Artist: Mykl Perkins
Title: Welcome To My World
Label: Nothing Grand Ever Came Of Moderation Publishing
Keywords: Speed Folk
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Who is Mykl Perkins? He is a musician originally from Cleveland, Ohio, who lived in Boulder, CO for a number of years working at a ski shop, dabbling in politics for a time, who also ran a reasonably successful hemp cookie company for awhile, all before eventually making his way to Springfield, MO where he currently resides. Infamously, he keeps a solitary ski in his kitchen with several shot glasses glued to it, called the shotski, and it’s become tradition at nearly every party at his house for 3 or 4 people to hold it up while shots of tequila are poured and then down them at the same time while screaming “SHOTSKIIII!”. If anyone says the word ‘naked’ within earshot, he is known to drop all of his clothes on the spot. He’s a huge Alice In Chains fan. He also loves Rush and Pink Floyd. People in the area tend to meet up at his place on weekends to connect with each other and hear loud live music. It’s currently one of a small number of regular hubs in the area where you’re guaranteed to run into somebody you know. His house’s interior is adorned with all-year-round x-mas lights and features more than a few very comfortable places to relax and contemplate life. In my pre-vegan days, he once produced and had me eat the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. His coffee cures hangovers, too.
Having visited Mykl Perkins’ place for parties several times in the last 2 or 3 years, listening to him play guitar with friends — and joining in occasionally on the drums – as part of his ongoing project now called Sound Painting, taken from one of the recordings on this album… I felt it was time to finally review some of his work. This album was released in 2000 and makes up a large portion of the music he still plays as part of his sets. He gave me a copy of this CD a year or so ago, and it’s been sitting around in my collection of musical discs ever since.
From the back cover of this album:
“I approach the guitar as a percussion instrument as much as a string instrument. All drums are played simultaneously with the guitar in one take. I describe my music as speed folk. I hope you enjoy it.”
The first track here is ‘Soaring’, and in the liner notes it is revealed that it is (for Kathleen). Right away, bright guitar with smooth fretting is played in uptempo harmonies that feel pleasant, airy and fun. Vocals come in, a touch of chorus developing. The lyrics are about beauty, love, and sharing with friends.
Next up is the aforementioned ‘Sound Painting’, listed in the liner as ‘Guitar Sonata #1 Sound Painting’, and described as “a self portrait – with a brief reference to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Od To Joy (For all my friends)”. It starts off with lovely guitar harmonics, feeling in places as though the strings are being rapidly slapped, tones flowing out into the space of the mix. I hear, as the song shifts, some bongos being played rhythmically in time with the guitar. It feels like something you’d listen to in the desert at night, a timeless moment under star light, kept warm by fire and conversation with people you love, something I can visually recreate in my mind’s eye with the sort of artful look of a photography blog on tumblr. The playing becomes unbelievably frenetic in places, like fingers twitching over the strings but with a surprising amount of control. Right after, we go into the place at which the Beethoven piece can be heard referenced overtly, then a bongo slap, and we return to the familiar pacing of chords from before. With talented performance of acoustic music, one of the enjoyable facets is in the subtle shifting nature of played refrains. Strings and bongo convulse in unison… then slow, retreating to a contemplative harmonic place before the end. It’s probably my favourite piece on the album.
‘Walk On By’ features more guitar progressions with vocals. As the liner describes, this was written “for Michael Wise” and the lyrics were actually written “by Michael Wise”. It feels as if it’s about the need to return home having made a wrong choice or failed in some way. The atmosphere of much of the record is much like that emotional territory of the early 1990’s, a slice of life tale of acceptance of the difficulties of a life journey.
After this is ‘Sweet Innosence’, which is kind of about the issue of racism and the innocence of childhood, with lyrics about how we’re all the same deep down and just wanting to be friends with each other. It doesn’t go into real profound territory, instead opting for a kind of naive approach that pretty well befits half the subject matter.
Then, it’s ‘Spiral (For Jess)’, which is an instrumental piece, evoking a sense of road travel on America’s highways. I can imagine (were this a cassette tape) popping it into the dashboard during a daylight drive while thinking about life, the universe, and maybe what our destination will be like.
On ‘Sound And Light’ the vibes get a slight bit more melancholic in places. The liner reveals it was written “For My Goddess”. Lyrically, it feels a bit like a personal take on spiritualityism, also on the struggle with reconciling one’s beliefs and attitudes with a judgmental society, kind of pagan vibes. I could easily imagine this becoming a popular piece of music with many self-styled Wiccans, Spaghetti-monstrists, Cthulhuans, etc. who enjoy acoustic folk music.
‘Roman Candle’ has a really strong intro, the sort of intro you could imagine being very recognizable. Lyrics here were also written by Michael Wise. It’s arranged very well… I feel like out of a lot of the material on the album, this piece possesses the highest amount of commerchendizing potential. With more budgeting and production and a minimal amount of tweaking, and maybe a lot of conceptualizing on what kind of sound to go for to make it feel flave of the month, this could have easily become a pop single. It’s not my favourite on the album, though, I just feel that way.
Next then, we come to ‘Emperor’s Hymn’, an instrumental for Keira and written by Franz Joseph Haydn. One of those composers you don’t hear about as frequently as others, despite having a recognizable name (you’re like, “OH… yeah, Haydn, right, forgot about him!”) and having produced a volume of work.
Afterward, it’s ‘Your Eyes’, for Angel. The liner notes reveal that this was “Recorded ‘live’ in the studio at 3:00 in the morning, please pardon the scratchy voice.” I like this one because it’s like… about connecting with someone through Magick works! 🙂 I don’t know if that’s what it’s really about, but that’s what I took from it on my listens.
Lastly, we come to ‘Presto’. Listed in the liner as ‘Guitar Sonata #2 Presto a.k.a. Caffeine’, for Cori and Skye. Lots of people got nods on this record, throughout. This is another nice guitar / bongo pairing, with a solid rhythmic sensibility and precise timing. There’s a space after the end… and then you hear Mykl singing acapella about how he’s a nut, and so are you.
Overall, this is a fun album from someone with talent and skill, made all the better if you’ve ever met him, but still enjoyable if you haven’t, particularly if you take pleasure in listening to folk albums written by expressive individuals outside the mainstream who’ve put a lot of work into their art, to get a piece of themselves and their lives out there. As the title says, this album will welcome you to his world: a world he’s created and one that touches many other people’s worlds, several of whom have lovingly received dedications throughout this record and are thereby immortalized.
The album tells me that if you’d like to order copies of this, to follow the link I’m now sharing at the bottom of the review… but I wasn’t actually able to find anything when I did. Maybe the link would be useful anyway, so I’ll go ahead and post it up. Later!