Openly inspired by the music that lit up the airwaves throughout the 60s and 70s, Garagio is a project that emerges as the missing link from more than a few Tarantino films. Art Mechanix’ manner of composing and writing to express certain ideas and to lay out a detailed, ambient scene before listeners, is the sort that comes through as totally cinematic and endlessly interesting. Summer Of Love showcases all of this, and as you move through Course Correction and Caredevil (Do ‘The Vine’), the artist’s inherent eclecticism and connection to the arts grows stronger and stronger.
Art Mechanix is Jammes Luckett, an artist well-known for her work in TV and film. Given this background, it makes sense that this collection of songs feels like a series of a short films – the details and the changing moods, the characters – it all tumbles out in front of you like the stages of a brand new piece of theatre, on opening night. There’s so much detail in fact, so many intricacies and moments to look out for, that a single listen is far from enough to let it all totally reach out to you. Une histoire gauloise, as an example, seems to come out of nowhere, bringing forwards that touch of indie or synth-pop that was presented in the opening song, but surrounding you more notably with this hypnotic, ongoing instrumental riff that again seems fit to accompany a hero’s (or a villain’s) final steps.
Elsewhere on the album the 60s run free. Heartbreaker brings a raw sense of performance to the stage, it’s up close and personal, it’s gentle yet distorted, soaked in something of a Beach Boys do blues-rock vibe. The songs on this album seem to fly by, many standing at under the usual three minute mark, meaning that the experience of listening in full is a total whirlwind of colour and excitement, and that runs deep – in the composition, in the set-up, in the thoughtfulness. Tracks like The Cursed Verse envelop you in drama and intense musical evolution, without even the mention of a lyrical idea or hook.
Once you make it through the musical downpour, the conceptual elements really start to draw your intrigue. As stated, sometimes the music does the work – a simple title and a subsequent audio experience inherently tied to that work wonders on the imagination. In other cases, the lyrics accompany the mood set by the music in a powerful way, capturing your attention and stopping you in your tracks a little. Big Sur (At the Edge of the World) offers a bold example of this, the sudden mellow energy and the delicate vocal presentation create a stark contrast with what came before, so the words appear poetically entrancing, and this matches the mood of the music beautifully.
Throughout this extensive, 18 track listening experience, the walls of genre are forcibly knocked to the ground – leaving room for pure creativity and melodic ability. What you get at the centre of it all is songwriting – an artist who writes because that’s all that can be done with this sort of passion and imaginative thinking. The eclecticism is mighty but it’s also really well arranged, you get the gentle before the heavy, the calm before the rhythmic, the light before the dark, and vice-versa. Whenever melancholy peaks its quiet head around the corner, high energy and optimism are sure to follow after – to keep you sane, to keep you entertained. It’s an impressive collection by all accounts, particularly considering the single writing credit. The album feels much more like a collaborative, best of the decade sort of offering.
Performance-wise the musicality of the album works well, that vintage crackle is subtle but comforting, adding to the nostalgic vibrancy of the whole thing and reminding you to take it on as if it matters, as if it could change your day for the better – which it could. Expect rock and roll, jazz, soul, indie, blues, meandering instrumentals and deeply provocative or hilariously quirky lyrical observations. Press play at the start of the party, or wait until everyone’s gone home – in either case, the music has your back.
Later highlights include the classic, energizing rock and roll shuffle of Rowdy Howdy, the multi-layered, surprisingly riff-tastic reggae ambiance of Once Upon a Time in CinemaScope, and the superb melodic evolution and scene-setting of Amazing – the latter of which is an easy personal highlight. These three songs work perfectly well one after the other in transporting the listener to several new places – escapism at its most effective and interesting.
Things come to a close with the somehow still surprising change of direction that is Good Night, Tesla – instantly intriguing, captivating, memorable. There’s no end to the artistry of Art Mechanix, nothing is out of reach, no idea too close to home and no element of music too foreign. If it fits the moment of expression then it works, and there is something decidedly characterful about all of this, despite its overwhelming sense of familiarity and comfort. Garagio is totally worth exploring.