Don’t Worry About the Hypnotics

Jacco Gardner


Polyvinyl Records, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie                                      hypnophobia cover

One of the coolest, most breeziest, slickest records I’ve heard in a while has just come to light. I’m talking about Hypnophobia, the latest album by flying Dutchman, Jacco Gardner, a native of Hoorn, Netherlands. Hypnophobia is a super-groovy album, bathed in a mixture of sunshine, boron and 4am brainstorming.

In a bio I read about Gardner, it describes him as a “baroque, pop, multi-instrumentalist…[creating] a unique sound by combining the sounds of harpsichord, strings, flutes and other classical instruments with raw, psychedelic effects”. That is a spot-on description. A bit incomplete, maybe, but what a great way to start off. There’s more to it than that. Of course, a lot of it is in the individual’s head: dreamy, escape from reality, lovely, lush, hauntingly beautiful, atmospheric, textural and lively. Those are some of the superlatives I, myself would use to describe the music (and, well, you can quote me on it).

I’ve had to listen to Hypnophobia several times in order to get as much out of it as I can; that is, for a fuller, broader spectrum of it’s multi-faceted, multi-tiered, vast ethereality, I wanted to, being unfamiliar with Jacco, develop a conscious familiarity with the album; the better to spell it out for you, the reader.

It begins with this lovely “Another You”, a sensual, lush, brightly burning dreamlike state which is a wondrous way to begin the album. The next tune, the instrumental, “Grey Lanes”, continues in a similar vein as “Another You”. Just as “Another You” finishes, you’ve still got that swirling, flowery, partly psychedelic sense to it, when “Grey Lanes” begins and doesn’t give you any time to stop and think about what it is you just experienced. In this case, however, the segue works out well, the song, being an instrumental coda, in a sense, keeps you in that dreamy fantasy for another three minutes. Next the album takes a turn, with “Brightly”: it shifts downward by going in a slowed and quieted direction: acoustic guitar, warm, with a somewhat introspective, inward look with a lovely, ballad-esque sound. Then, another sharp turn and we get to “Find Yourself”, which, I think, is one of the apexes of Hypnophobia. Very catchy, with a caramelized sound, captured by the carousel keyboard which plays the wonderful hook that, from the first, keeps you spellbound and in rapt attention.

After “Find Yourself”, the album just keeps on churning out these wonderful, illumined, breathtaking beauties. Another standout that has to be mentioned is the eight-minute “Before the Dawn”, a gorgeous potpourri of that keyboard, acoustic guitar, incidental sounds from the various studio props, etc. A fiery attack on mediocrity! The title track is another instrumental which is great as it is. Even though there’s few lyrics in it, it still speaks volumes in the seemingly chaotic-yet-ordered blissful charm offensive.

The penultimate track, a song about a minute and a half, “Make Me See” is simplicity. Just an electronic piano and his voice. It’s gives one 97 seconds to take a breath, get situated and ready for the finale: “All Over”, a great way to end this great record. “All Over” – I’m sure not only named for being the last song on the album, but it does fit the bill because, of course, after this, the album is all over. Of course, there are several different ways to interpret the meaning of the song title: as in, “I’ve been all over and I like xyz the best…” or “I’d like to see that color all over your body” and so on. It’s a real handy, unfixed meaning to give to the song. The song, itself is a really good note on which to go out: it’s an instrumental which has a keyboard-laden, even harpsichord-sound to it; just a nice song that doesn’t imply anything, there’s nothing that subliminally tells you how you should think, coming away from this album. No, it’s more like a pleasant “thank you for listening, we love you and hope to see you again soon” kind of message. That’s what I took away from it, anyway. -KM.

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