BOBBY LEE: ORIGIN MYTHS
by Jay Alm 4 March, 2021
On the aptly titled, “Origin Myths,” by Sheffield-based multi-instrumentalist Bobby Lee, the songs bleed in and out of each other like dreams. This is a Raga to tinge a trance. When I lay down, I see a dirty prism and brown, scorched-gulch earth, and a wind chime. Out of that, I’m shortly in the desert with burnt rock and creosote bush and wash pebbles. This is music meant for altered states, and slipping in and out of lucidity and fevers. Like a serpent swallowing its own tail, no tracks truly stand out, just a hot afternoon spiral perpetually throating itself.
Titles of songs though, do emerge with certain potent energies. This, as a result, deservedly lends to minor forms of distinction. “Looking for Pine and Obsidian” gets us a little North of this desert record, for example, and could be the plight of a star being. Where was it searching for a spot to land its saucer? Could it be here in this strange and desolate place? “The Badger and the Locust,” comes with Wind in the Willows-like schema, and “A Clot of Blood in Space” could have easily been named by Syd Barrett or Wayne Coyne. The guitar playing, entrancing as it is, reminds me of later-era Robert Fripp, a stoned Kurt Vile, or a tangential past where Ravi Shankar grew up in Northern Arizona, where the dry-scape meets the trees.
Again, certain flavors do reveal themselves in periodic gestures if you leave your trance to listen and discern. “Fire Medicine Man” distinctly gives you a country-blues wash-over with a lap steel guitar sliding over the track and absurd amounts of reverb. In the background, a simple, Western-sounding drum machine beat and lolling bassline steadies. It’s as if the Fire Medicine Man himself is taking a break from his prayer and steps into the saloon for a sip with the other yokels. “Rule the Summer Clouds” is another good title and a command. The mellowest call to arms of all, repetitive organ-effect chords telling you to get up into the light blue sky and serenely seize a good and floaty summer day.
Track 6, “Impregnated by Drops of Rainbow” is the best title of them all. Looping, shattered guitar fractals repeat and dissipate faster than the rest of the record, tucking and reappearing like frenzied Whac-A-Mole rodents, or sound fragments loopy on a see-saw, too A.D.D. for their own good. Ironically, the best song title here is probably the least interesting track to listen to independently. Looking at it in singularity here, the quick-tempo snare-and-high-hat drum track feels far too computer-processed to fall in the motif naturally. But on “Origin Myths,” you don’t listen in little doses, you digest the entire thing and feel sprawling. Like Edward Abbey says “Freedom begins between the ears, ” and Lee takes our headspace to length.
With this album, there is no way Bobby Lee is from the U.K. It’s clear to me he’s from the American southwest resurrected as an Anasazi shaman. (See “Enchanted Mesa,” “Fire Medicine Man,” “Broken Prayer Stick,” or “Dear Corn Mother,” if you’re looking for substantiation.) He’s honing his ascendancy rituals via delay pedals rather than peyote. And whether practised in his garage or in clubs or on headphones, this is truly a homage to the red rock and the sand and the beating, hallucinatory sun. I’m still waiting, tumbleweed gone past, for Sam Elliot to come in and cowboy-narrate the story. “You boys wanna drink a sarsparilla and hear the old legend of great Bobby Lee?” Deep-fried galactic grandeur, psych-strung cosmic country, or thirsty trance-western for now. Listen if you like Kurt Vile, Waylon Jennings on acid, Circles Around the Sun or The Meat Puppets missing a vocalist.
BOBBY LEE: ORIGIN MYTHS