Expanding a perfectly naïve and unfinished tape of underground pop to LP proportions isn’t the most auspicious way to make a proper full-length debut. Then again, typical pitfalls can’t burden Los Angeles’ Morgan Delt, an airhead savant with quasars of psychedelic inspiration churning in his gone mind.
Delt’s self-titled opening salvo on Trouble in Mind, an augmented version of the Psychic Death Hole cassette that surfaced late last year, makes none of the concessions to the format we’ve come to expect, such as willful smallness or self-effacing irony. He doesn’t assert himself as a time-warped shaman, dispensing Dylan-esque truisms from another era, nor a lo-fi Sisyphus, humbly struggling against the boulder of cassette compression. He’s the rare meditator who zones out on the anonymity and enigma of the Byrds’ voices rather than the harmonic complexity that enamors most. He allows his guitar and vocals to meld into a single, constantly mutating surface that coats Morgan Delt like neon jelly in a vacuum, continuously rippling and hovering in all directions. The overall effect suggests the sound of a crafty intellect worming its way through the pleasantly foggy maze of an Rx-abuse cloud.
Delt’s home recording quarantine, hovering freely in the golden ’66 to ’73 epoch, remains remarkably pure of anything resembling meta-commentary. This music emanates from a bubble where cynicism scarcely exists outside of Harry Nilsson songs, garage machismo is prohibited and the “icy waters underground” spied by Syd Barrett have taken on an ultraviolet smolder. This is a place where innocents such as Dennis Wilson, Gene Clark and (especially) David Crosby could never conceivably burn out hard and resurface as leathery-skinned rock and roll survivors. Here, New Age music hasn’t quite crystallized into the siren song of cult leaders, and is still just a bit of chakra quartz glimmering in the eyes of sun worshipping studio gurus Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher (see “Tropicana” and “Mr. Carbon Copy”). One or two ingestions of mildewed acid have raised inevitable questions about bad vibes and the dark arts, but a bit of glossolalia gleaned from Damo Suzuki quells those matters (“Sad Sad Trip,” “Make My Grey Brain Green”). Meanwhile, as evidenced by the easy listening Renaissance fair detour “Little Zombies,” vinyl dollar bins mainstays Eternity’s Children and the Free Design have become the new the lords and ladies of the Sunset Strip.
References to the spearheads of L.A.’s analogue sub-terrain — Ariel Pink, official liaison to the aboveground, and Tim Presley, local king of this now middle-aged decade – feel appropriate, but do little to explain the distinct charm of Morgan Delt. Likewise, some telepathic communication between Delt and Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) or even a young Wayne Coyne may take place, but merely as third eye contact amongst astral plane transients. Comparisons to Maston and Jacco Gardner, a baroquely trippy pair of fellow Trouble in Mind mates, are warranted but also unsatisfying. Perhaps because the dangerously candied outpouring of “Obstacle Eyes” alone offers an embarrassment of opulent psych riches capable of eclipsing entire like-minded records. Such a saccharine rush, lush and weird as a field of black licorice, only leaves one to wonder what may come next. After all, the field of self-recorded pop carries certain obligations to prolificacy, and Delt just made the rookie mistake of spoiling us with a debut that’s gestated enough good ideas to a populate a small discography.