The gurgling synth sounds that emerge in the intro to “Ode To Immer Wieder,” the first track on The Black Neon’s Arts & Crafts, suggest that The Black Neon may be touching down from another planet. There certainly are some otherworldly sounds on the album, and some sci-fi sounding ones at that, but if I were to place a wager, I’d say that the analog bubbles are coming straight from a time machine; Steve Webster (the main-man behind the BN) most certainly returned from a trip to 1974 to have been able to create such warm, analog space rock sounds such as these. This is just a hypothesis, though.
Chances are, my silly space age fiction reflects very little truth, except for the idea that Webster merely has a fascination with Krautrock, Bowie and Brian Eno records from the mid-’70s. “Ode To Immer Wilder” gushes with the repetitive motorik sounds of Neu!, and the catchy, subdued pop song “Cast That Light” sounds unmistakably like the work of Eno, the melody combining “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More” with Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” In any decade, this is damn good stuff, as is the peppy “Ralph & Barbara,” which mentions driving on the Autobahn, escaping from Germany and saving up to “buy a place in the Yucatan.”
Stylistic lines begin to blur around track four, a wobbly, fuzzy instrumental track called “The Truth,” two tracks later turning to tambourine and organ saturated psych rock on “TX81Z,” a song which finds Webster spouting nonsensical rhymes of words like “masticate,” “reverberate” and “annihilate.” “Hollywood 1,2 & 3” does revert to Another Green World-era Eno, and the flux capacitor gets fired up again, despite a brief foray into the present. And that 1.21 gigawatts launches the DeLorean back to some ’70s-style smooth funk by way of Air in “Shoot Me Into Space,” which is something akin to the sound of making sweet love on one of the Apollo missions.
The Black Neon’s polyester space-pop is one warm and inviting, albeit idiosyncratic. Steve Webster may or may not actually have a spaceship or a time machine, but he does hone in on those elements that made his and many of our favorite ’70s headphone albums so great. Sonically speaking, Arts & Crafts has a robust, bassy sound that few artists today are capable of capturing. Bob Dylan still might not be impressed, but I sure am.
Air – 10,000 Hz Legend
Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Stereolab – Sound Dust
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.