Songwriter Tim Presley's fried psychedelia as White Fence began as an exceptionally lo-fi rendering of tripped-out bedroom folk. His 2014 offering For the Recently Found Innocent was one of his most polished efforts, and even that upgraded production was scrappy at best. (It was recorded in the garage of longtime friend Ty Segall on a reel-to-reel eight track.) In the five years that followed, Presley was prolifically working on other projects, mainly DRINKS, a duo between he and songwriter Cate Le Bon that produced two albums of deranged, alien sounds during the downtime from White Fence. I Have to Feed Larry's Hawk forges new ground for the project, breaking out of the home-recorded haze that defined his previous catalog and clearing the way for his twisted, thoughtful, and at-times-dramatic songwriting to rise above the murk. The influence of '60s acid-burned pop geniuses like Syd Barret or subdued songsmiths like John Cale were easy comparisons to jump off from on Presley's home-recorded albums, but here he sounds like he's absorbed those influences and redirected their input into a voice of his own. The songs retain the same nervous edge as before, but tend towards something softer and somewhat sad. Downhearted piano-centered tunes like "Phone" and "I Can Dream You" find Presley's wavering voice landing somewhere between an early period Kinks ballad and Kevin Ayers' airy dreamworld of melancholic baroque pop. When things rock out, it's not from under a quilt of fuzz, but in a coherent-if-jagged production. With clean vocals front and center, "Neighborhood Light" twists glam weirdness into something both catchy and jittery, exposing all the rough edges that would have previously drowned in a sea of tape hiss. Similarly, the clunky, disoriented "Until You Walk" leaves all its bewildering twists and turns out in the open. I Have to Feed Larry's Hawk represents a watershed of bold choices from Presley's long-running project. In addition to clearer production, the album ends with a suite of experimental synth meditations that last too long to be considered outlier experimental filler. Under the banner of "Harm Reduction," the chapters "Morning," "Street," and "Inside Mind" stretch out for nearly 17 minutes, building off of new-agey arpeggio patterns and eventually incorporating field recordings and other distant synth tones. The suite barely connects with the overall character of the rest of the album, but serves as a comedown room for the other 12 songs, offering a gentle space to ponder the weird, beautiful, and sometimes painful world Presley assembles with the album. Easily his most accessible material, there's still a lot of uncomfortable emotional and sonic wreckage to sift through. Peeling back the layers of grime and giving listeners a chance to sift through it for themselves makes I Have to Feed Larry's Hawk feel like a debut from this already storied songwriter.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas