takes did each require?
Balduin: ‘I didn’t intend to sound like ‘Pepper’ for this record, but I take it as a big compliment! Sometimes it was painful realising I had no professional session musicians playing some of the ‘orchestral’ parts properly. Glueing everything microscopically in layers and recording the whole thing by myself is nice but it takes a lot of time and energy. When the whole song is in the box I really forget what I was actually playing, which means getting onto the next composition can be a relief. Sometimes I’m very fast in arranging each instrument the right way. Sometimes it take months just for one song. It took half a year just for the mastering process.’
This is an excellent album you really ought to hear; buoyant in execution and painstakingly crafted to perfection, Balduin’s new LP stands comfortably alongside the very best of the psych canon. I believe fairies lurk at the bottom of Balduin’s ‘Bohemian Garden‘ to imbue it with such magic, and when you have your first exposure to the pixie dust engrained therein I’m all too sure you’ll agree.
Baldiun’s ‘Bohemian Garden‘ will receive a limited release on special edition transparent frosted glass vinyl next month courtesy of the infallible Sunstone Records.
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