photo manipulation by nacrowe
ECHO IN THE CANYON (MIRROR FILMS, 2019) is a documentary about the mid 1960s LAUREL CANYON scene located just outside the SUNSET STRIP in the hills above LOS ANGELES that served as a sanctuary to FOLK-inspired ROCK AND ROLL musicians. musician JAKOB DYLAN of THE WALLFLOWERS conducts the interviews with luminaries such as BRIAN WILSON, ROGER MCQUINN, DAVID CROSBY, RINGO STARR, ERIC CLAPTON, GRAHAM NASH, STEPHEN STILLS, TOM PETTY, JOHN SEBASTIAN, MICHELLE PHILLIPS, LOU ADLER, JACKSON BROWNE and most compellingly, reinterprets the songs himself of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, THE BEACH BOYS, THE BYRDS and THE ASSOCIATION with a roster of modern musicians including FIONA APPLE, CAT POWER, BECK, JADE CASTRINOS and NORAH JONES. as i will discuss shortly, this continuing of the cycle of interpretation and experimentation is a genius stroke as that passing of ideas is at the core of how the scene developed and was nurtured by artists back in the day. very cool stuff indeed.
what i found most interesting about this period of music history was the atmosphere of experimentation that defined it with songwriters cross-pollination and contextualizing the sounds of peers in new concoctions, moving everyone forward together.
prime example: THE BEATLES inspired THE BYRDS to take FOLK chord progressions and play them in a ROCK AND ROLL setting, which found them reinterpreting PETE SEEGER in a cover of his "THE BELLES OF RHYMNEY" which, in turn, influenced GEORGE HARRISON to interpolate that chord progression and 12-string RICKENBACKER sound in "IF I NEEDED SOMEBODY." just a cycle of ideas being ping-ponged back in forth across the pond by like-minded artists.
and for me that is the crux of any healthy scene, irrespective of outside distractions like business, fashion and aesthetics. at its core this scene nurtured artists to spread their wings and take chances. as BECK points out in the film, this may be why most of these bands have multiple singers and songwriters. they are in fact supergroups in a sense channeling the best of what they have to contribute. just take the songwriters in two of the most prominent groups: BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (NEIL YOUNG, STEPHEN STILLS), THE BYRDS (ROGER MCQUINN, DAVID CROSBY). its pretty amazing they stuck together as long as they did.
its a complete 180 now in terms of the media landscape where artists are afraid of being explicit about their influences for fear of being sued in the aftermath of the 2013 PHARRELL/ROBIN THICKE case concerning an interpolation of a MARVIN GAYE song. or maybe im wrong in that, maybe with the internet there is a bevy of experimentation going on beneath the surface, producers trading files with musicians and rappers, songs being remixed, ideas being shared in the same way those house parties in LAURAL CANYON helped spark such a rich tapestry of music from 1965-1967 at the outset of that scene (including others not interviewed like FRANK ZAPPA, JONI MITCHELL and JIM MORRISON) which obviously blossomed in the 1970s with acts such as CAROLE KING, JACKSON BROWNE and FLEETWOOD MAC among othes. something to consider. great film.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
spending my early formative years in southern california, i have a soft spot for SURF MUSIC or really anything that reminds me of summertime at the beach in general. what makes this los angeles-by-way-of-seattle indie rock band LA LUZ so compelling is that they managed to provide a really cool spin on that sound by relocating it emotionally to a place of vulnerability rather than celebration.
now i recognize that composer BRIAN WILSON from what I read in the excellent biography CATCH A WAVE (RODALE BOOKS, 2007) reconfigured the music of his youth, namely vocal quartets, by utilizing rich harmonies and PHIL SPECTOR-esque "wall of sound" production techniques as a means by which to give expression to his intense feelings of alienation and social anxiety. in this manner the music of THE BEACH BOYS is actually quite tragic in that it relates a fantasy that is almost a carnival-esque inversion of his actual mindset. culturally however the music he championed and ingeniously constructed is the soundtrack to simple idyllic fantasies of long weekends, sunshine and bikinis.
perhaps LA LUZ recognized the potential to use SURF MUSIC as a means of transmitting alienation since they play off expectations associated with the sound of reverb-drenched, staccato single-note run embellished with the full-throated sound of a Hammond organ. vocal melodies, often as a chorus, are delivered deadpan almost inviting you to listen even closer to the lyrics despite the lushness of the sound carrying on around you.
this band is an excellent example of bending a sound to your own will and make it your own. i deeply enjoy their music and recommend it highly. please check them out.