Van Dyke Parks – Songs Cycled


There is probably no more a confounding yet fascinating artist in contemporary music than Van Dyke Parks. His CV runs the gamut from writing weirdly inscrutable musical scores to accompany rarely seen films to working with Brian Wilson on the original, ill-fated, ‘60s-era Smile album to acting in films to heading the audio/visual department of Warner Bros records in the 1970s. Songs Cycled collects 7” singles recorded and released over the course of 2011 and 2012 and while each song is unique in it’s own way the connection remains the composers’ unique delivery and instrumentation. When you first experience Parks’ music, it takes a little getting used to. There are string and horn sections shifting back and forth seemingly working against each other, with Parks’ cheeping his purposely-bewildering lyrics (“two flaming birds on fire, they kiss their lives goodbye, above the concrete street, we meet in dying, without a trace of our embrace, you can’t place my face, though you are trying…” from “Wall Street,” for but one example) over the delightful maelstrom of musical hijinkery. Imagine being fast asleep, quietly in your beach hammock one moment and when you suddenly awaken you are in the middle of rush hour traffic with no idea how you got there or how to get out of the way of the danger of what is happening around you. That is something like this album sounds. There are elements of classical music, twenties flapper jazz and just plain weirdness all balled up into an “I don’t understand what I am hearing but I can’t turn it off” sort of vibe. Undeniably eclectic and worth investigating for a complete change of pace.(Bella Union Records, bellaunion.comJeff Monk

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