A Review of The Weed Garden’s Boy Interrupted
by Anthony Scaltz
Gorgeously crafted, The Weed Garden’s Boy Interrupted is full of stunning moments over thirty-five minutes of powerfully emotional ebb and flow. As the project’s composer and producer, Paul Barsom expertly invents a nuanced and layered sonicscape in order to nudge its listeners into contemplation, imagination, and wonder.
The record’s opening track “Your Move” sets the stage for a tapestry of tone and subtle musical surprises. The first two minutes establish a smooth and slippery groove as Barsom starts to build upon the cryptic lyrical symbolism and intriguing vocal harmonies that give weight and definition to the album as a whole. The intricacies of rhythmic structures, fluid vocal melodies, and sheer instrumental density found among Barsom’s tracks such as “The Elect” harken back to past giants in the rock genre: Yes, David Bowie, and The Beatles. Without a doubt, trained musicians will appreciate the perfect level of detail embedded in the mixes, while the pure lovers of song will smile as they encounter the recording’s many twists and turns. Tracks such as “The Desert” and “Anchors” hint at flavors found in World Music, while “Bird and Cage”, inspired by the works of Sufi poet Rūmī, brings a spirit of unassuming joy and grandeur to each metaphor, enriched by the pristine and crystalline guitars. By far, the album’s most alluring contribution is its finale, “You Say You Say”. Here, Barsom draws from his deep experience with organized sound and knowledge of compositional elements, incorporating lush delays and atmospherics, to create a network of tonal events that gives one the feeling of floating through the end of a dream upon awakening. This seventh and final track is a fitting and moving coda to an album that says so much throughout the course of the preceding six.
Reminiscent of poetry’s most powerful works, the album’s lyricism rests on its ability to imprint moods and images on the minds of the audience, where one ultimately comes to derive pleasure from decoding its messages. What is most striking about this effort is how the musicality of the lyrical text is integral to the overall compositional design, almost to an artisanal degree, and as such challenges your ideas of how a song should grab you at every instance. For all of its symbolism, Boy Interrupted gives you the impression that lyrics are better assimilated when treated as another instrument in the band, as opposed to songs where music sets a background for verse and chorus. Clearly, Barsom wants you to reframe lyrics for their auditory aspects, becoming stitches in a larger musical fabric.
In terms of musicianship, The Weed Garden is tight and displays high levels of performance skill. The members seem to understand the proper treatment of musical space, giving one another the required room to breathe with their respective instruments. Barsom serves as the band’s producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, handling the majority of the performing/recording duties, while drummers Spencer Inch and Kevin Lowe bring each piece to life with an amazing sense of how to use percussion as an expressive tool. In addition to Inch and Lowe, cellist Elisabeth Jeremica and Barsom’s daughter Elizabeth (credited on the album as “angel choir”) make important contributions in the studio. Mixed by Barsom with assistance on four of the tracks from engineer Bob Klotz, the album was mastered at Airshow Mastering. The production quality is polished, spacious, and crisp, each musical event in the album’s sound fields full of richness and depth.
Once you sit with The Weed Garden’s Boy Interrupted and begin to fully explore what this recording has to offer, you may spend the majority of the album fascinated by the ways in which Barsom and company waft you along with shifting motifs and colors. There is something interesting in almost every section of the music. As such, it is rare to find a recording where one comes away thinking about the absence of filler material, and even more unique are albums that are solid not only from song to song, but from moment to moment. Boy Interrupted stands as a formidable collection, will be one album this year that you’ll keep thinking about, and will leave you curious over what The Weed Garden will bring next.