ALBUM REVIEW: Farmer Dave Scher & The Wizards Of The West – ‘Farmer Dave Scher & The Wizards Of The West’

FARMER DAVE SCHER has led something of a charmed and charming life, both musically and agronomically.

For many years back there he was a Beachwood Spark, the brilliant West Coast country-psych outfit that took on Sade’s “By Your Side” and completely won; that album, Once We Trees, has to be one of the currently lost classics of that particular turn-of-the-millennium scene. It is properly beautiful and got me through a brief if very dark autumn.

When that band fragmented, he took up with Jimi Hey for one brilliant, self-titled album of the sweetest psych delirium as All Night Radio (my money is on MGMT having paid very close attention to the possibilities outlined by this record).

He’s also worked with Will Oldham, Kurt Vile, Chris Robinson, Interpol, Jenny Lewis, *catches breath … hell, even Elvis Costello and Animal Collective – his skills are mucho in demand; oh, talking agriculture, he’s also the chap behind Farmer Dave’s Roasted Hot Nuts, a yumsome almond snack made according to an old family recipe. Soul and body, see? Soul and body.

And after an extended period away from a scene which has missed him, he’s returning as this year dawns (let’s hope it’s a better one, eh? Everything crossed). We were pleased back in November to premiere the video for the first video drop from the album, for the single “Right Vibration”, which we reproduce faithfully herein.

And come Friday, we’ll all be able to get a deliciously cosmic groove on when, in tandem with his Wizards of the West, back in the groove with guitarist and vocalist Ben Knight, bassist Brian Bartus and drummer Jud Birza for a proper stoned immaculate psych trip on their eponymous new album – his first LP in a decade.

Since the single’s in common circulation anyhow, let’s take a look at that while you play it maybe. Those opening guitar chimes are pure Dave, ringing back through the Beachwood Sparks to The Byrds; but you’ll immediately be aware and seduced by the deeper psych of the world he glides into you: a lyrical call for unity with “the right vibration … hey, on our way now, hey, hey, on our way now”, with bigger psych guitarscapes opening up; a little tease here, a fully acid-fried riff there, but plenty of whirling space, fuzz guitars melting in your technicolour dream. Yessss.

Dave said at the time of release: “The song sings to the idea that there is a higher harmonic order evident in all facets of creation: from the movement of the stars and heavenly bodies, the planets and seasons to the inner workings of our own bodies and minds, all that is has a frequency and vibration and is in a state of constant flux and flow.

“Remembering we are a part of this divine dance, we become active participants, ever more able to become expressions of joy and harmony with all that is.

“When we align ourselves in this way, there is no telling what we can achieve as a species … in fact, it’s our destiny to realize that we are truly one with the universe.  

“Let’s come together now, with an attitude of love and aloha.”

Farmer Dave Scher

The album preludes in the brief free noise bliss of “EXEGESIS” and it’s straight into the sweet glow of “Cave Walls”. It’s a lovely track, seemingly part Dylan-era Wrecking Crew at root overlaid with lots and lots of delicious psych guitars, swooping, howling in feedback, gazing at their shoes, meandering high past the twelfth fret in a bright ping. It’s a luxurious six-string scape overlaid with an impressionistic paean to some lover, current or intended, Dave singing loose ‘n’ true: “You have style for miles, it’s plain to see / Reach for my hand and we’ll dive into the sea.” The shoegazey climax is delicious.

There follows “Right Vibrations”; and then “Ocean Eyes”, a really pretty blur with that partially collapsed jazz feel you get from “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. God knows what composite time signature it’s in, and any attempt to find the strictly metronomic is fended off by swathes of echo and delay and the way Dave’s voice glides over it all, occasionally touching base. It has free flow, lilts and rolls on a tide of lovely guitar textures, whirls you away into its world effortlessly.

“Stand & Deliver” keeps you out in a rip current of the off-kilter, splicing psych sonics over the call-and-response chant hook of an African spiritual. Again, try and anchor yourself to a strict on-beat and that way lies only Davey Jones’s Locker. Go with the flow; Dave has a safe course. The bright shimmer of Dave’s natural guitar style lends itself easily to a highlife chime; it’s something you perhaps hear much more from bands coming out of the South London scene on labels such as Albert’s Favourites and Lewis Recordings (see the gorgeous shimmer of Skinshape), but as yet less so from Stateside. Inevitably, it mutates; moves from an increasingly psych bliss-odyssey through spoken word to end in a little twist of electro robotic voice.

“Mutant Pill” brings the intricate funk-rawk riffin’ with a bit of bright proggy delirium; imagine the Chili Peppers jammin’ with Roy Ayers on the Strip, circa ’73 and you’re partway there. By now you’re absolutely aware that Dave is unafraid to encapsulate any and every stylistic trope in a quest for harmonic fun and bliss.

And it therefore comes as no surprise when “Babe Got Plans (For Me)” is a straightish (relatively speaking, of course) country-psych groover with a beautiful melodic undertow from those baroque strings and the guitar haze into which it slips silkily. It wouldn’t have been (too far) out of place on a Beachwoods’ album; or for that matter on Andy Bell’s latest solo offering. It has a little Anglophile mod pop brassiness in its bones and it’s lovely.

“Bohannon” – I’m imputing an at least a partial tribute to funk-disco percussion legend Hamilton, of the same name – is a swirl-your-arms-to-get-the-colours-swirling crisp psych-funk groove, hooking on the line, “You And I, we co-create each other.” It’s happy to drop a key and rise back up a few too, but is content to drive that colourful chopping rhythm home, with a little more guitar freakout just to get it right into the bloodstream.

Your trip with Dave and the Wizards ends all too soon in the Red Krayola style organ and grainy noise garage of “Wipe Out” – yes, it’s a partial steal of The Surfaris kicking back for laughs and also transposed to Haight-Ashbury.

Dave Scher & The Wizards Of The West is like a finely reduced sauce; it is actually pretty short even by modern-day, post-CD bloat standards, at roundabout 33 minutes. But it packs an awful lot of psychedelic flavour and fun into that fat half-hour. Afrobeat, surf rock, funk, straight psych, country psych, jazz, shoegaze, are all blended together and allowed to steep and seep through a lovely record with at least three of four moments of proper excellence and a lot of red-eyed, 1am lava lamp big-grinned fun besides. It’s good to see him back.

Farmer Dave & The Wizards of the West’s self-titled debut album will be released by Big Potato Records on digital download, CD, limited black vinyl and limited chrome blue vinyl with art print on January 22nd; all formats are available to pre-order over at the label’s Bandcamp page now.

Follow Farmer Dave Scher at his website, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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