Friday, July 27, 2012

This Forest and the Sea

Scott Key - This Forest and The Sea 1976

Picked up this obscure guitar record for fifty cents at the Montgomery County Thrift Shop.  I was initially drawn to the black and white cover art.  The lone nerdish looking hippie sitting with his guitar in a remote western landscape has a silverish tint to it.  The feel of the print is like something from the turn of the century and would still seem that way if not for Mr. Key's 70's jeans, thick modish glasses, and hang glider collared shirt.  Back cover is also in black and white; a white line drawing (or maybe it's a woodcut?) of a Japanese looking pine tree on the edge of a hillside.  This was all eye catching, but what really sold me (and at fifty cents it usually doesn't take much) was the odd poem/story at the end of the track listing.

Elroy snuck into the zoo one night and abducted a baby
antelope from its cell.  Whereupon, he proceeded to strangle
it to death and stalk away into the darkness dragging the
carcass behind him.  A few days later, the police came to
Elroy's apartment and soon discovered the deceased critter
cut up into bite-size pieces and stuffed inside a few lidless
jars in his cupboard.

Menacing enough for you?  Mind you, the poem seems not to be related to any specific track. When the needle gets to work I hear much of the same menace lurking through the spare minor chords.  Just the loner and his guitar.  He doesn't strike me as evil, more so intensely purposeful and introspective.  Tuned down with cycling chord progressions, most tracks take on the feeling of an Indian mantra or some sort of spiritual ceremony.  There are slow blurry string bends, playful chuckling strums, bottleneck slides, and plenty of tempo shifts.  "Goon Lagoon" has all of these jammed into under three minutes.  It's a standout track on an album full of bold and compulsively energetic tales.  I can't quite put my finger on how to classify the sound here.  It has moments that remind me of early Pink Floyd and others that remind me of the soundtrack to a trippy western.  He tends to keep it acoustic but when he plugs in it is seamless.  Parts of tracks have a sound like proto-alternative circa 1989.  Dark and looming moments in "Buzzard Blues" have a slacker charm that can be just a little spooky.

Key sings on just three tracks on the record.  His voice is somewhat atonal and the tunes suit a certain dark mood. Lyrics seem to be ruminations about alienation from the ways of the modern world of football players and politicians.  "It's a stone's throw away, today.  And it may just be your last."  Doom with a hint of optimism that better days must be a ahead.  Sounds like the 70's to me.

I've only found just a couple of mentions of this record on the internets.  A few bidding sites describe it as "Psychaedelic Folk" and I've seen one listing of a proposed rerelease.  I've asked the local record store guys as well as a gentleman who helps organize the massive collection of a local thrift store and nobody has ever heard of Mr. Key.  It seems that most of the world outside of Colorado never noticed the man, but those lucky enough to get a listen seem to be quite smitten.  I'd put myself in the category.  It's spare and perfect for contemplative days.

P.S. in the liner notes "Guitars recorded in Rush's sauna and elsewhere".

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