Following up his ambitious jaunty pop 2011 debut Cabinet of Curiosities with his another slice of baroque psychedelia, his time around we find Jacco Gardner with one foot planted in the late ’60s and one in the early ’70s with an iPad under his arm.
Despite his retro sound the singer says there are things on his albums that couldn’t have been done back then and it is this sonic curiosity which makes his material such an intriguing listen. It sounds old and new at the same time, retro and contemporary in the same way that Tame Impala or Toro y Moi are, with the spirit of Love and Syd Barrett looming large.
You can sense Gardner’s growing confidence over his craft, with some of the tracks extended by dense layered instrumental parts which would not have made the cut on the first album. It helps to add to the woozy, dreamy soundscapes of the album, giving them room to breathe, develop and build up. The record opens with ‘Another You’ and ’60s sci fi synthy atmospherics, which then make way for an upbeat tune more akin to Air or the aforementioned Toro y Moi. It’s catchy and immediate and a clear progression from anything that he has done before. Instrumental track ‘Grey Lanes’ follows and calls to mind Courage Of Others period Midlake. It’s funky and dreamy, could be the soundtrack to some imaginary TV show and is nice as an interlude.
The Syd Barett influence really comes to the fore on ‘Brightly’ and lines like “all the colours on the outside have been changing” and “have you heard about the demons turning green into grey”, illustrating perfectly the dichotomy between the music and the lyrics. It’s a great song which only benefits from the additional instrumentation that appears half way through – Barrett mixed with a little bit of Tame Impala.
Lead single ‘Find Yourself’ continues along the psychedelic path and is the most upbeat moment on the album, treading that line of psych-pop and cheese that is so popular these days but does it well, with the dropdown verses working particularly well to allow the chorus room to soar. The closing instrumental ‘All Over’ is a brave choice but, at nearly four minutes and not varying a whole lot, probably the wrong one. It’s pleasant enough but doesn’t offer much. If it was shorter it might have worked better.
Overall Hypnophobia is a good album on the way to being a very good one. There are some standout tracks but one can’t help thinking Gardner could have pushed the envelope a bit more. He has added more layers and instruments and sounds and textures into the mix and when it works it’s great yet too often the record floats by harmlessly enough on clouds of synth and layered vocals. Mind you, with the primary thematic concern being the fear of sleep maybe that was the intention from the outset. Gardner is a man who does things very much his way after all.