British avant pop artist Alexander Tucker releases his much anticipated new album, Third Mouth, on Thrill Jockey in 2012. This album builds on the strengths revealed by his landmark debut for the label, Dorwytch released in April 2011, culminating in his finest work to date.
Using songs written over a 12 month period he achieves his own inimitable blend of psych rock and ambient pop using a variety of studio crafted effects, rudimentary beats, guitar and bass, as well as synth and cello drones. He pushes himself even further however as he breaks new ground on the electronics only track "Rh" and heads further out into the deeper reaches of space with the sci-fi influenced cosmic meditation "Andromeon" as well as experimenting with more progressive song structures like those in "The Glass Axe".
Tucker's sound has developed over the years since his first self-titled solo album, which featured acoustic finger-picking, experimental electronics and was released on Jackie O Motherfucker's U-Sound Archives label. He went on to combine compositional song structures, drones, layered vocals and improvisations on his 2005 album Old Fog released on ATP Recordings. This collection of spectral moods, eerie landscapes and fragile emotions was followed by Furrowed Brow (2006) and Portal (2008), where the songs and melodies became more pronounced, whilst infecting the tracks with underlying drone currents, traditional finger-picking, doom riffs and David Crosby inspired harmonies. There was a shift in direction away from improvisation and toward scored pop music for Dorwytch (2011) with its nods to Brian Eno's Another Green World, while still retaining the organic drones of Cluster and Lichens.
But it is as if all of his fearless experimentation has finally come together on Third Mouth, an album that has both equal spiritual and psychedelic resonance for Tucker. He explains: "Third Mouth is a little bit like therapy for me. It's about the fact that when I was younger my mum would say she could speak in tongues because spirits were talking through her which used to freak me out. It is also about the idea of having a third mouth instead of a third eye. It was the idea of a voice coming through a person, as if they were a conduit from another world beyond this one."
Tucker, who has a reputation for seeking out the most interesting people to collaborate with, signed up Karl Brummer to play saxophone on "Amon Hen" but also turned to old friends to appear on the album. He says: "Frances Morgan is singing on 'Third Mouth'. She played violin with me as part of the Decomposed Orchestra. I've known her for years. Recently we both played this Cambridge psych festival and I saw her singing and I thought, 'Ah yeah, I love her singing. Her voice is so pure and clear.' Daniel O'Sullivan is someone I have known for years as well, since he was about 17 or 18. Something has happened with my music over the last few years that has led to me collaborate with him more. My music takes a leap forward when I work with Dan. He's very open and he's not afraid to be quite cheesy or baroque or over the top. He loves really outrageous proggy stuff like Magma. He's not afraid to try stuff out where other people are so uptight and more worried about what other people will say."
In addition to being a solo artist Tucker continues to collaborate with Daniel Beban in their tape loop project Imbogodom - the pair will release their second Thrill Jockey album And They Turned Not When They Went early in 2012. His other bands include Grumbling Fur with members of Guapo and Circle and past collaborative projects include duets with Stephen O'Malley on his Ginnungagap side project and the larger Decomposed Orchestra. Tucker is also a visual artist, creating artwork for all of his album covers and side projects, including ongoing paintings drawings, and comic artwork.
Alexander Tucker talks us through Third Mouth:
A Dried Seahorse: "Seahorses are the only creatures where the man can carry the baby. This song is kind of about my dad actually. One of my earliest memories is going up to the shed at the bottom of the garden. It was one of those musty, old, cobweb filled sheds and my dad went inside. When he came out again he held his hand out to me and when he opened his hand it held a dried seahorse in his palm."
The Glass Axe: "I think in a way this is kind of a prog referencing number because there are a few parts to that song and it's in two different sections. It was named after the fact that I found a really gorgeous shard of broken glass down at Dungeness which looked like an axe head. It was a very fairy tale image, the idea of something very fragile being very sharp at the same time."
Mullioned View: "Mullion is the kind of Victorian glass that where everything you see through it looks distorted, so this song has a psychedelic, old fashioned overtone to it." Window Sill: "There was a track on Dorwytch called 'Sill' but they're not really connected. The lyrics say, 'Window sill, it's dusty there…' And it has this banal imagery but it is about things being left, being abandoned and turning to dust."
Andromeon: "This has a totally sci-fi name, which doesn't really have any real meaning but I imagined a sci-fi novel called 'Andromeon'. On the track I'm playing the tambura with mallets which gives it that unique sound but the rest of the track has that real Spacemen 3, Loop, driving sound to it."
Amon Hen: "This is named after a place in Lord Of The Rings, which means the Hill Of Eyes. It's at the end of Fellowship Of The Ring and it's when Boromir tries to take the ring off Frodo and runs away up this hill called Amon Hen, an old lookout post. And he has this apocalyptic vision of everything that is going on around him."
Third Mouth: "My mother was very Christian. On my first album, the one I did for Jackie O Motherfucker's label, there was a song called 'Black Bear' which contains the line, 'When I was little my mother told me should could speak in tongues.' And it freaks me out a little because I never saw my mum as being very out there or anything other than straight but then she was telling me this information. It's part of my fascination with the ordinary and how it interacts with the supernatural."
Sitting In A Bardo Pond: "I've been mates with the American band Bardo Pond for ages since they first came to England and I've been to pretty much every gig they've done over here. I've jammed with them quite a lot and added lyrics to their Latitudes session. This is kind of about how in 1999 when I was getting deeper into psych and experimental music, my mind was opening up for various reasons and it's how I'm still kind of stuck in that place really. It's about wanting to move on but not quite yet being able to."
Rh: "My girlfriend's name is Rhona and it's about us in a way. And that's about it really!"
Alexander Tucker (Live on RSD)
His Arm has Grown Long