Wednesday, 6 May 2009
BENEATH THESE DARKENED TREES (Pangolin 1999)
Suddenly I had a band. After years of recording basically all alone, I was a member of a loud outfit, bashing out electric versions of new songs or selections from my previous solo albums. At first, "Beneath These Darkened Trees" was intended mereley as a documentation of the set we had at the time, but we were so pleased with the recordings that we agreed to release them through Domestica.
Some who had come to appreciate my original recordings were skeptic to me going rock, but "Beneath These Darkened Trees" soon became the most popular of my releases. And I was personally more than happy to share the musical responsibilities with four other guys; to begin with, Pangolin was a rare example of a democratically run band. Each member took responsibility for their own part, which made the band an organic unit with potential to eject the songs further than I could possibly do on my own.
I think the weakest part on the album is my vocals. In retrospect, I think some of them should have been redone right away, but I guess that's something I have to live with. On the other hand, I really like the interplay between me and Mikael Ljung, the other guitarist of the group. The inclusion of Anna Glans's organ was a perfect idea. Her role in the band can't be estimated highly enough; the eerie Farfisa sound (not entirely unlike that of Country Joe & The Fish) wrapped the songs in a distinct yet elusive atmosphere that was a pure joy to be part of when we played. But again, no matter how much I still love each participants specific efforts, it was Pangolin as an integrated band that was our strength.
I hadn't played electric guitar in many years when we founded Pangolin. The earliest days of the band were a period of learning to me. Learning and re-discovering an instrument that despite its similarities with the acoustic guitar is an altogether very different one which demands an entirely different approach. All of a sudden, I had to learn the relation between sound, volume and technique all over again. It didn't take long before that youthful devil from my adolescence woke up again teaching the lesson: LOUD is better! If anyone in the band got tinnitus during our rehearsals, I'm afraid I'm the one to take the blame... I, for one, worsened my tinnitus, that's for sure.
"Beneath These Darkened Trees" was met with a fair share of worldwide acclaim in the underground world of contemporary psychedelic music. I'm however particularly proud of counting psych legend Bob Smith (whose 1970 album "The Visit" is a masterpiece) among our fans. We also earned the attention of Ptolemaic Terrascope editor Phil McMullen, who some time later included Pangolin on one of the CD's that came free with the magazine.
Playing with Pangolin around this time was a sheer joy, and I learned a lot from it. It certainly influenced my later solo work, daring me to leave the all acoustic sound behind. I had some great laughs and I cherish many memories from these days. One incident that always amuses me is when our drummer Sara Pang once dropped her drum stick while we were rehearsing the song "These Darkened Trees", looking up from behind the drums saying, "Sorry, I got so excited...". You simply have to love a drummer with that kind of dedication. A dedication that I believe we all shared in those days.