Album Review - Jacco Gardner's "Hypnophobia"

By Mandi Kimes

It’s been a big year for psychedelic music, and the year is still young! With an album name like Hydrophobia, one might assume that Jacco Gardner has a fear of being hypnotized. However, he explains the name came to him in a state of unconsciousness. “I came up with the title Hydrophobia while falling asleep and part of my brain just didn’t turn off,” explains Gardner. “I often have trouble letting go of reality, even though I prefer the world in my dreams..Hydrophobia comes from a place where fears, darkness and creativity collide, like a slightly scary lucid dream. Fearing a loss of control definitely plays a big part of it.”

Another One” begins with fall in melody almost like a shooting star, until an drums chime in and guitar chug behind it. Gardners’ harmonies in the second verse are, dare I say it, hypnotic as the echoey vocals add a layer to the already shimmering instrumentation. The switch in dynamic at 3:26 is refreshing and makes you say “aaah” just as the vocals in the background do. "Grey Lanes” begins with an arpeggiated harpsichord, almost as if Beethoven was mixed with The Eagles’ “Hotel California” with its minor-sounding melody. The little blitzes of synth-starlights peak through the melody while the drums act as a cannon of sorts. The tune contains no vocals, and the instrumentation are enough that you don’t need vocals to make the song anymore interesting. The song kicks it up a notch from its dreamy haze to an eye-opener as electric guitar guide you through the fog to escape into a more clear view.

"Brightly” is one of the more lyrical songs as opposed to its musical composition. Gardner sings about confusion and the unknown, almost as if he’s fallen down the rabbit hole and he’s growing curiouser and curiouser. The acoustic guitar finger-picking is the most constant and impressive portion of the tune - I’d be curious to hear this song acoustic, where it’s just Gardner sing and playing the guitar, like that’s how the song must have been initially written. "Find Yourself” begins with a funky bassline and driving drumbeat as the melody lifts you up into the clouds. “Find yourself now in the shade,” Gardner sings, and we all know so well that as summer hits Phoenix, shade is our best friend. This song could quite possibly be the summer single for Gardner, as it radiates escape (perfect for vacations), the shade (as I mentioned earlier), and perfect for pool parties or road trips with friends.

"Face to Face” starts off with almost an ode to “Mother Nature’s Son”. Gardner sings “I want to split myself into two // Please tell me how to // I want to see that side face to face // And try to erase // I want to see the world through his eyes // And then decide // Show me his weakness now // And begin to help me to win” and it leads me to believe he’s writing this song about possibly an evil twin, or an alter ago. The instrumentation is very mellow with chord swells on each half note with percussive ornamentation throughout, from shakers to tiny bells. "Outside Forever” starts off a bit dull, then bumps up into the full-band swing at 38 seconds into the song. The song reminds me of Love’s “The Red Telephone” with its similar chord structure. The song dies momentarily at 3:16, but begins again a few seconds later as a Latin groove version of the song.

"Before Dawn” is an 8-minute jam song where the first 54 seconds is an acidy trip through every arpeggiated combination in the key, until Gardner’s vocals break through and are matched with an electric guitar chord-strike with each word he mutters. The song remains on a constant stream of consciousness, until it shifts into a funky beat-driven jam at 3:34. The last song I willingly listened to for eight minutes (and on constant repeat, mind you) was Tame Impala’s jam “Let It Happen”, and this song is definitely a candidate for a follow-up jam. The songs even sound similar in chord structure and funkiness. The song progressively gets bigger and bolder throughout the entire instrumental build-up until the song jam crashes to a halt at 7:07 to its original context.

The title track "Hypnophobia” is exactly that - hypnotic and alluring. It also reminds me of Tame Impala’s track “Elephant” with its similar chord structure and driven force (especially at 2:33), however Gardner adds his own flare with his atmospheric bells and whistles. "Make Me See” is just Gardner’s vocals and keys, which slow down the record just before its end. The fingering on the piano is impressive as he weaves in and out of different chords seemingly fit the key. He sings: “How much time will you need before you will leave and go through that open door? Will you make me see what I showed you?” It’s haunting, but still so beautiful. The album ends with "All Over”, a positive jam from the recent slumber we recently encountered. The song picks up at 1:08 with the driving bass and the subtle swing in the drums. Again, the complete instrumental track leaves no need for vocals as the last piece of the puzzle for the album leaves you with the remnants of Hydrophobia as you wake up from your hypnosis and enter reality.

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