Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Luck of Eden Hall The Acceleration Of Time

A few weeks ago the mighty Winterpills released their new album Love Songs.  And as always with this special and much cherished band I so confidently knew, even without even hearing a single note that it was going to be yet another ten out of ten classic of creative splendour in an already perfect unbroken run of great Winterpills albums.  And of course it was just that because with the Winterpills it always is. And now just a few weeks later The Luck of Eden Hall unleash their latest platter upon us and the same rules apply.  The Acceleration of Time was never going to be better than or not quite as good as what has gone before because what has gone before has always perfection and you can absolutely guarantee any new release by the band is going to be equally magnificent. As of course it is just that because with The Luck of Eden Hall it always is.
There are a lot of excellent psychedelic bands to enjoy these days but the Eden Hallsters are effortlessly and without doubt in my mind the finest of the lot.  Brilliant songs, adventurous, masterful production and dazzling musical skills are the benchmarks here and combined with an absolute love for what they are creating make the band a constant joy to behold.
So what have they rolled out so resplendently for us this time you ask?  Fifteen tracks of most excellent acid tinged creativity opening with the guitar driven, mellotron soaked hook laden pop perfection of  Slow that bursts out of the speakers in breathless pandemonium. Greg Curvey and Mark Lofgren seem to have a bottomless well of melodies to call upon and as always there’s not a single moment of weakness or filler in the song department. While the band never shirk from the psychedelic riches we love then for, there is a progressive detail to the musicianship that subtly grows with each album as they challenge themselves to complex detailed playing of the highest order. Most noticeably this time around in the inclusion of a number of swirling and building instrumentals that pepper proceedings throughout.  Normally this might cause a slight worry that the creative caravan is starting to slow down and that they couldn’t quite muster enough songs this time around. But of course this is The Luck of Eden Hall so there was already a full album of song-writing prowess in the can before Curvy and co decided to add these instrumentals to give The Acceleration Of Time adding bonus heft into the weave with effortless success.  What a wonderful listen this brilliant album is from start to finish. The Luck of Eden Hall are a truly classic combo to take to your heart and never let go.

As ever head over to choose your format, dowenload. cd, pop up cover cd or double vinyl...each and everyone  a surefire collectors item soon enough

And heres my Bucketfull interview with Curvey from a couple of years back for your futher enlightenment

The Luck Of Eden Hall have been garnering a lot of praise and attention in the UK of late thanks to their connection with psych label supreme, Fruits de Mer Records and a number of brilliantly wrought cover songs that are always the stand out tracks on every comp they appear on. A quick investigation of their Bandcamp page uncovered a surprising long history and the joyful realization that their own material is wonderful beyond all expectations. Built around the mighty talents of Gregory Curvey and Mark Lofgren, it is clear that The Luck Of Eden Hall are one hell of a creative entity, standing shoulder to shoulder with those other much loved purveyors of melodic psychedelic gold, The Pillbugs as a band to be taken to your heart and cherished. Everything about them is right, from the beautiful songs and melodies, the masterful playing and the detailed multi-layered production, they are a treat for the mind and the ears that cannot be bettered. Time to sit down with Mr. Curvey and find out all about them. 

I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (the original home of Gibson guitars). My parents divorced when I was very young and so I lived with my mom growing up. We moved around quite a bit and I can pinpoint specific times in my life depending on the location we lived. I have a very vivid memory of watching the Monkees on television sometime during my kindergarden and first grade years and I seem to remember having a Monkees guitar as well. Not a tunable instrument but the type with a little handle that you would turn to play a musical box inside. What really got me going was I inherited a bunch of my Aunt Sue’s 45s when I was in second grade, Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys and one hit wonders like “Hang On Sloopy”. I remember dancing and singing with my little neighbor girl friend while spinning “Satisfaction” on my Mickey Mouse turntable.
My mom and stepfather owned a few small businesses and at thirteen, I started pumping gas and stocking shelves in the family party store. The income I made was spent on records, loads of glorious records.  During my early teens, my dad had a Genie Organ in his house that I would play it for hours. I talked him into buying me a guitar for my sixteenth birthday. Kay brand and a real finger bleeder to be sure. At first I didn’t even know how to tune the thing and I’d play blues riffs on the E string until my fingers were on fire. The first song I wrote on it was something about walking down the street, just silly crap really.

