Given the maturity and insight of White Fence's previous releases and his collaborations with it-boy Ty Segall, it shouldn't shock anyone that the act's newest record, Cyclops Reap, is quite brilliant.
Still, Tim Presley's one-man band reaps a whole host of casual garage-rock casuistry from the lazy rock criterati. He had initially intended this release to tie up the loose ends from his furious 2012 release schedule (one that saw him pump out three other White Fence records), but what came out instead is a unique one-eyed beast, and one that might ease the critical correlation.
“As long as people think it sounds good, I don't care. Even if it's your 'taking a shit' record, that's cool,” Presley tells us over drinks at Echo Park's Taix. He's just sipping Coke from a glass, looking a little green around the gills from having overdone it in San Francisco over the weekend. Presley, despite his fatigue, still has an affable alertness. Think cool older cousin.
How did White Fence get to this point? “I went in with very low expectations, coming out of [previous band] Darker My Love doing all of this really high-energy marketing and aggressive playing. And I don't really know how to do that and I don't believe in it. To do White Fence was just to start over and just record music in my apartment. If people dig the record, then cool. If they don't, then cool. It was more like, 'Look at my sketchbook.' And it snowballed into something more.”
Something vintage and psychedelic, yes, but also expansive. Think soaring through extraterrestrial atmospheres alongside impossible flying machines while dodging some improbably built skyscrapers imagined during 1960s acid vacations. Cyclops Reap is, indeed, an unkempt future imagined by the historic bands to which it is so often compared. They hear Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett. We hear that and a newer, different level of good.
Sure, there is still a nagging argument that goes something like this: “Why would we listen to stuff that kinda sounds like all that other stuff? We want new, we want a collection of notes and sounds that we haven't heard before.”
Presley responds, “Hey, I feel that way about a lot of bands, too.”
Bred on Dischord hardcore and classic crate-digging, he comes at his work from an unlikely perspective. “I grew up listening to Minor Threat and all of that. That was my jam. And like, our generation, all of our friends' older brothers, were Gen X-ers so we got a lot of great music out of it. But coming from hardcore, I got into all of those Nuggets comps and started seeing a lot of the same chords and sounds.” From there he added new layers and different impressions of that cluttered mess of influence.
Still, it's hard to really avoid sounding like what you're into. “Everyone to this day still rips off Hank Williams. It's all about putting that different spin on it, adding something new to the mix. Look, if we wanted to, we could get really fucked up and try to write something that sounds like a Bukowski poem right now. It might not be good. But we could do it. We should probably end up doing that tonight,” he laughs.
Presley has no pretension about his work and the apartment-solo production scheme he employs is not a liability like some of his navel-gazing contemporaries. He might disagree. “Oh, because I record in such a crappy way, the mastering is really important. It's such a special tool in the equation. It sounds like a mess when I'm done. And if I didn't have someone really talented mastering it, it would sound kinda like shit.” He's half-joking here.
So yeah, fine, if you're short on imagination, you can call Cyclops Reaps a hazy, freaky day at the beach with a crafty, throwback aesthetic. Just don't be shocked if it doesn't fit into your neat and perfect little vintage world. Presley's musical thinking is forward and quality-oriented, employing ripe sonic opportunities to drift deeper into the dreamy space he's created. For every swath of historic-sounding fuzz, or flourish of past-leaning twang, there's a challenging layer, a delay or an artfully off time signature to remind you exactly what decade you're in. White Fence has clearly left the garage.
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