Harvest of Dreams

Bobb Trimble

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Harvest of Dreams Review

by Stewart Mason

For all but the most dedicated psychedelic pop obscurantists, the first general introduction to Bobb Trimble's sometimes unsettling world was a mid-'90s compilation CD called Jupiter Transmission, which included nearly all of Trimble's second LP, 1982's Harvest of Dreams, and about half of his first, 1980's Iron Curtain Innocence. This would seem to be sufficient, but most of the online overviews of Trimble's brief and obscure career (including a lengthy, detailed, and sensitive review of Harvest of Dreams by veteran psych collector Aaron Milenski) point out that the compilation CD changes the flow of Harvest of Dreams in subtle but important ways by deleting two songs and editing others. An unauthorized British CD mastered from vinyl was released in 2005, restoring the missing material, but the far superior 2007 reissue from the estimable indie Secretly Canadian is the essential document, both for its remastered (from the original tapes) sound and improved packaging and for the simple fact that Trimble authorized this release and receives royalties from its sales. In some ways, Harvest of Dreams sounds rather like a philosophical precursor to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Both albums are dominated by the singer/songwriter's cryptic but clearly deeply personal lyrics, which resist easy explication but often startle with the disquieting intensity of their imagery. Trimble has a more objectively pretty voice than Jeff Mangum (a breathy high tenor with occasional echoes of both Sparks' Russell Mael and, no kidding, Joni Mitchell), but he's equally fond of obscuring his vocals with layers of echo, reverb, and other effects. Rather than the horns and strings that enrich In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, the songs on Harvest of Dreams are overlaid with found sounds and extraneous noises: video game soundtracks, telephone busy signals, snatches of conversation between the bandmembers, and other everyday sonic detritus further smudge the songs, which at root are based on Trimble's psych-folk guitar and plaintive vocals.

Finally, both albums are somewhat perversely sequenced to some inscrutable structure: side one of Harvest of Dreams (subtitled Dimension One: Truth) is bracketed by "Premonitions -- The Fantasy" and "Premonitions Boy -- The Reality," which turn out to be very slightly different remixes of exactly the same recording, and also features a track called "The World I Left Behind," just over two minutes' worth of dead silence preceding the sonic onslaught of the mildly terrifying "Armour of the Shroud." The cacophony overlaid onto this psychedelic rocker has led some armchair psychiatrists in the obscuro-pop underground to suggest that Trimble was schizophrenic, a rather facile reading unsupported by facts. Similarly, in today's age of hyper-awareness of sexual predators, the fact that Trimble's on-stage backing band at this point in his career was a group of barely adolescent boys called the Kidds, a short-lived group broken up by suspicious parents, has led to some dark and unsubstantiated mutterings. The centerpiece of side two (Dimension Two: Harmony) is "Oh Baby," a 90-second blast of bratty punk metal written and performed by the Kidds without Trimble preceded by a lengthy burst of backwards tapes featuring the band; in the context of the rest of the side's more languid psychedelia, it's the most bracingly weird moment on an undeniably bizarre album. What keeps Harvest of Dreams from being merely a psychologically interesting curio of an eccentric singer/songwriter is that Trimble is undeniably talented. Although not as melodically gifted as either Mangum or other obvious points of comparison like R. Stevie Moore or Andy Partridge's pastoral-English-countryside mode, Trimble's songs work well within his limitations. In either incarnation, "Premonitions" is a genuinely catchy folk-rock tune, and both the playful "Take Me Home Vienna" and the much darker "Paralyzed" are tuneful in a way that the contemporary "weird folk" underground never quite manages. Harvest of Dreams is the sort of album that becomes more interesting when the listener delves into its back story, but, crucially, that knowledge is not a prerequisite for enjoyment.

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