Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
John Vanderslice has a new-ish album out, a collaborative effort with the diabolically talented Bay Area outfit of brilliant players, singers and composers - the Magik Magik Orchestra. It's entitled, "White Wilderness," and it's a beautifully fleshed out version of the kinds of theatrical albums that JV has been hearing in his head and making since he released "Mass Suicide Occult Figurines" in 2000. Aerosmith's Steven Tyler just released his autobiography under the title, "Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?" and Vanderslice could pen his autobiography with a title that makes a play on that line of thinking, perhaps, "I've Never Felt Closer To The Noise In My Head Than I Do Right Now. Come On In And Join Us, Friend." Vanderslice is a mad scientist of melodies and intricate lyrical landscapes that seem to come out of his mouth and hands as fully formed movements, songs that could leave a hungry man or woman passing on desserts and feeling stuffed for days. They seem to take us like lightning, a whiplashed journey through the entire spectrum of the human condition in every three, four or fine minute segment. It seems as if Vanderslice never leaves out a single detail, telling or showing us all of the colors, all of the smells, describing all of the agitated and tense muscles as well and icing everything with the appropriate amount of dramatic flair. He takes us to skies that are burned out, to skies that are as crystal blue and mesmerizing as they come and to places that have skies that we'd never care if we'd never see them again - cold and bare and the hue of a hare's fur coat. He brings the moonlight into his music, or lets it out, depending on the situation. Either way, his songs are cast in a blue-white glowing that could just be the reflection off of his ever-warm spirit. A man that you can't help but feel an immediate connection to and friendship with, Vanderslice keeps his darkest feelings for his music, but them spins those fears to still sound like particles of dreams. For this session, which was taped out on his turf, two years ago during the week of the Noise Pop festival, Vanderslice was joined at Studio Paradiso by the three members of Nurses, who had shared a bill with him the night before at the Swedish American Hall, what looks to be an old gymnasium, a second floor room with wooden floors whose creaks have creaks. The Magik Magik Orchestra had been in our studio there the day before, joining the Dodos on their session after performing with that trio the night before at a theater in Oakland. During the time of these sessions taping, Vanderslice was in the process of working with Magik Magik on the skeleton for "White Wilderness," and here for the first time are these songs of overlapping significance. They showcase Vanderslice and his melancholy. They show his eye for nostalgic construction, or structure. They show him to be a careful architect of sorrow and joy, of what they do to him, how they inform him. He tells the tale of time running out, down to the bottom of the wick better than anyone. He's just trying to get to that melting horizon on his own terms and when he feels like he's almost there or close to fulfilling those desires, you hear him, as we do at the end of "Keep The Dream Alive," exultant and satisfied at the way the sounds came out of him and those around him.