Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Down the Hatch with Morgan Delt

Morgan Delt 
Morgan Delt    
Trouble In Mind Records 2014                                  


     Morgan Delt's self titled debut album, released earlier this year by Trouble in Mind Records, is one of those rare, fully formed debuts.  Everything was written, performed, produced, and mixed by Morgan himself,  and as a result, the album is an extraordinarily personal vision.  From the first note, Morgan Delt  grabs the listener and pulls them down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass.  It's a warped and disorientating experience.  This is some heavily medicated narcotic muzak, to say the least, so do not operate heavy machinery while partaking. Rather, grab a good set of headphones and ooze into the furniture, because this record will stretch your tether out and have your synapsis bristling on the edge.  Trying to fully grasp Morgan Delt, though, is like attempting to grab a ghost... the entire record is a smear of aural hallucinations swirling through your brain, and even when the sounds are light and airy, the atmosphere is incredibly dense.  The tracks that make up Morgan Delt are perfectly sequenced, veering from misty eyed dreaminess to bad trip nightmare freak-outs and other points in between ... for example:  the tripped out kaleidoscope of "Barbarian Kings," with a haunting vocal melody and baroque harpsichord flourishes... relaxing waves of sound on "Obstacle Eyes"... "Chakra Shark's" teeth smashing garage rock ("Bye Bye/Third Eye!")... the relentless dirge of "Sad Sad Trip" ... "Mr. Carbon Copy's" catchy psych pop...the nightmare carnival ride into hell sounds of "Backwards Bird Inc." .. and the suffocating "Tropicana," with the creepiest ba-ba-ba Beach Boys vocal line you've ever heard.  The production on Morgan Delt is distant and ragged, sounding like some weird forgotten relic from decades past.  Layers and layers of guitars, keys, and effects spiral around drums and thick bass rattlings.   Disembodied vocals float throughout, often unintelligible, with occasional, paranoid pleas to "please let me out" surfacing from the murk before being dragged back under. It's all pretty fucking unnerving, to be honest, but Morgan Delt is a treasure for the experienced musical astronaut.  An instant classic that i assume will top the year's best-of list in a few months.    

     A native of Topanga Canyon in California, the 36- year old Delt originally released five of the album's tracks back in 2012 on the six song, cassette-only ep Psychic Death Hole, released independently on his own Inflatable Tapes label.  (The menacing and monolithic "Galactic Grids" did not make the cut for the full album, but is definitely worth checking out). Chicago's Trouble In Mind Records quickly caught wind of this incredible new work and immediately pulled Delt under their wing.  A single with "Barbarian Kings" and the smokin' hot  b-side "Black Tuna Gang" was issued in Septemter of 2013, and the fully fleshed out Morgan Delt album was released a few months later in January of '14.  The album was immediately passed along by psych music lovers around the world, and an instantaneous fan base emerged.  If things are gathering steam  too quickly for Delt after working in obscurity for years, it sure doesn't show.  Although he has very little experience performing his music live, that's not stopping Delt from boldly stepping out and doing it anyways.  After a mere six live performances, he and his assembled backing band performed a blistering set at this year's Austin Psych Fest, with a fairly high profile slot on the main stage, no less.  The show was a weekend highlight for those who sought him out, and an intriguing introduction to those who had never heard his work.   The swooshing atmospherics of the album were largely replaced with a more primal, gutteral live sound.  on record, the bass and drums largely blend in with the blur of sounds, but onstage, they are much more in your face and rattling your insides.  Morgan Delt, the live band, is more visceral than on record, and it makes a fascinating contrast.  The Psych Fest gig was a mere warm up, though, for their recently announced six date tour opening for the Flaming Lips in June, a pretty high profile gig for a band as new on the scene as Morgan Delt.  Theoretically, Lips fans should eat this shit up, and hopefully word will spread far and wide.    

HEAD MEDICINE wanted to know more about Morgan Delt and the guy who created it all.   Recently, we caught up with Mr. Delt himself and he graciously took time out from his busy schedule to answer some of our questions. 

HEAD MEDICINE:  What are your earliest musical memories?  When did you begin creating music and what was your first genuine creative breakthrough that set you on the path you are on now?   

MORGAN DELT:  My earliest musical memories are playing a little Casio keyboard along with songs on the radio and picking out the different melodies.  I don’t know if I ever experienced anything that felt like a real breakthrough, it was more like a lot of little things finally came together.  


HM:  Have you been in other bands that are more collaborative, or have you generally created music on your own?     

MD:  Mostly on my own.  I was in a few bands when I was a teenager, and I’ve tried collaborating with different people over the years, but nothing has ever really worked out. 


HM:  Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?  How do your tracks generally evolve from an initial idea to a finished piece?  Is it a quick, spontaneous procedure or slow and heavily structured?   

MD:  I usually start with a vocal melody, a bass line or a guitar riff and record really rough demos until I get the whole structure of the song worked out.  Then usually hear what I want to have going on with the rest of the arrangement and it takes me a long time to put it all together.  I would say it’s slow and spontaneous.  Lyrics often come toward the very end. 


HM:  Which artists do you most often look to for inspiration at times of creative low-tide?   

