Download for free: lenn9o9n.bandcamp.com/album/distant-shores
Uncle Dave told me to quit with the weird reviews where I attempted to “experience” the record I was listening to and instead focus on the recording itself. “People don’t have time to wade through pages and pages of nonsensical prose, they want you to get to the point at hand, tell them what the album is, a bit of blurb about the artist, what you think of it, and where they can get it. They don’t want to hear about how I took over the world or the pointy headed man’s parents or any of that other stuff you’ve been writing for the last week,” he said.
“You’re doing it again,’ he added.
So without further ado, this isn’t the story of “Distant Shores”, Lenn9o9n’s second album. Some records are like fully bloomed exotic flowers, stopping you and making you say “ahhh” and “aw that’s trippy that one” and “weren’t we supposed to be going somewhere?” “no?” “fuckit” “ahhh that’s pretty” and “oooh listen to that one”. Other records are less obvious, like seeds. They sink their roots into your mind and the songs grow there throughout your life, entangling with brain waves, choking out normality. “Distant Shores” (and generally anything Lenn9o9n produces) is pure seed, songs that take root forever. One man, one keyboard, an acoustic guitar with loose buzzy strings, a kick-ass cello and a load of samples and beats. Bands take note: sometimes it’s not about how big or bright your flower grows, sometimes it’s about simply planting it in the right place for all the right reasons. “Distant Shores” does not have any pretensions – it is a record that was clearly made from the love of making music, equally cerebral and emotive (“give them anything that tingles the heart strings”), and for the lo-fi, self-recorded psych genre, it is as accessible as lo-fi self-recorded psych records get.
Back in a dream, the floor began to reverberate beneath my feet. Lenn9o9n was punching a piano under the floorboards, a charming, almost space age voice singing “Opposites”. “Both my parents are opposites / They’re the kind of people that you won’t visit when you put them together / Unless of course you are the kind who studies the mind”. I felt my foot tapping along with the contagious melody and remembered that I’d heard this record before, 3 years previous, only I’d loved it and lost it amidst the chaos of the day. ‘I’m sorry, what was the question again?’ I asked out loud. Two dogs in the corner of the room were wagging their tails, clearly enjoying the music as much as I did. “Opposites” was as poppy and obvious as “Distant Shores” would get. To get to the darker, meatier stuff, we had to venture further into the record.
Second song (“Treat It Like A Joke”) was all strumming flamenco guitars, multi-layered electronic beats, synthetic strings and vocalised kazoo sounds. It was a thing of such beguiling weirdness that I felt myself involuntarily getting to my feet and climbing up onto the kitchen table where I began to flail my arms around in something that could vaguely be discerned as “dancing”.
At this point the pointy headed man’s mother poked her head up over the table ledge. ‘Fuck Uncle Dave,’ she said. ‘Do you realise how long Lenn9o9n’s been down in our basement? 1237 days, that’s how long. I heard he since made a record out of other people’s poetry, which by the way is well worth a listen, but THIS record, “Distant Shores”, it’s really something, as original as it was when we first heard it 1237 days ago. You know how I know how long it’s been? I remember the date specifically as it was the same day my husband dropped acid for the first time and ended up losing his job!’
‘Best day of my life by a loooooong way!’ yelled the pointy headed man’s father, now break-dancing badly on the kitchen table beside me.
‘I’m not supposed to write this shit,’ I told them.
‘What did you think was going to happen?’ asked his mother. ‘This is Lenn9o9n we’re talking about. You try and not fall in love with his music! He isn’t like anybody else. Nobody. It’s impossible to compare him to other artists. I don’t know what they made him from, but the music he creates, these shadowy electronic pop masterpieces, it’s like he’s writing them from another reality.’
The next song had started, a funky acoustic number with hand claps and Lenn9o9n singing “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… counting all the things that never happened!” (“What’s That Fucking Ringing?”)
‘I told her this would happen,’ said the pointy headed man’s father, doing one of those weird Russian folk dances where you squat and kick your legs out, while downstairs Lenn9o9n melodically shrieked “It’s my geeetar!”
