It seems not a week goes by without me hearing yet another release which mashes up psychedelia with modern dream pop/electronica and then throws in some mildly unhinged vocals. Step forward please Zoo Brother, which is ostensibly a solo project for Chicago’s William Karmis (although he is backed by a full band for live performances).
This very lively mini album/EP opens rather fittingly with recording of some fireworks blasting off. Then ‘Fourth Of July’ the song actually begins characterised by an embarrassment of jangly guitars and blurred harmonies. It couldn’t be more dream pop if it tried. ‘Psychic Whatever’, a collaboration with fellow Chicago native Atlas Murphy, seems to steal one of those queasy melodies from a nearby ice cream van but it’s looped ingeniously and incongruously around Karmis’ moody vocals and bird samples. It’s a fabulous song which carries on the good work laid down by fellow psych-pop enthusiasts Modern Rivals and Paul J Fox, albeit with a slightly wonkier variation. ‘Gemini Girl’ employs a child-friendly tune too but Karmis’ slurred delivery gives the song an earthy contrast. ‘Dreamwalking’ and ‘If I Could (You Would Know)’ pile on the echo, reverb and pop fairy lights to create two further shimmering 60’s-flavoured delights and last track ‘Please Don’t’ appears to borrow the intro to ‘Mr. Sandman’ in its quest for euphoria.
Some might say that Karmis’ reliance on one particular hook per song may be a tad lazy but the genius to this is that the listener never gets tired of it and instead gets lured into the song even more, mesmerised by the dream-like arrangements. How pleasing to report, then, that the influences of The Beach Boys and Phil Spector still inform new generations of bedroom studio musicians and long may it continue on this evidence.
Modern Rivals, Paul J Fox, The Beach Boys