                 A young Greg Curvey on the left
 When I was seventeen I received an Alvarez 12-string acoustic guitar for Christmas and taught myself how to play it by playing along to Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” album. Meanwhile I had been saving up all of my money to buy a drum kit because at the time that was what I really wanted to play. I bought a used 1970 Ludwig kit with a black oyster finish and remember getting out of bed that first night and looking to see if it was really there. A real dream come true. And so in the first bands I had, I played drums and sang. We did covers of Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, The Cars, basically whatever the guitarists wanted to do. During that first year I just loved playing but I decided early on that covers weren’t the thing for me and I really wanted to play original songs, so I put down the drumsticks and started focusing on my guitar playing.

At nineteen, I was attending Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and got an offer from my friend Doug Chamberlin to join his band “Scarlet Architect” in Chicago. They were a three piece all keyboard band and had opened for acts like Lena Lovich and Human League and now wanted to add a real drummer to the mix. Unfortunately they split up right after I moved to Chicago. Doug took me in to the studio to play a small part on a track and it was then, I was introduced to the producer Iain Burgess, who had done the early Ministry EPs, Green, Naked Raygun, and lots of local punk rock. I started writing and recording songs with Doug on my Fostex X-15 and wanted to put together a live band. Doug had joined Ministry and was too busy so I asked my friend Wayne Wells (pre-Static X) to move to Chicago and we formed “West House”, playing the songs Doug and I had written together, as well as new songs.

           West House                  

 I started to loose interest in the direction the band was taking and after I split they changed the name to “Deep Blue Dream” and a pre Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan took my place for a spell. I then formed a band with my childhood friend Bruce Zimmerman and, after a time was pleased to include my friend Mark Lofgren whom I’d met through mutual friends at a party. He had been playing in a band back in Kalamazoo called “Murder Of Crows”, opening for “Butthole Surfers” and the like. And “The Luck of Eden Hall” was born.

We played tons of local shows and travelled to a few near by states, initially recording songs with Iain Burgess at Chicago Recording Company. Unfortunately we were all too broke to afford a proper release so we distributed a few cassettes, a full-length album recorded by myself and Mark on the Fostex X-15 called “Corner Of The Sky” around town, which resulted in a full-page article about us in The Reader. In 1990 we were approached by Mike Safreed who ran Limited Potential Records. Our first single, “Hook, Line and Sinker,” was LimP007. (Smashing Pumpkins first single was LimP006.) It was well received and we were offered to record a full-length album for the label working with Brad Wood at his Idful studio. Then Bruce decided he’d had enough of the rock n’ roll madness and moved back to Michigan so we replaced him and added a cellist, Eric Remschnieder. I can look back now and see that the new band hadn’t really had enough time to gel, which unfortunately resulted in a very poor album, “Victoria Moon”.  Safreed decided to trash it and save us all from the embarrassment of seeing it released. We recorded one more track, “Man On The Moon” this time with Matt Allison producing for a sampler. A video was made for that song after it was used in the film The Day My Parents Ran Away.  Then drummer number two bit the dust and Joe Furlong joined the troop. We toured all around the Midwest, then saved up and borrowed money to go back into studio land, this time Sea Grape with Dave Trumfio at the helm. “Belladonna Marmalade” was released on CD our own label, Walrus Records (along with a couple of cassette singles, “Under The Sea” and “Sunny Girlfriend”). I wasn’t able to sonically achieve what I wanted to in those sessions because we ran out of money but with a little more time, love and editing that could have been a much better album. Unfortunately Smashing Pumpkins carried off our cellist soon after the recording was finished. making us a three piece again and after that we kind drifted apart.

In 1997 I recorded a more rock pop orientated solo album “Par Crone” at Sparrow Sound Design for Northport Records and then went off on my travels to India. On my return I decided to stop making music for a time and concentrate of my painting abilities and started Gregorian Designs, which is my business for murals, detailed stenciling and illustrations.

2006’s Subterrene really marks the start of the band properly.

