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coverpic flag US - Tennessee - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 25 - 11/04/98

Immature Scientist
Vacationist League

Pleasure Map
Flying Nonesuch

I started redecorating my kitchen this summer, around the same time as I got this CD from our beloved editor. He had received it from one John Tilson, a Knoxville, Tennessee inhabitant who probably had been reading these very pages. He thought his new solo project, the Immature Scientist Vacationist League could be something for us to consider reviewing. And was he right about that!

The very same John Tilson is the man behind this project. He used to play in a band called The Swamis (not very famous, I believe), but this CD is mostly him with his voice and guitar, but he is helped by some of his friends on a couple of the tracks. All the music is recorded on 4 tracks in his basement, and is a little bit low on the fidelity side because of that, but what the heck; we are not here to test our stereos! It turned out I was not here to do kitchens up either, not least because I constantly was drawn towards my CD-player and this particular CD.

I am the first to admit that one voice and a guitar (or two) not often is a combination I listen to, especially from some American artists (no names mentioned this time). The urge to release half-finished records seems too often to be much bigger than the ability to write and perform real songs. It tends to be a bit boring after two songs, but Joe Tilson knows what to do about that.

The first thing that struck me with this CD, was the way he sings. Tilson doesn't have the strongest voice that side of the Atlantic, and I guess he knows exactly that. Instead of hiding the fact, he uses his voice powerfully to express the lyrics, doubles it, and in many cases puts on layers of back-up vocals. His voice is a somewhat intense blend of Brian Eno (listen to Keweenaw!) and Robert Scott of The Bats (and it can't be a coincidence that his record company is called Flying Nonesuch either).

In addition to that, his guitar playing is most convincing. Again, he is not the most technically skilled musician, but as with his voice, the playing is distinctive and effective, and suits his songs very well. His (often) staccato guitar-playing makes this record a most exciting experience, and the absence of a band is not at all prominent. In many ways he reminds me of another Luna Kafé-fave, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, who also sometimes sounds like a one-man band. And he is not afraid to use those unusual sounds he finds on his effect box either.

I'm not quite sure why, but through listening to Pleasure Map, my attention was again drawn in the direction of the long lost Manchester label Object Records, and soon I found myself listening to Grow-Up, Steve Miro & The Eyes and Spherical Objects again. And I think it must be the same kitchen sink atmosphere of those artists that I again find with this record. Hmmm....

This CD has been with me for four months now, and when I say with me, I really mean that. I often find myself humming the songs, and at home, I can't stop playing it. There's only one thing however, I may have lost something in the translation here, but I just can't figure out why anyone would call a band Immature Scientists Vacationist League!

My kitchen is not finished yet, but any day now...I think I'll give Pleasure Map another spin first, though...

For more information on this and other records (by some of the musicians on this CD and Tilson's former band The Swamis) contact John Tilson, or write: Flying Nonesuch Recordings, 409 Bridge View Lane, Knoxville, TN 37914-4317.
You will not be disappointed.

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