Balduin "All In A Dream" (Sunstone Records, 2014)
I was just thinking there, after listening to this astonishingly groovy set again, and also some of Balduin's previous Rainbow Tapes material, that this is actually how I imagined Nick Nicely could’ve sounded had he also thought to create his very own LP back around the time of 'Vox Dreams' and the great 'Hilly Fields' single, that were issued (the latter on EMI) at the very beginning of the 1980s.
However, putting such strange, odd little parallels aside, let us now meet Balduin, Switzerland's supremely gifted solo artist / multi-instrumental playing, one-man band sensation who is currently, and effervescently so, keen to embrace many of the wide-eyed, wide-ranging, not to mention inherently melodic waves now being brought back, and forward (again and again) into focus. In doing so it’s creating a beautiful swirling movement of flowing sounds that are now cresting on a sea of mindblowing pop-style psychedelia; this daring do perhaps even more so than the likes of fellow journeyman Jacco Gardner; and all manner of other wily, enquiring, relatively young minds that are operating and experimenting from as far afield as Britain, and Spain, to California and beyond in these last few years. And now Switzerland!
Torn between the frequent accessibility of the pre- '68 / full-bearded Beatles goings on and some of the thought-provoking angles and intelligent pop-absurdism that emanates from the recordings by early Pink Floyd, Donovan, Incredible String Band, Jason Crest and, say, well just for argument's sake Boeing Duveen & the Beautiful Soup. The last I mention because of our hero's seemingly abiding passion for Dr. Hutt's oddly strange and weirdly prescriptive formula; not only has he covered the confusingly brilliant 'Which Dreamed It' right here within the grooves of All In A Dream but he’d already thought to include a hugely tasty version of the Duveen's wickedly whacked-out topside wonder 'Jabberwock' as part of a liquidly languid golden pearl of an EP issued earlier this year called The Glamour Forest.
However, it's perhaps in the sheer breadth of seemingly fearless musical and lyrical glad-roaming found within the words and music of some of his own self-composed works that the indomitable spirit of Balduin is at its most creative; highly-charged, and spanglingly illuminating. This is where the likes of 'Kite Come Back' with its filigree air, the instantaneously grasp of 'Change', 'Glamour Forest' itself (the shimmeringly beautiful cut that's not included on the EP of the same name) and the altogether more spiritual sounding and highly personalised tones he adopts in 'Father', plus many more palpable, tangible, kinetic, Lennon-esque passages ... Some of what's happening within is difficult to aptly describe, and perhaps what each individual recipient also feels will be different, like the rise of some new, or at least untapped emotion breaking through; music like this can sometimes be that with us as the conduit as we drift into reverie, or zone out completely.
Many of the selections here add such extra-appealing features as mellotron, sitar, flute, plentiful juicy fuzz licks, plus a whole kaboodle of passionately executed simplistic, effective drum patterns and deliciously played soft guitar strummings. So as you can imagine, there's more than enough to make a whole new world of intrigue and mystery for you to explore. Everything heard seems to weave to and fro enmeshed in sets of well-chosen lyrics, and well-placed vocal rhymes; some new, others borrowed, some ching, others vibrate while one or two disappear almost as soon as they arrive.
Almost instantly the rewards will be most obvious whichever way you look at it and, in fact, almost everything Balduin has utilised here works in some practical way or is an artistic endeavour that helps formulate what is fast becoming one of the modern music world's most excellently realised psychedelic art-pop aural installations! Hear, see, feel, float, trip!
Balduin interview conducted by Lenny Helsing September 2014
Lenny Helsing: Well I suppose the first thing to establish really is when did you get into music in general, and more specifically, how and when did you then migrate towards the psychedelic sounds of the 60s?
Balduin: My first musical instrument I learned was Swiss dulcimer. I could choose which instrument I wanted to learn. My music teacher said my hands could play every instrument I would like so I chose the dulcimer. Later on I switched to classical guitar and took some beginner's lessons and learned picking basic chords. From then on I started to cover and recorded demo tapes for myself and formed a band with my friend who played the drums. We were the youngest band in our village and played in church and several other occasions.
How long have you been writing songs, and what kind of songs did you start out writing?
To be honest some of the songs or bits of it are on "All In A Dream". ‘Autumn’ for example is one of my first songs I wrote when I was around 14 years old. Playing guitar really helped with writing my own songs and learn from playing covers like ‘Arnold Layne’, ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Blackbird’. But the dulcimer gave me the skills in hearing and playing notes immediately.
One can detect some of the prime influences that pop up in your songs, first a few on the "Rainbow Tapes" set then a few stronger realisations on your first UK release the fantastic EP "The Glamour Forest", and also now being heard throughout your debut LP which is also on the Sunstone label, "All In A Dream", such as the Beatles, early Pink Floyd, a touch of the Incredible String Band too perhaps, and a few more besides from the English '67 scene, but I wonder if you could tell me which names have had the most impact on you as a songwriter and creator in this regard?