“Subterrene” was recorded over a few years and a very tumultuous time. I returned from India, my Grandfather died, I traveled to Germany, I traveled to Greece, I got married, I traveled to Turkey, my Mom passed away, my daughter was born, we moved into a new home. The old soul was really spinning. Love, sadness and adventure are all things woven into that album.
The recording process really changed after my wife and friends gave me a home recording studio for my birthday, another dream come true. The ability to lay out an idea and sculpt it in a leisurely way is liberating to say the least and the first take or thought can be captured without preconception. You can just let it flow. Mark and I started working on new music together.
“Wherever Sends” has the first guitar take on it, as well as the first solo track, which was laid down to capture the vocal melody because I didn’t have a microphone. Mark added bass and wrote the lyrics. “Assyria” was my attempt to recreate another “Madelaine’s Voyage.” It had been included in our live set in the mid nineties and we had attempted to record it a few times back then but the cellist never really grasped the part or maybe I was hearing mellotrons in my head and didn’t realize it. The basic tracks for “Device”, “Babymoon” and “A Very Large Array” were recorded on my Fostex X-15 and then dumped into the home studio because Mark and I had laid those down a year or two earlier and I didn’t think I could recreate the synthesizer tracks. My 1972 Arp Odyssey synthesizer is truly an odyssey to me and I have a hard time replicating sounds that I’ve found or created on it. I played recorder on many of the tracks to give some continuity to the album and on one song you can hear my baby daughter because she was strapped to my chest while I was recording the part.

2009’s When The Clock Starts To Wake Up We Go To Sleep feels like where it all comes together. You seem to really hit your stride in every way.

The name of the record comes from something my daughter, Seda said while we were in a hotel. I guess we were pushing the snooze button and she perceived that as the clock waking up. I spent many hours working on that album at night while my wife was putting her to sleep. It’s definitely the first album I was proud of. I hold everything we do up to it. Some of the differences about it are the fact that, as with Subterrene I used a digital drum kit on the entire thing. And since I was working late at night and had to be quiet, I didn’t use any live amps. If I needed some type of feedback or a sustained note on a guitar track, I used an E-Bow. Sometimes limitations can spur creativity. “Sister Strange And The Stuffed Furry Things” is one of my favorites. Earlier versions of that song were included in our live set back in the Under The Sea era but I didn’t nail the lyrics until the recording of Clock. It’s really the first record that I felt proud of my lyrics. Mark was always a great lyricist and his “Bus Stop Daisy” and “Cinnamon Mary And Her Skeleton Cane” are brilliant. Mark and I both write a ton of songs, which gives us the ability to choose what we feel are the best tracks when we’re piecing together an album, so many songs have been held back or not finished, simply because we thought they didn’t fit or make the grade. In the early days we didn’t have the option to record and choose what was best, because that would have cost us thousands of dollars. The ability to do it all ourselves has really allowed our art to flourish. Think of the Stones and “Sympathy For The Devil” for example. They wouldn’t have been able to rework and reshape that tune on their own dime. The first version blew. The final…voila! Sometimes Mark approaches a song from a completely different angle than what I’m thinking and his bass part metamorphosis’s the finished number into a masterpiece like “All Else Shall Be Added Unto You” or “Sassafras Overcoat”.

And you started playing live again.

We hadn’t played live in a few years, and when that record was finished we knew it was time to put a real band back together. I gave Joe Furlong a call and he joined on for a bit, playing a few shows with us. The press was all very positive and exhilarating. Carlos Mendoza and I had played together on a compilation of songs by The Who called “Who Dunnit” and he gave me a call one day to see what was up with The Luck of Eden Hall. Joe couldn’t make a gig and Carlos sat in. Exit drummer number three and behold the glorious Carlos Mendoza. We then met Jim Licka while playing a gig with his other band, “Umbra and the Volcan Siege”. Jim’s Mellotron playing had my mouth watering and I was thrilled when he accepted our offer to join the band. He has added an essential sound and style to our live show and is the rock and roll member of the band.  I’ll leave that to your imagination. A fabulous character that I’m honored to play with and couldn’t wait to get him into the studio and see what happened.

The songs seem to be the heart of the band’s music now.

I like a great song. After years of trying to shake pop, I’ve decided to accept my fate and go with it. But I do like it best when served with a very strong twist of psychedelia and if I can achieve some of the sounds Eddie Kramer did with Hendrix or George Martin did with the Beatles I’ll be as happy as can be. I use them as inspiration, like an artist might stare at a Vermeer painting.  Songs come to me in waves, I’ll write three or four songs all at once and then have to wait a week or two for something else to inspire me. I hum ideas into my phone. I sit at the piano or pick up a guitar I haven’t played in a while or I’ll plug my guitar into a different set of pedals. When I’m ready to work on a song I lay down scratch guitar and mumbling vocal tracks first. Sometimes it’s a structured song, sometimes it’s just a riff, as it was with “All Else Shall Be Added Unto You”. Some songs flow out finished and some have been worked on for years. Lyrics take a lot of hard work but I’m getting better at it. I may come up with a hook line while working on the original idea but they still take a while to complete. Inspiration for lyrics can come from something my daughter says (Alligators Eat Gumdrops), thoughts about my dearly departed Mom (Goodnight), old objects (Sassafras Overcoat), my travels (Just Can’t Compromise My Security), just life in general.