I felt a sudden irresistible urge to do star jumps. ‘I never made that phone call to my editor!’ I blurted out, my arms and legs thrusting outwards in the shape of a star.
‘WHAT!?’ shrieked the pointy headed man. (He’d been sitting at the table the whole time, pushing peas around his plate with a plastic fork.)
It was true. We’d been chased across the country in the seaweed encrusted camper van. I didn’t know who was chasing us, or why, but in my transparent heart (which I wore on my sleeve), I knew implicitly that it was because I hadn’t called Moon Crumb. Eventually the two of us ditched the van and proceeded on foot until we arrived at a small town in the middle of nowhere, and No 909 Strawberry Lane, the pointy headed man’s parents’ house. He told me we would be safe there. He didn’t mention anything about star jumps.
‘Why does nobody listen to a fucking word I say?’ wailed the pointy headed man, grabbing his pointy head in his hands. ‘You know what? Fuck it. Fuck the lot of you. Fuck the lot of you right in the ass.’ And he turned. And he walked away, slamming the back door behind him.
“What’s That Fucking Ringing?” came to an abrupt end and the three of us hung there awkwardly, like musical statues.
“A Black Light to a Blue World” began as I stepped off the kitchen table and made my way down to the basement. It was a mesmerizing slice of electronica, effects laden vocals mixing with a wheeling beat and 60′s keys. The acoustic guitar began to strum and Lenn9o9n sang “Seeds in your mind Seeds in your mind / We’re all standing on the shoulders of time”. At least I think it was “seeds”. It may have been “sea”. Either way, it was such a great understated voice, spelling out every soft syllable like a magician chanting incantations. There behind a haphazard workstation, cluttered with knotted leads and electronic machinery spilling onto the basement floor, sat Lenn9o9n. ‘Oh, hey man,’ he said with a smile, attempting to wave, but finding his arm snagged on a cable. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Never mind what I’m doing here? What are YOU doing here?’
He stopped and stared at the apparatus surrounding him. ‘Well…’ he said, ‘… I suppose… I’m making another record. What year is this by the way?’
’2014,’ I told him.
’2014? Wow. Fuck. Are you sure?’
‘Sure I’m sure,’ I said. I didn’t sound at all sure.
Then he picked up his guitar and sang this simple, stark, acoustic ballad called “Sound Off”. It was shockingly great. As much as I truly loved the dark electronic pop hymns, it was fun to hear another string in his bow. As he played, for no apparent reason, a big swirling vortex of colour began to revolve on the basement wall behind him.
‘Did a portal just open on that wall?’ I asked, pointing at it.
‘That?’ he asked. ‘Oh, that always happens when I play.’
Then came “Do It For The People”. It was an electronic arrangement that made me want to put on boxing gloves and get slaughtered by giant Russians. ‘Like Rocky on mescaline,’ I said as I waded into the portal. It was at this point that I remembered what Uncle Dave said about keeping it simple. And now here I was wading into a portal. It was just about the complete opposite of simple.
On the other side of the portal was a giant clock face, floating in the darkest depths of space, the point in reality where time originated. “Saved” played in the impenetrable space around my head, tiers of ambient pressing guitar and keyboard notes with spacey vocals and strings that reminded me of “I Am The Walrus”. No shit. It really was that good. I looked to my left and saw that Lenn9o9n had followed me through and was suddenly wearing a black jumpsuit with a glowing blue lightning bolt on his chest and a black balaclava on his head. ‘Oh shit,’ he said, turning his ears to space and listening, ‘here comes Uncle Dave, and he’s not happy.’
“Let’s start what we have come into the room to do!” boomed a voice from the stars.
‘Was that a Morgan Freeman sample?’ I asked Lenn9o9n.
He laughed as the giant clock began to descend through space. I felt a chill go up my spine as “A Pale Child Reads Aloud Excerpts About The Sun” began. Bleep bleep bleep bleep. All the while, Lenn9o9n’s cello saws, a glockenspiel peals and a beat begins to gather momentum.