MD:  I guess I never really feel a low tide like that.  I have so much unfinished stuff that I need to keep working on that there’s always something to do. 


HM:  You made your debut in December of 2012 with Psychic Death Hole, a self released cassette-only ep.  Where was the album recorded and how long did it take you to finish it?  When did you decide it was time to start up your own label, Inflatable Tapes, and release it into the world?    

MD:  The EP and album were both recorded at my house.  EP took about a year and the extra songs on the LP took about 6 months on and off.  I guess I got it to the point where I couldn’t stand to listen to it anymore and then I knew it was ready to release. 


HM:  Psychic Death Hole  was expanded into your first full length, Morgan Delt, released earlier this year by Trouble In Mind Records.   Were these six additional tracks newly written and recorded for the album or do they date from  earlier  sessions?  Stepping back to an objective viewpoint, what are your thoughts on the record?

MD:  "Little Zombies" was almost completely finished already but the others were all new.  I don’t think I have any objective thoughts about it yet. 


HM:  There is a wide variety of strange sounds swirling around in your work, and the production has a creepy, ghostly quality about it.  Can you tell us a bit about the instruments and equipment you used to perform, record, and mix the album?  

MD:  It’s mostly just guitar, bass and drums plus some samples of organs, harpsichords, and mellotron. And then lots of tape delay effects.  


HM:  The non album b-side "Black Tuna Gang," from the "Barbarian Kings" 7" is as shit hot as anything else you have released.  Are there any other tracks in the can that are begging to be released?  
MD:  I don’t have anything sitting around finished, ready to release because I tend to do stuff at the last minute, but I worked on a track with Al Lover that should be coming out soon, and I made a new song that’s going to be out on a compilation from Sonic Cathedral in September I believe.  Other than that, I’m just working on the next album. 


HM:  You performed this may at the Austin Psych Fest, as well as on a handful of other dates.  What are your thoughts on live performances/touring?  With your work very much a solo studio creation, how do you feel about its translation to a live environment with a backing band?  Who will be in your band?    

MD:  It was a great experience and a lot of fun and I think it’s just something we had to tackle head on and hopefully learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work and what people are expecting.  But yeah translating the record to a live show is a pretty big challenge and everybody I talk to seems to have a different idea of what they expect that to sound like.  My band is great though, I have Mason Rothschild on bass, Nick Overhauser on drums and Spooky Tavi on guitar.


HM:  What lies ahead on the horizon?  

MD:  In the spirit of just plunging into things totally unprepared, we’re booked to open some shows with the Flaming Lips a month from now, so I have a lot of work to do to figure out how not to suck as badly!    


I was lucky enough to worm my way into the long ago sold out Flaming Lips/Morgan Delt show in St. Louis last week, Morgan's inaugural show as the Lips opening band, and their eighth show ever (!!!). As one could imagine, getting on stage before the Flaming Lips' ridiculously over the top live show would be a pretty intimidating task, but Morgan and Co. strapped it on and successfully put it all out there.  I was curious to see how the band as a live unit would sound in comparison to the Austin Psych Fest gig back in May, and i was surprised how much more evolved they had become in such a short amount of time.  Much of this was due to the addition of a fifth band member on guitar, keys, and backing vocals.  The band was able to dive a bit deeper into the layered sounds of Morgan Delt, and play with the subtleties more accurately.  The songs themselves are organically changing as the band puts more live dates under their belts, with the arrangements being altered a bit and extended out further into space.   The biggest difference between the two shows, obviously, was the setting.  Where the APF show was a scrappy, stripped to the bone performance in the middle of a dust storm under the blazing afternoon sun, this performance was in a climate controlled, intimate venue where the music could reverberate off of the walls better, with great mood lighting.  That APF performance was fucking GREAT, but this setting might be a bit more in Morgan Delt's favor.  The band sounded fantastic, even with any nerves that might have been frazzled by such an intimidating and eager Flaming Lips crowd staring at them on stage.  From my viewpoint, though, the crowd was attentive and appreciative, which can be a rare occurrence, especially with such a dominating headlining band.  By the time Morgan Delt started cranking out an extended jam on "Backwards Bird Inc." the Lips fans around me were totally diggin' it, looking around at each other with nodding "pretty fucking good" expressions on their faces.  After a condensed 30-minute set, the band left the stage.  I was hoping they would have played a bit longer, but, in reality, they achieved what they needed to... come out and attempt to wedge your sounds into the brains of people who, a half hour later, would be blasted in the face by the Flaming Lips' unrivaled live show.  Not the easiest of tasks, but i'm hoping that new converts were made and will continue on their future Lips' opening dates.   Don't miss out!

HEAD MEDICINE would like to graciously thank Morgan Delt  

writing and art by Kojak

©2014 brian koschak

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  1. Caught Morgan Delt at Psych Fest, and I totally agree here- the live sound is much different.
    Glad I left Jacco Gardner early for him though! Seriously cannot wait to see what this second album ends up sounding like.

  2. http://www.mediafire.com/download/z897c7152532ti1/Bongley_Dead_-_Demo_n.3_(2014).rar