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Al Lover On The Cultural Legacy of Early Rock N Roll

Posted on May 03 2016


Long gone are the days of sonic aesthetic confinement. The modern subculture zealot has a plethora of unexplored territory to consider, with merely a finger's length and a click separating the musical traveler from decades of secrets and untold worlds. One such traveler, Austin-based DJ/Producer Al Lover (aka Alex Gundlach), sees an opportunity in meshing these moments in time, creating new landscapes that suspend the listener in multiple eras.

His last LP, 2015's Zodiak Versions, married Jamaican Dub and 70's German Krautrock, and sent the two on a rumbling honeymoon through a Roland RE-201 Space Echo. Recent projects include Austin event #5477 and the curation/production of A Tribute to Pet Sounds, which features many Fuzz Club collaborators. 

#5477, which started last month, features band sets as well as spinning from Al. “It’s more or less a nerdy concept, investigating how 1954 to 1977 was such an influential time for rock n roll... from black R&B filtered through the British Invasion, psychedelic music, punk rock, prog, kraut and what led into the 80’s and new wave… and a lot of it was because of psychedelic drugs and social experimentation."

Above photo by Julia deAnda

He mentions record executive/producer/DJ Sam Phillips (responsible for the infamous Million Dollar Quartet recordings featuring Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash) as being one of the major catalysts during this time period.

"Sam Phillips was very vocal about his anti-racist stance and he worked with black musicians before he worked with white musicians…..he saw that music was something that brought people together. In Tennessee at that time it was mostly hillbilly music and blues music, which both come from poor communities. He saw the potential and the impact that it could have in terms of segregation, and Jim Crow and abolishing that. I think he had a finger on the pulse of how rock and roll music could be important to that advancement, to a degree.”

#5477 also takes into account the variable that a shift from vinyl singles to the LP allowed. "There was a lot more room to explore concepts and with artists like The Beatles and The Beach Boys, you can see how they played with their ideas....It’s interesting from an anthropological perspective…..have you ever read David Byrne's How Music Works? He talks about how music evolves in accordance to it’s venue. For example: African drumming and how they were able to utilize that to communicate over vast areas of land. Another facet was church music, and how it had to fit the space of a cathedral where often there is a lot of reverberation. You couldn’t do complex chord changes in that type of space…..I never thought about music in that way before."

We are approaching the 50th anniversary of Beach Boy Brian Wilson's visionary foray into conceptual territory with Pet Sounds. "The Beach Boys never resonated with me until I got really into Pet Sounds and learned more about Brian Wilson’s history and ties with Phil Spector...It’s not an easy record! There is a lot of complexity there", Al shared.

A Tribute to Pet Sounds (out on The Reverberation Appreciation Society) maintains the spirit of ingenuity that is so prevalent in the original. "I had ideas about who would sound good on what but I didn’t want to impose. There was only a few overlaps in several people picking out the same song, but overall it went really well and everything fell into place naturally....a lot of it is nuanced and not so forward. But everyone killed it. Everyone has their own creative voice and there are some fun abstractions. It’s a good mix of the weirdo stuff and more traditional takes." 

The vinyl release of A Tribute to Pet Sounds will only see 2,000 copies, so be sure pre-order! Holy Wave and Night Beats, who both appear on the tribute, will also be featured in Fuzz Club's live session series, launching later this year. 

-Lindsay Krause