To be honest, the music here seems secondary. Played on zither and synths really serves to frame Ernest Hood`s field recordings. Aural snapshots of his old Neighborhoods. Gentle audio collages that capture a Portland, Oregon, which was already receding into the past when Hood originally released the LP in 1975. Described by Hood as both “musical cinematography” and a search for “joy in reminiscence” it`s as full of lost innocence as an episode of The Waltons. Listening is like sitting in a happy family room, where a couple of folks have just happened to pick up instruments. But the music does help to set a sepia tone. Jaunty keys recite snatches of trad jazz and Tin Pan Alley melody. Idiosyncratic Van Dyke Parks-like homages to 1950s, and 60s, TV and radio jingles. Allusions to a white-picket-fence illusion of America. Where birds sing, cicadas chirrup. Big dogs bark, small dogs yap. And kids play. The musical accompaniment dissolving into children’s conversations – soda pop discussions – while the horns of passing cars honk, and the local Odeon Wurlitzer announces the last picture show. Where bakelite receivers pick up shortwave weather reports and a ragtime band spins on a gramophone a few doors down. Black and white matinees blare from the windows of the elderly. Carpenters saw. Decorators shake cans of paint. Providing percussion for overheard playground games. Nursery rhymes and name-calling. A synthesizer repeating their refrains like Sparky`s Magic Piano. Where wonky ice-cream van chimes segue into the sound of musicians practicing in a nearby yard, stories of steamboats, and the ring of a can being kicked along a suburban street.
I`ll admit that out here in the middle of nowhere I`ve found great comfort in Hood`s sonic scrapbook. Letting it rotate as BGM as I`ve busied myself with daily routine up in the quiet of these Japanese mountains, it had me convinced that I had company. Serving not just as intended, as a nostalgic device, but perhaps also as a cure for loneliness. More than anything, its strangely hypnotic calm, reminds me of Glenn Gould`s Solitude Trilogy: The Idea Of North. As its voices fade in and out of one another, and into yesterday’s far far off fairgrounds and fireworks.
You can order a copy of Ernest Hoods` Neighborhoods directly from Freedom To Spend.