Producing songs straight from fringes of vintage obscuro-pop, Tim Presley’s White Fence have always seemed like one of the more unique examples of the seemingly endless torrent of 1960s revivalists releasing albums over the past few years. As with the anachronistic production aesthetics of Ariel Pink, Presley is consistent in creating music that belies its birth-era without merely rehashing.
Hazier than the flower-punk of The Oh Sees’ John Dwyer and frequent collaborator Ty Segall, more detached than the more refined approach of bands like Foxygen and less concerned with the stacks of psychosis Tame Impala seem intent on emanating, White Fence steer toward a more twisted pastiche. There is an air of absurdity, bringing to mind Syd Barrett, or The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Delicate and indistinct, the songs often seem intent on eliciting a sense of alienation and even at their most ebullient, the murky production and dark lyrics imbue these ostensibly “pop” songs with a sinister quality that is often lacking in the slacker vibes of his contemporaries. White Fence songs never quite feel right, in the best way possible.
While new album Cyclops Reap certainly retains these elements, all too often the uneven production and songwriting leave the album feeling disjointed, very much like a collection of odds and ends. Previous albums came together like some Nuggets-style compilation of psych ephemera, played through broken spring reverb units and warped cassettes with an immediacy and vitality, allowing you to absorb all the small idiosyncrasies that make White Fence so unique. On this LP things don’t quite come together as a whole. There’s a certain psychedelic phosphorescence and sense of cohesion missing, and the songs themselves often feel unfinished.
But then, perhaps it’s a little harsh to judge this release by the way each of the individual pieces fit together. Holding up this album – essentially a collection of songs recorded in between previous releases – as a singular work may not be the best way to approach it. Taken as individual songs, there are some truly wonderful moments. ‘To The Boy I Jumped In The Hemlock Alley’ grooves like the soundtrack to some long forgotten, schlock exploitation film and throughout the album there are flashing moments of brilliance, snapshots into some unexplored sonic possibilities. While it is a shame that some of these ideas don’t feel more fully fleshed out, there are still plenty of moments that set characterise White Fence as some of the most interesting ’60s-tinged music being released.