In the Village of the Apple Sun
(Four - Way)
Midway through In the Village of the Apple Sun, my mind was already concocting a vivid image of Anton Barbeau as a child. My hypothetical mini-Anton wasn’t reclusive by nature, but he definitely inhabited his own world. Perhaps he would spend sunny days indoors tinkering with something rumored to be a time machine/magic set/communication device of some sort. He was good-natured and bright, but confounded those who didn’t know what to make of his oddly prophetic-sounding chatter. Some even began to wonder whether his seeming gibberish might contain some hidden meaning.
And so it is with his music: baffling statements delivered in a smart, tightly wrapped package, with recurring musical themes hinting that there just might be a method to his madness. In the case of In the Village, the package takes the form of distilled and perfected late-‘60s psychedelic pop, so convincingly executed that rumors of a time machine wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable.
Energetic opener “This Is Why They Call Me Guru 7” establishes his tendency to utilize the restraints of song structure and rhyme to guide his lyrics in occasionally amusing directions. He’ll throw out a random image and pair it with an unrelated, easy rhyme. He’ll then proceed to belabor the point with further matching rhymes until he reaches a droll conclusion. It may seem superficial, perhaps even juvenile; but it wins you over. “Mushroom Box, 1975,” continues to marry humorously bemusing lyrics with fantastic tunes. The Lennonesque ballad “The Eye On My Hand” introduces new lyrical depths, hinting at an underlying warmth and intimacy that the previous songs hadn’t foreshadowed. The futuristic, spacey “When I Was 46 In the Year 13” may or may not be Anton’s oblique attempt to take stock of his life. He hardly manages to sound menacing on “The Bane of Your Existence Is My Name,” but some brilliantly creepy male backing vocals close the song in comically ominous style. Meanwhile, the multi-part, hysterical “Seeds of Space” must be heard to be believed; among other things, it reveals Anton’s flair for drama and impressive falsetto. He can do romance, too: one imagines plenty of girls eagerly queuing to accept this oddball’s hypnotic invitation to a picnic “In The Meadow Of The Mellotron.” The apocalyptic title track is loaded with archetypal symbolism and embellished with a backwards guitar. Why he didn’t close with the latter’s climactic explosion is beyond me; he seems deliberately to deflate the grandiosity by creating an improbable anthem in “My Hair Is Oily.” It’s an utterly dispensable song, but so uplifting that one suspects entire stadiums could be persuaded to sing along.
He delivers hook after hook, and songs take unpredictable yet completely logical melodic turns. Though one might expect such eccentric music to scatter in too many different directions, an uncanny sense of unity links the songs. They share the aesthetic of trippy, Anglophilic psych-pop in the spirit of the Beatles and Robyn Hitchcock. I suspect it takes a sober man to perfect this druggy sound, although he may have required a little ‘something’ to achieve the mind-blowing realization that there are “billions of apples, but only one sauce.” When he presents a new musical element (such as exotic violins), he’ll often reintroduce it in the following track. If the waltzing interlude of “Creep In the Garden” sounds familiar, it’s because you already heard a variation of it in a different key on “Seeds of Space,” and you’ll hear it again on the final track. Similar threads of commonality run throughout the album, strengthening the suspicion that this guy isn’t crazy after all; he knows exactly what he’s doing.