Today I would say all of them now and even more bands I still don't know ;). But before deffo The Beatles and the early Pink Floyd. The ISB came much later when I was exploring Gong and Krautrock. Much of the music from the 60s I discovered through listening to "modern" music like The Orb, KLF, Boards Of Canada, Ultramarine, Wagon Christ etc.. They sampled and mentioned them in their music so I was more curious in the roots than what is going on today. Without knowing of the ISB I would have definitely missed a bright spectrum of what's in the music. Thank god for knowing them.
You play all the instruments yourself and do all the singing, and you also took care of all the arrangements, musical direction and the production side of things on the album too is this correct? If so, why so ... why no group for example?
My early experiences in playing within a band were interesting and I learned a lot. But I always was the homebrew musician recording stuff by myself. This takes less time and I can record whenever I want and change things without asking my group members. This appears egotistic but it is even cheaper and takes less space too. What I miss by doing it all by myself is the feeling of live playing. Still today I think recording an album and playing live is a total different thing. In the studio in need my own time recording the music how I want. Some instrumental parts are tricky and don't get alive with overdubbing. My dream for my next album is to have a combination of both.
A few of the selections, like ‘Kite Come Back’, and ‘You Can Never Pipe My Fancy From You My Dear’ remind me of some of the feeling and atmosphere that Nick Nicely made back at the very beginning of the 1980s, are you familiar with any of his material such as the great EMI single Hilly Fields (1892) ... ?
Nope. I know the Dukes of Stratosphear but not Nick Nicely yet. Will definitely check it out then. Thanks!
The likes of 'Father' to me has quite a spiritual dimension and so I wondered if this was also your intention? And also were you listening in again to the Beatles, and Lennon in particular, for some extra inspiration here?
Lennon wrote ‘Mother’, I wrote ‘Father’. There was no intention for me to copy his song. My message is different as in Lennon's ‘Mother’ but it's obvious that people get curious. It's the most personal and touchy one on the album. I wrote this for my Dad because I really miss him. I think it can't be sung a second time in that way and captures a big emotional feeling.
Going back to your "Rainbow Tapes" recordings and specifically the likes of ‘Lily Sees Dandelion’, ‘Years Ago’ and ‘Jump In The Past (A Horse And A Car)’ ... what was going on in your mind to concoct such as these lyrical tales ... and I'm thinking that the Beatles, and perhaps the Incredible String Band again could have been sitting on your turntable around that time. Certainly something like ‘Jump In The Past’ gives me that nice warm feeling I get when the Incredibles are playing?
Sure I played them constantly. I recorded "Rainbow Tapes" during 1994-96. During the initial recording sessions, my roof room window was covered by snow. The whole roof room was lit up in white. This light influenced the recording of "Rainbow Tapes". Some soundscapes were recorded with tape loops, either played backwards, higher or in a lower pitch. You'll definitely hear the inspiration; "Rainbow Tapes" is my first example into the psychedelic studio music era in the late 1960s. Compared to my latest album "Rainbow Tapes" is less pop but more experimental and lo-fi. "All In A Dream" is the growing father of "Rainbow Tapes", it's ten years later and many things have changed.
We heard the great dramatic tones of ‘Jabberwock’ on your "The Glamour Forest" EP and now we have ‘Which Dreamed It’ on the album. As these were both sides of the 1968 single by English psychster(s) Boeing Duveen and the Beautiful Soup - in reality Dr. Sam Hutt (in later years trading as the eccentric country pub-rocker Hank Wangford) may I ask why you decided on covering not just one but both sides of that 45. Gleefully realised and authentic to the max too, of course, but I just wondered what your reasoning behind this was ... other than that they are both charming and outrageously psyched-out compositions?
That song ‘Jabberwock’ I discovered first thanks to the “Rubble: Magic Rocking Horse" sampler and was amazed by the similarity of Syd's early Pink Floyd songs. Later I found out that he even hung around with Syd at that time, there's even a photograph. Years later I found the original 7" and paid the price. I'm now a proud owner of this 45. I think it's still one of the best in music which was released in that period but wasn't known by many people. Even now. The reason why I left out the B-Side ‘Which Dreamed It’ is simply because I didn't record it yet. I always was afraid of that sitar part but finally managed to play it. Maybe ‘Jabberwock’ had to be challenged first before getting into more dreamful areas ;) I think Simon from Sunstone gave me the final incentive to cover it finally. A similar thing happened with the EP name "The Glamour Forest". The song itself is missing on the EP but appears on "All In A Dream".
I also wondered, do you always use a full acoustic drum kit, or is there a mix of real live hitting and some modern electronic kit action going on ... it sounds a little perhaps like the drums are umm perhaps a little treated in some way?
I hadn't got the opportunity to use a full kit. But I did use some live snare hits and mixed it in with some recorded drum kits which I mostly recorded or from libraries I owned.
Thanks so much Balduin, as I think I said to you already I love your music and really hope the album is a smash success for you and can go onto reach into the hearts and minds of many listeners out there today! Cheers and many thanks again.
Review & interview made by Lenny Helsing/2014
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