The entire fabric of space time splits in two and a huge crack in the universe opens. All these bodies fall through the crack, faster and faster, until they are a blur of faces, and eventually they are the blur of one single, solitary face. Uncle Dave. He picks up a plastic fork and examines it. He talks about how he never got a break, how his parents didn’t love him and his children weren’t grateful. He goes on, seemingly oblivious to my presence, on a giant clock falling between the stars. There is no sign of Lenn9o9n, the pointy headed man, or the pointy headed man’s parents and I’m starting to freak out. The song continues to play between my ears and Uncle Dave keeps complaining until a big pool of liquid hate forms at the centre of the universe, in the core of my brain.
I trip on the second hand, dizzy as the pool of liquid hate begins to spin. And the faster it spins, the bigger it gets, until the whirling pool of hate is bigger than the universe and trickling from my nose and ears and suddenly, just when I think I can’t take anymore, my brain explodes into trillions of tiny stars.
And now I’m back at the kitchen table sitting opposite Uncle Dave. We’re watching the lottery on a television in the corner of the room. ‘You should have called your editor,’ he says, never taking his eyes of the lottery woman with her gleaming teeth and plastic hair. ‘All you needed to do was make that one little phone call, but no. She would have told you that people don’t have time to wade through pages and pages of nonsensical prose, they want you to get to the point at hand, tell them what the album is, a bit of blurb about the artist, what you think of it, and where they can get it. They don’t want to hear about how I took over the world or the pointy headed man’s parents or any of that other stuff you’ve been writing for the last few weeks.’
The first number gets called and Uncle Dave checks his ticket with a grin. ‘You’re doing it again,’ he said.
‘Who are you?’ I asked him.
‘I was Robot Dave Bukowski,’ he said, pinching his own fleshy, pock-marked cheek. He stopped and watched the numbers rolling across the screen, each time glancing down at his lottery ticket and smirking. ‘I knew if I broke you out of that institute that you would lead me right to him,’ he said finally, waiting on the last number to be drawn. ‘This is Lenn9o9n we’re talking about. Do you think he makes twee little mindless records? No, he doesn’t. He sings about the absurdity of being and he tells you the truth. Sure, he’s shit hot on the cello, his production skills are fucking Interstellar Gamboge the Third, and his voice lulls you into a false sense of security, but you’ve got to be prepared to go somewhere if you’re going to listen to his records. This isn’t pop as you know it, though clearly that whole Elephant 6 menagerie is an influence; no Marty, this shit is the real fucking deal. Lenn9o9n is different.’
The last number gets drawn and Uncle Dave leaps off the couch, rabidly punching the air. ‘Motherfucking bingo!’ he cries, waving his ticket in my face. ‘I’m a goddam billionaire!’
I’ve heard enough. “A Pale Child Reads Aloud Excerpts About The Sun” ends and I head for the door. ‘Here,’ says Uncle Dave and he tosses me a silver coin. ‘Don’t say I wasn’t kind to you.’
Outside, the sun is shining. Uncle Dave’s neighbour at number 907 is pulling out of his driveway, waving a lottery ticket out his window at me. He looks exactly like Uncle Dave. At number 911, another Uncle Dave is smoking cigars in the flower bed, caressing a towering sunflower. Everywhere I look is Uncle Dave. And as the closing song begins to play between my ears (“Distant Shores”), I stuff my hands in my pockets and shuffle up the street. It’s one of those simple piano ballads, a whispered lullaby across continents and centuries, trickling down between the cracks in the sidewalk of my mind and seeping into the earth. I make my way up the road to a grubby red telephone on the corner and I find myself thinking that the pointy headed man’s parents and Uncle Dave got it wrong.
Lenn9o9n is not so different. If anything, he is arguably one of the most human songwriters that I know. This is how he makes the music he does. Samples collide with melodies and emotions collide with cognition. Everything is dangerously unexpected, but achingly reassuring. “Distant Shores” is simply a complex and seriously great little record and an absolute must for anyone who values originality.
I step into the phone booth and pick up the receiver. Dial my editor’s number and place the coin into the slot.
‘Hello?’ I ask. ‘Hello?’
But nobody answers. And the flowers grow up through the cracks and the clock falls through space and Uncle Dave is everywhere and “Distant Shores” has taken root in my mind.
I couldn’t find any videos for this album, so here’s “Love in G” from 2005.