If you still need convincing that timeless pop tunes can be made, Canopy**’s debut EP aims to make you a believer again.
The brainchild of Praveen Ayyagari, an Austin, TX filmmaker of experimental music videos, Canopy draws its melodic sensibilities from late 1960s Summer of Love, incorporating enough modern instrumentation techniques to keep from falling into Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow’ pastiche. The dynamics of Ayyagari’s airy warble matches well with the overall flower power sonic in which another vocalist might have opted for VU’s hazy drone to lesser effect.
Originally the songs were mined from electronic demos Ayyagari took to Cacophony Recorders where, along with Martin Crane, “went into the studio, ate lots of pizza…to make the songs more organic sounding”. The impulse proves savvy as the opening notes from ‘Neon Lines’ demonstrate. Ringing guitars and hand claps breathe life into the EP, making it okay to imagine Ayyagari is off catching butterflies when he isn’t with the band.
While it’s tempting to think the five songs represented here is the result of bedroom songwriting from a guy with a great collection of old records, the mood switch gears with enough frequency to dispel any notions he might be using crib notes. In fact, what Ayyagari did use to write three of the songs on the EP was his grandmother’s harmonium while on a brief visit to India. Balking at paying a large bribe to bring the wooden box back to Texas, perhaps it worked out for the best. Inventive arrangements keep the music appropriately breezy. The piano and glockenspiel accents on ‘Everybody Trips A Little Now and Then’ brighten the low-key tune from becoming a druggie anthem to the more practical realities of personal mishaps. The dramatic pause near the end smoothly segues to ‘Narrow Bones’ where he sings, _“the summer seems so vicious”, it’s clear by Ayyagari’s tone he wouldn’t have summers any other way. The running theme of becoming lost and found rides like a merry-go-round, one in which we’ve been jumping on and off for so long it ceases to be important which phase of the game we’re in. The entertainment comes from the larger picture, by partaking in the various activities within Canopy’s chaotic playground.
On the only song recorded with the full eight members Canopy uses for live shows, ‘The Listener’, we are afforded the best glimpse of the band’s huge potential. If this song can’t pull you off the couch then it’s too late to call in the paramedics. The driving rhythms push the melody into a soaring trajectory in which French horns and trombones hold us comfortably aloft as if floating along in a hot air balloon. While we don’t mind if Ayyagari continues pursuing loop pedal one-man shows, we hope he doesn’t lose focus that the burgeoning Canopy is where his real talents lie.
Debut offerings of this size do not always accurately forecast the success or failure of subsequent material. At most we can say at this point is we’re terribly optimistic from this nineteen minute teaser and very much look forward to future recordings from Canopy. In a world mired with enough doom and gloom for the next few generations to come, it’s all the more refreshing to be energized with the precise grooves of glossy pop music which provides exactly what it promises.
8Bruce Porter's Score