Bobb Trimble seems to hark back to another world. Searching the internet for information about this reclusive performer is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There’s no Wikipedia entry and his “official website” has a few links to rather old, and dated, articles on him. The bottom of the page has the following piece of information next to an email address to contact him: “Please keep in mind that Bobb doesn’t own a computer or read e-mail directly. But all appropriate messages to Bobb will be delivered to him as soon as possible.” Marvellous!
So, it comes as some surprise to learn that Secretly Canadian are re-releasing his first two albums. Apparently they go for some serious money when they become available through scrupulous music dealers, but now you’ll be able to buy these re-mastered editions, with extra material, from your local independent retailer of choice. And what a pair of albums they are.
Iron Curtain Innocence was originally released back in 1980. The back sleeve containing the wonderfully endearing note: “Dear John, Paul, George and Ringo, if I’m a good boy and work real hard, may I please be the 5th Beatle someday.” It’s not exactly clear, after listening to the album, whether he would have fitted into their grand scheme of things, but he’d certainly add some more psychedelia to their late 60’s repertoire. Apparently he was also a fan of the early Pink Floyd albums, and that shines through more on Iron Curtain than anything else. The haunting “Night At The Asylum” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The howling cackles of mad witches bathed in a swash of guitar and husky production.
The record as a whole sounds likes a time capsule from another age. Timble’s voice a high pitched, almost medieval swirl that evokes exotic images of far off lands and worlds. Some of the production trickery like the jittering electronica and washes of sampled, what sounds like movies or TV programmes, makes the album sound like your tuning into some broadcast from another planet. The dark and bitter “Your Little Pawn” bristles with hurt and anguish of a spurned lover, yet its late 70’s production makes it sound like something you’d find sound tracking a lost Space: 1999 episode.
When it moves away from this budget-space-opera production, it gets much more interesting. The gentle “One Mile From Heaven” sounds like a lost gem from one of Paul McCartney’s early solo albums. It’s beautiful chorus and simple acoustic guitars perfectly suit Trimble’s delicate delivery. “Killed By The Hands of An Unknown Rock Star” follows this, an obvious nod to another of his musical heroes, David Bowie, it’s another stripped back and simple song that aches with loneliness and sadness.
After this we get a couple of demos and an extended version of the marvellous “One Mile From Heaven” to make up the short album. But it’s the back end of the album that really works, shorn of the nasty, space-age production that really dates some of the early stuff here.
Harvest Of Dreams is a whole leap forward stylistically and artistically. Trimble’s obviously more comfortable with his song writing and no longer wants to be “the 5th Beatle”. This album is full of acoustic guitars and harmonica. On opening track “Premonitions – The Fantasy” he comes across like a British Neil Young. That high, crystal clear voice is still very prominent but the production is still murky and slightly muddied. Thankfully, though, the shoddy, BBC Sci-Fi production has been left behind. “If Words Were All I Had” is a beautiful love song of lost expressions and feelings. It’s almost as if he’s questioning his very ability to convey his thoughts and feelings not just to a loved one, but generally to the listener as well.
There’s still his penchant for bringing samples in to the songs, “Armour of the Shroud” has the old BT announcer chattering over a dial tone whilst a xylophone picks it way through a shimmering guitar. It’s an epic as well, clocking in at over seven minutes, its meandering lyrics seem to recount an ancient adventure, and it’s almost prog-rock in nature. Trimble seems to be exploring the far reaches of acoustic melodies and the border with other musical influences. It’s gently done and almost pedestrian at times, but he’s doing it with an eye not just on tunes, but also on writing proper songs as well. Harvest Of Dreams is definitely where is all starts coming together.
Apparently Thurston Moore is a bit of a Trimble fan. Singing his praises at every opportunity he can get. Listening to Moore’s recent acoustically challenged album Trees Outside The Academy his influence becomes a lot clearer. This gentle sonic exploration and quiet psychedelia is something that Moore has turned his hand to recently, both as the calmer Sonic Youth and his aforementioned solo work. It’s something that seems, to me at least, to be quintessentially English and it came as a surprise to learn that he’s American. Though, his list of influences were all great English acts such as Pink Floyd, Bowie and the Beatles and whilst he never copied these guys, their hold over him is plain to see.
What’s great about these reissues is that, now they’re more widely available, new artists and music fans can experience this gentle and quiet gentleman’s work. His own, peculiar brand, of twisted folk, gentle psychedelia and meandering pop is worth seeking out, without a doubt.
Iron Curtain Innocence 75%
Harvest of Dreams 90%