Verdure is often lumped in with the slew of bands and projects housed under the Jewelled Antler umbrella. This is an understandable mistake, but Verdure is the solo vehicle of Skygreen Leopards member, Donovan Quinn. The similarties to the Skygreen Leopards are numerous; both play psychedelic tinged acoustic pop music, and both write songs that are gloriously catchy and melodic. But Verdure is a lonelier project than the Leopards. Quinn gets to play the role of iron-fisted tyrant as whatever he says, goes. Let's all be thankful for fascism in solo music, because the results here are magnificent. Quinn's father was the bass player in the seminal psychedlic outfit, Country Weather, and his influence is audible all over this record.
"The Telescope Dream Patterns" is the first in two reissues by Camera Obscura of albums Quinn released himself. With fantastic cover art provided by Dream Magazine's George Parsons, this is a damn good start. In terms of the aesthetic here, the word that keeps coming to mind is ethereal. With Quinn's distinct twang leading the way, these songs feel like they're constantly moving and floating in towering cumulous clouds. Employing instrumentation ranging from acoustic guitars to organs to makeshift percussion to various flute-type instruments. The point is that "The Telescope Dream Patterns" variety of instrumentation gives the album rich, dense textures. Aural stimulation is a constant in Verdure's music.
There's a delightful combination of bright, sunshine-flavored guitar tones and darker, more melancholic sounds that gives this album a filmlike quality. "Moonlanding" has all the innocence of America before the Vietnam War. "Well I'm gonna build a home in the sky," Quinn sings as the song opens with keyboard chords and clippity-clop percussion that reminds me of "Horse With No Name." When the instrument expands to include acoustic guitar and electric bass, this song is swimming in grassy green fields under rainbow canopies. This is an album full of vivid color. As the song abruptly ends, we are greeted with a sample from the Firesign Theatre talking about Christians in medieval times. It's a bizarre way to end an upbeat track, but perfectly exemplifies the dichotomy that exists all over the album.
Verdure also has a number of instrumental pieces on "The Telescope Dream Patterns" which complete the whimsical, ethereal mood. The title track layers organ, acoustic guitar, and a lead guitar riff that is drowning in reverb and distortion. It's like taking a bunch of acid and wandering through a forest full of hibernating trees during a foggy night. There's a vague sense of direction, but mostly you can't help but stare at the colorful hallucinations the drugs are creating. A reprise of the same Firesign Theatre sample at the end really adds to the acid-soaked atmosphere of this piece. A lot happens in the two minutes of this track; it's excellent.
The random samples don't stop with "Moonlanding." On "Ash Wednesday," another instrumental piece, we are greeted by the voice of T.S. Eliot. Whining guitars and punches of high-pitched flute squeal give this track a slight Eastern tinge. This track takes the acid hallucinations heard on the title track and turns them up to 11. I feel like a team of psychologists is drilling a hole in my skull to get a good look at my brain. The way this piece swirls around the listener's head is wonderfully disorienting.
Two sister tracks, "Into the Blacktrees" and "The Greentrees" both have a somber quality to them. While Quinn sings, "I watched you take off your dress, and lay yourself in the open the road. I didn't know if I should eat your flesh, or if I should pray for you soul," the music underneath sounds like a hundred trapped ghosts trying to escape from their metal coffins. There is something equally beautiful and cathartic about this song. "I woke up from the dream, and your twin was laying in my bed. I remembered how sweet life was again, and you kissed me on the head," he concludes at the end. I love how this track goes from dark and formidable to hopeful in an instant. "The Greentrees" has a different melancholy to it. It's a dreary, rainy day in April. It's that moment when you feel completely stranded and the only thing to give you hope is to look toward the future and hope your life follows the path you've concocted in your head. "You know some things, they could be worse," Quinn echoes as he embraces these sentiments. Droning church bells hide below the layers of acoustic guitars. All of this together makes this one of the best Verdure tracks I've heard.
One of the best songs on "Telescope Dream Patterns," and perhaps the track most reminiscent of The Skygreen Leopards, is the hauntingly catchy "Birds That Come Back Again." Walls of watery flutes and hammond organs hold the soft, acoustic guitars tightly within their confines. Quinn's slightly distorted vocals are the main focus here, but they would lose their power without the shimmering mountains of sound underneath. The other track that reminds me a lot of his work with The Skygreen Leopards is the '60s-style psych-pop gem, "The Sea Funeral." As one of the longest songs on the album, it leaves one of the longest lasting impressions. This is the soundtrack to a jubilee, not a funeral. It's upbeat nature will have you tapping your foot from the beginning, and the ascending bassline is loaded with hooks. "Birds and trees make the beautiful noise," Quinn bellows as the track moves into a thicket of distorted guitars and more hypnotic lead guitar layers. This is nothing short of spectacular. I'm sure this music would make his father proud.
If there is such a thing as essential listening, Verdure is near the top of that list. Donovan Quinn constantly gets mentioned in the same breath as the Jewelled Antler not just because of his assocation with Glenn Donaldson in The Skygreen Leopards. His music has the same organic, psychedelic quality to it that has endeared many listeners to all things JA-related. The difference, though, is that Quinn chooses to focus on melody and structure moreso than improvisation. Few artists come to mind with Verdure's ability to capture the spontaneity of a single moment in such a controlled setting. This is an excellent record, and with the upcoming reissue of "October Lanterns," the Verdure catalog is only going to get better. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)