From this review, I’d like to take this line: “There’s a certain psychedelic phosphorescence and sense of cohesion missing, and the songs themselves often feel unfinished.” I’d first like to challenge the notion that psychedelia was ever “cohesive,” and also that an “unfinished” quality suggests thus. If there’s anything we should’ve learned from 60s-influenced psych-pop (and, in turn, the blues, jazz, and early rock ‘n’ roll, which influenced 60s psychedelia), it should be that the “unfinished,” the “irresolute,” or the “unresolved” should be important qualities, that which offers something different from the falling/rising chord formative music that suggests a more “sophisticated” pop. You can find it in the unending cycles of the 13th Floor Elevators, the pop decimation in The Red Krayola, the unresolved 7th endings of blues from Son House to Leadbelly to Blind Willie Johnson. Basically, it’s not an accident; it’s a demanding quality that forces you to answer on two terms: either you like it or you don’t. We desire endings; how do we live without them? But hardly is it a mistake or unintentional mishap.
The songs on Cyclops Reap are an excellent illustration of this quality of the irrresolute (not unfinished mind you; the songs are very finished.) Let’s take it into another context: would it be absurd to say negatively that there’s “cohesion missing” from Syd Barret’s work? Isn’t that the point?
There are two qualities to Cyclops Reap that signify this understanding: one, there is hardly a pause between every song; and two, there is hardly an “ending” to any of the songs. Call it lazy — that is, if you believe that all music should “end” in a proper rising/falling Western-scale method (and disavow a century of songwriting technique, down to the use of the fade out by Gustav Holst in The Planets). There are also songs like “Beat,” where one could assume the song to descend into chaos after its collapse 7/8 of the way through, but no, things wrap themselves back together for a good 20 seconds. But if it’s cohesion you want, “Make Them Dinner At Our Shoes” and “Only Man Alive” show that Tim Presley can in fact do well with pop conventionality.
But it’s Presley’s ability to be both well-crafted and unsophisticated that makes White Fence’s gleefully anachronistic (which I use positively) music interesting and enjoyable. The focus on what could be constituted as a “theme” here (the Cyclops, limited perception) helps give the album a drive, making it feel stronger even than last year’s two-volume content attrition war, The Family Perfume. The transformation from collapse (“Beat,” again, “New Edinburgh,” “White Cat”) to form (“Pink Gorilla”) and back and forth again is somewhat expected of Presley, and when he cuts everything together, it works incredibly well. Apparently, Cyclops Reap is the result of new songs being formed while sorting through old songs that were going to make up a release. Thankfully we got this album instead. Prolific folks like Presley tend to forget the presentation of an album, and Cyclops Reap seems like a step in that direction: not just a collection of songs, but a collection of songs that work well together.