The Garden - The Garden [cassette] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Garden

The Garden [cassette] (2012)

Burger Records

In the 1960s record labels, even major ones, were confused and did not understand the new wave of experimental rock and roll coming down the pipeline. Wisely, instead of just continuing to put out Glenn Miller records, the label heads decided to put out releases by Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Janis Joplin, the Doors and Arthur Brown just to see what happened. Now that the Venn diagram of putting out music and making is represented by an infinity symbol, small record labels have increased the rate at which they put out weird releases, because hey, if you're not gonna make money, you might as well make art. Chief among the more experimental labels is Burger Records, who while being anchored to garage rock, continue to put out wackier and wackier weirdo releases. The Garden's self-titled debut is a weirdo release. But, while its strange and curious, it doesn't quite capitalize on what it can be.

Composed solely of two brothers (whose dad was in regional, first wave hardcore punk band Shattered Faith), Fletcher Shears (drums) and Wyatt Shears (vocals/bass), the band crafts songs that are extremely simple, but despite their simplicity are astonishingly avant garde and evocative of a certain dread. The majority of the 12 songs is just bass and drums playing off each other in short snippets, evoking a cave-like distance and darkness, running up and down scales while pushing out early proto-punk and new wave riffs.

While just bass and drums have been done before, they've never been done in such a spooky, abstract sense. The brothers base their sound in a echoed, stomping drum will the bass fiddles up and down the fret in a energetic, but thick throb, giving each of the songs the feeling that they were recorded in a cave…in winter…at night. Songs don''t have so much a start and an ending as they simply start and end. Further, although the album is less than eight minutes long, it quite clearly is an album. The 12 short pieces work off each other, cascading and getting darker and darker, digging deeper into their distanced, eerie wail.

But, by the seventh minute, when the album abruptly ends, it feels the band could have done so much more. The extremely short running time isn't the problem, as it gives each millisecond meaning. Neither is the problem the 20-second songs, which cut the material down to their absolute minimum while retaining the piece's core identity. Rather, of the 12 songs, 10 are instrumentals. While songs need not have vocals, when the Garden drops their reverbed vocals on top of their energetic throbs, songs go from being weird little pieces to being fascinating dadaist works. "The Tractor" finds the band yelling "The Tractor!" between rambling pieces. It stands out the most on the album because not only is it based in their weird, drum and bass cave-rhythm, the lyrics add a layer of distinction that creates a suggestion through imagery, rather than a direct statement. By contrast, the instrumental pieces, while trippy, blend together without distinction, though they are each weird in their own little way.

The Garden certainly has promise. If they can figure out how to make each of their strange little pets unique than they'll have created a unique, ghostly masterpiece and will capitalize on their ability without having to worry about the burden of being able to make capital.