Pleasure Maps - Sand Pebbles (Kasumen Records)
Conceived somewhere between Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the Neighbours writing room and the half-back flank at VFL Park, Sand Pebbles have always been something of an enigma.
Befitting a band made up of record nerds who could discern seven separate strands of freak in every lost '60s beat, Sand Pebbles bestowed upon themselves the descriptor "flower punk"; the flower was the inspiring melody, punk the defiant attitude.
Sand Pebbles didn’t embark on a proper tour until over 10 years into their life. And when they did, the band imploded. In the midst of a wave of internal tranquillity, the band got together to record an album. Again, consistent with cult artists of yore, old tensions spilled to the surface, but thankfully not enough to hinder the release of the album a couple of years later.
“Pleasure Maps” is a Sand Pebbles record through and through. It’s replete with blooming melodies of the ‘60s generation, infused with Andrew Tanner and Tor Larsen’s crisp melodies. "Desire Lines" is a collage of psychedelic groove and synthesiser atmospherics, the Summer of Love in a Manchester basement.
"Green God" is the Sand Pebbles in a nut shell: intertwining melodies on a blank sonic canvass, Larsen’s falsetto vocals and a peak into paradise. "I Heard the Owl" is the Velvet Underground pinned on serotonin; somewhere in another world Lou Reed is tapping his foot to "Lovers Love" with a thin smile.
You can hear a bit of Billy Duffy loitering around the edges of "Spilt Wine", waiting to crash at a spare room in Laurel Canyon. "Morning Skies" is an early morning dip in the surf, a lost Doors demo playing in the background and Sky Saxon preaching trans-cultural awareness. David Crosby’s freak flag flies high in "Another Wish"; "Friendlier Advice" is a 10-minute trip on the lysergic-paved way to enlightenment. “This is a song to help you,” Tanner and Larsen harmonise. It’s an extended moment of beauty when stars align, hands are held, all that bad shit in the world disappears from sight. We wish.
The album concludes with Amaya Laurcirica and Tanner trading verses in the Sand Pebbles’ cover of the Velvet Underground’s "Oh! Sweet Nuthin’". It’s so elegant and enticing you can almost ignore the emotional desolation at the song’s foundation. Sand Pebbles are one of a kind. This is an album of unbridled pleasure.