Seems odd that a 24-year-old Dutchman with a love of late ’60s psych is being cited as one of the ones to watch in 2013, but that is the case with Jacco Gardner, who has been flagged up by everyone from the hipster press through to the NME. On the evidence of his debut album Cabinet of Curiosities, you can see why.
We first tipped him back in May, when the wonderful Clear The Air single appeared, a stunning slice of late ’60s whimsy that was heavily inspired by Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. That certainly sets the tone for the rest of the music on the long player, although to be honest, Clear The Air is very much the standout track on the album. If you haven’t heard it, see the video at the end of this review.
If you are looking for reference points, think the lighter side of mid to late ’60s psychedelia. The likes of Nirvana (the original band), The Zombies, The Moody Blues’ and The Hollies’ brief excursions on the wild side, even a little bit of early Caravan and that Canterbury scene (but not too much). Although there’s really no getting away from the Syd Barrett comparisons, something Jacco will have to get used to (barring a radical change of style). Watching The Moon, for example, could easily be a ‘lost’ Floyd tune or cover, while Lullaby could have made the cut on a Barrett solo album.
As I mentioned earlier, the standout track is probably the one you’ve already heard, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the album is a disappointment. Far from it. It’s just that the debut single has been a tough act to follow. But there are a few tracks that push it close.
The One Eyed King, Puppets Dangling, Where Will You Go, Help Me Out and Chameleon are all worthy of a mention in that respect, as is The Riddle, even if the intro leaves you half expecting some Beach Boys.
But the real stars of the show here are Jacco himself and the production job on the album. In terms of the former, we’re talking songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Yes, every instrument (bar the drums) are played by one man. When you hear it, you’ll know what an achievement that is.
You’ll also be impressed by the production. So often the missing ingredient, this one has the vintage production at its heart, recorded on vintage kit in Jacco’s own studio and with the help of Jan Audier, a past maestro with first-generation psych acts.
The end result is an album that’s not quite the long player you would have hoped for after hearing the single, but it certainly comes very close. Jacco Gardner is touring soon (including a gig at the Le Beat Bespoke event in London). If he can transfer the sound he achieves here onto the live stage, it should be something special.