Your guitar playing is a key element in the overall sound.

My guitar playing is influenced by everything I’ve ever heard, I suppose. I love Phil Manzanera, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Captain Sensible. I love Bob Mould. It took me a very long time to become confident in my guitar playing but after having someone like Billy Corgan publicly state that I was an influence, I had to.  I like the sound of a doubled solo, not ground into perfection but loose and off the cuff. Whatever hits me at the moment works best, though I sometimes end up scraping the whole guitar solo and filling the space with something else in the final mix.

 How did the connection with Fruits de Mer Records come about and do you enjoy doing cover versions.

If memory serves me correctly I was originally contacted by Andy Braken on MySpace who asked if The Luck of Eden Hall was interested in covering a song for a compilation they were putting together of flanged treats. We chose a Monkees song and thankfully made the grade. Keith and Andy really helped us get this dinosaur up and running again, and I will forever be grateful. Up until that point we had hardly ever played cover songs and never recorded one but it’s really been a blast and we’re looking forward to doing some more. “Lucifer Sam” has had the most mileage, making the cover mount CD in Classic Rock magazine in 2011. But I think my favorite is the version we did of  “Never My Love”, which was the first song I figured out how to play on the sitar.TLoEH was asked to submit another track for a follow up compilation LP, this time the caveat being space rock, and I was honored to be asked to create the cover art as well, which helped inspire the title Roqueting Through Space. Keith and Andy were so pleased they decided to make it a gate-fold sleeve and asked me for more artwork.

 Those drawings are still some of my favorite works to date. TLoEH was working on the Butterfly Revolutions album and I hinted to Keith about a possible 7" to coincide with our CD release which lead to our first EP on Regal Crabomophone. When I first moved to Chicago I had purchased a Sitar that was literally hanging on the wall of a music shop as art, bought a book on how to string it up and tune it and the first song I taught myself on it was Never My Love. I'd always wanted to record the version I'd created years back and used the EP as a catalyst. I believe those sold out within the first week. I was (and still am) shocked! Before the EP was released Andy had approached me and a few other FdM acts with the idea of recording a Pretty Things track for a very special very limited release of vinyl to be given to Keith as a wedding gift. Once again I was honored to be a part of something so special and those tracks became the inspiration for Sorrow's Children which is a fabulous tribute record. When TLoEH was working on Alligators Eat Gumdrops I asked Keith if we could try another EP to coincide with our CD release, again and he acquiesced, kind soul that he is. We covered The Doors' Crystal Ship and Black Sheep, one of my favorite tracks by a Detroit band called SRC. We gave a copy of that EP away in a Shindig Magazine contest. I honestly never thought I'd see the day and owe an incredible amount to Mr. Jones

Up next was 2011’s Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1 and 2 . Why did you release it as two parts rather than the magnum opus double album it obviously is?

Once again, Mark and I write a lot of songs. The first track recorded for what turned into Butterfly Revolutions was “Shampoo”. Mark put together a beautiful video for it. The songs kept coming and after we had enough to start working on the flow of the album we realized two distinct sets of songs were forming, creating a side one and two which in time evolved into albums one and two. We thought we had it all finished but when we went to Kingsize Studios to have Mike Hagler master it, Mark and I realized that though disc one sounded great, disc two wasn’t a very good record and needed work. We were working with a publicist and the release date was already in the press so we decided to release Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1 and hoped we could rework Vol. 2 to our satisfaction for release in the future. Then some magic happened. After we chopped out the songs that we didn’t like to listen to any more and reworked some of the other mixes we wrote “Metropolis”. It started out with Mark playing the bass line while I did the simple guitar track over it. Then he was inspired with lyrics. Mark teaches video editing and production and had been watching the Fritz Lang film with his students that day.  So he told me what he was writing about and I went into another room and wrote my own set of lyrics to a melody that was in my head. He then recorded his vocal track and we called it an evening. The next day I turned down the volume on his vocal track and recorded my idea. When we played them back together it was awesome, a very happy accident. Getting the final mix on it took time but it really helped pull together Vol. 2 and we released it a few weeks before Christmas hoping that some day a label might release it as a double vinyl album. With the help of Headspin Records, on April 15th 2013 that became dream come true number three.

