A great soul-blues guitarist takes an unfortunate detour down a psychedelic cul-de-sac.
It sometimes seem that the pandemic and associated lockdown, and how this impacted on the time musicians spent on the road and performing, has not led to musicians producing their Imagnum opus. Rather it seems they have spent time with their record collections and indulged in navel-gazing. Numerous times in recent months press releases have started with a variation of: “After months spent away from touring ***** pulled down the experimental project that they never found time for and completed it.” Almost invariably the ‘experimental’ word sends a shiver down the spine as it usually equates to dispensing with song structure and descending into a stitching together of random snippets and random noises (and, most terrifying of all, ‘found sounds’.)
Sam Teskey is one quarter of Australia’s The Teskey Brothers who perform the sort of soul blues rock that hovers somewhere between the Allman Brothers, The Commitments and Derek and the Dominoes. It’s great, stirring stuff. In The Teskey Borthers Sam plays the sort of blues-rock guitar that is open enough to ruffle the feathers and soulful enough to avoid the noodling and histrionics of the heavier end of the genre.
‘Cycles’, however, takes its influence from English psychedelic bands of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. If you wanted to pinpoint the sound, it is the era of Pink Floyd between the departure of Syd Barrett and the magnificence of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. So, imagine ‘Ummagamma’ without the tongue in cheek humour or, maybe a better touchstone, the soundtrack the Floyd did for the film ‘Obscured By Clouds’. Maybe Teskey needs the rest of his ‘brothers’ to place the heart in the music; but, despite the occasional segment that seems to connect, there is a coldness and distance to this album that is at odds with Teskey’s obvious intentions.
When Teskey stops the noodling and actually writes a song then there are some lovely moments on this album. ‘Til the River takes us Home’ is a beautiful mountain ballad in the style of Peter Rowan, for instance, and there are flashes of Robyn Hitchcock’s Soft Boys incarnation in the folk-influenced psychedelia of ‘Then Love Returns’.