Scott Pinkmountain & The Golden Bolts of Tone The Full Sun

[Howells Transmitter; 2009]

Styles: indie pop, orchestral pop, indie rock
Others: P.A.F., Pink Mountain, Van Dyke Parks

To call Scott Pinkmountain a musical dynamo is an understatement. Over the past 15 years, the man has created and filled such a range of roles in such a variety of settings that pigeonholing him is simply not an option. Initially a free-jazz saxophonist with avant-garde leanings (under his given name of Scott Rosenberg), he's already broken that mold for new ones — the past five years, in particular, have seen him transition into a multi-talented performer/writer/arranger with diverse interests in the pop/rock arena. In bands like Pink Mountain and P.A.F., he has stealthily migrated into the indie rock scene as a practitioner of skronky psych and improv, but now, striking out with his own excursion The Full Sun, Pinkmountain is showing that he still has musical aptitudes not yet fully unearthed.

First and foremost, this is the most poppy thing he's ever done, but it's certainly not a traditional pop record. The general omnivorousness of his career is reflected in the sheer variety housed in this single album. There are moments of jazzy free-form on "Solar Flare" and "Supernova," while brief brushes with avant-garde composition manifest in "Sundowning" and the bassoon-only "Dusk." While the rest of the album is more firmly song-based, there's no regimentation there either. The closest Pinkmountain comes to standard pop-rock is the pleasingly jaunty "You Gave Me This," but that mode is really confined to that track. "I Shall Not Be Released" is an exceptionally slow-burning jazz-inflected number that seems constantly (and intentionally) on the verge of falling apart. And, of course, there are the twin epics "Abyssinia" and "Unforgiven," each clocking in at over ten minutes and offering their own sprawling mix of sounds.

As much as this is a step in a new direction, The Full Sun appears to also be a real effort to bring together elements of Pinkmountain's past. It's impressive and often inspired, but it's ultimately too meandering for its own good. There's no real cohesiveness, despite the fact that there is presumably a single artistic vision guiding all these tracks. Even for listeners, like myself, who applaud his restlessness, it's hard to come away from this album with a sense of satisfaction. I can't help but want to hear more of each type of track, and yet I'm left feeling like I just ate way too much at a buffet to go back for seconds. As Pinkmountain's first step into the realm of pop songcraft, this is exciting — unfortunately, it's more exciting as a collection of trailers for coming attractions than as a feature presentation.

1. Song Of Solomon
2. I Shall Not Be Released
3. Solar Flare
4. Lucy
5. Supernova
6. Abyssinia
7. Unforgiven
8. Sundowning
9. You Gave Me This
10. Dusk
11. Angel Of Death
12. To Live Is To Die

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