Last August you released your latest epic, the glorious “Alligators Eat Gumdrops” to more critical praise.

“Alligators Eat Gumdrops” started with the reworking of “Bangalore”, a track that was written and originally recorded during the “Subterrene” sessions. All the parts were good on the original but I hadn’t really learned enough about recording at that time and the sitar tracks weren’t salvageable. I decided to redo the entire song and when I was finished we knew it was a keeper. A book of ghost stories put together by Alfred Hitchcock inspired “Ten Meters Over The Ground” and I was thrilled when Mars Williams agreed to lay down some saxophone on it. Mark’s beautiful track “Summertime Girl” needed a solo and we happened to have a theremin built by Moog himself at our disposal so I put it to use. When Jim added his part to “A Carney’s Delirium” I knew it was gold. I played “High Heeled Flippers” on the same alley piano that I used for “Henrietta Lacks A Smile”. I call it that because I found it in the alley behind our house and it has a great slightly out of tune sound that can’t be beat.
I really thought about the flow of the songs and how they were going to work together on the Alligators album and I decided to hand emboss each cover. The limited edition of 200 sold out in a few months and we’re hoping it will get released on vinyl as well. Both Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 2 and Alligators Eat Gumdrops were very well received and made best of the year lists around the world.
We worked on getting almost every track on Alligators ready for performing live but some weaker ones fell to the wayside. Some tracks just work better than others in a live setting. Most of them are altered in some way but I feel the live version should be a bit different. “She’s Using All The Colors” has become one of our best live songs, and on the album it’s sitar, bass and drums. The live version’s a little different every time but always cool and that’s what makes it fun to play. That won’t work for every song, like “Metropolis” for instance but I feel songs like “Chrysalide” and “A Drop In The Ocean” are better live then on the record.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the work we’ve done so far and it’s nice that our albums are starting to be heard by more people. We’ve just released a video for our latest single “Sassafras Overcoat”, which features local burlesque stars Bella Canto and Ray Ray Sunshine, another Lofgren masterpiece.  It’s the first track finished for this summer’s planned album “Victoria Moon” and the idea is to release a few more videos. “Victoria Moon” was the name of the unreleased album we did for Limited Potential and after creating all of the unused artwork I decided to keep it. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of “Belladonna Marmalade” and the time feels right to use the art. It’s very reminiscent of the “Belladonna Marmalade” and “Under The Sea” covers. I was into collage and Max Ernst at the time and this was pre-desktop publishing so it’s all done with photocopies and glue. Being from that time period has inspired some great new songs as well, and they’re really starting to come together. We can’t wait to share.
Mick Dillingham  Bucketfull of Brains

My sleevenotes for Victoria Moon

Chicago’s own The Luck Of Eden Hall’s blisteringly beautiful progressive psych pop gems embrace all the rich spectrum of sound, experimentation and adventure that much loved genre, psychedelia allows but they always have their collective eyes pointing forward rather than back. Unlike most of the gallant combos currently standing in this particular field you’d find it near on impossible to hear anything on their albums you’ve heard before unless purely by coincidence and nothing more. There’s not a hint of plagiarism or variations on, going on here, its all spanking new and all a wonder to behold. Eden Hall albums always come resplendent with purely great songs, grown up lyrics, beautiful melodies, riffs to die for, masterful playing and singing, craftsmanship, bold invention and spectacularly dynamic production.  Victoria Moon effortlessly continues a run of majestic and magnificent masterpieces unbroken since they first re-emerged with 2006’s stunning Subterrene. There’s nothing more joyful and exciting than stumbling across a band who’s music you fall head over heels in love with and then discovering that you’ve arrived in the midst of their finest hours.  And then you get to be there in the here and now to experience them climbing one creative peak after another before your very ears. I’m not going sit here and pick through the tunes that make up Victoria Moon, its all great, no filler because there never is. Each track stands on its own merits but the album is just that: an album you will play from start to finish every time. This is creativity and artistry of the highest order delivered up by adult musicians who love what they are doing and have the true and precious talents to deliver the goods and then some. Where was I when the legendary Luck of Eden Hall were pouring out their masterworks? Well I was here in the thick of it, listening in quiet exultation.
Mick Dillingham  Bucketfull of Brains

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