The Internal Tulips: Mislead into a Field by a Deformed Deer
Planet Mu

Imagine Syd Barrett and Smile-era Brian Wilson tripping out and transporting themselves into a 2010 studio filled with all manner of acoustic instruments and electronic toys. The outcome of such a collaboration might sound a little bit like The Internal Tulips' Mislead into a Field by a Deformed Deer, a baker's dozen of mongrel electronic pop tunes from co-conspirators Brad Laner (Electric Company) and Alex Graham (Lexaunculpt). Broken melodies, electronics, distorted vocals, harmonicas, acoustic guitars, and sweeping harmonies abound in material that exudes a loose, explorative character reminiscent of the experimental vignettes Wilson and The Beach Boys produced during the infamous Smile sessions. Having first met in 1998, Laner and Graham formally inaugurated the group project with 2004's “Arlie” and in time distilled their shared love for melody and harmony into a full-length collection that blurs the boundaries between both pop conventions and experimentalism and acoustic and electronic sounds.

“1/2 Retarded Tuner of Hurricanes,” a hymn-like overture of wordless vocals and strings, sets a woozy tone that “Bee Calmed,” a baroque lullaby of demented bent, and “9 Tomorrows,” a sleepy and subtly funky piano-based waltz, perpetuate. “Songbird” couples a Brian Wilson piano pattern with bucolic harps and strings, its splendour offset by the jubilant electro-pop of “We Breathe,” which takes the album out on a euphoric note. A Beach Boys influence is undeniably heard in the harmonies in “Mr. Baby” and “Songbird,” and an occasional Beatlesque vibe also seeps into the lead vocals.

The experimental sensibility the duo brings to the songs' arrangments can't dispel the fact that many of the thirteen songs include stirring melodies. Even so, the songs that impress most are those where the two rein in their absurdist impulses and play it straight. At such moments, the beauty residing at the core of a song such as “Parasol” comes most fully to the fore. As pleasurable a listen as Mislead into a Field by a Deformed Deer is, one can't help but think that the music produced by Laner and Graham would be more powerful and longer-lasting if they were to downplay the material's ragged qualities and devote themselves more fully to polishing its classic pop dimension. Strip away the extraneous detail that threatens to subvert “Invalid Terrace” and you'd be left with a lovely vocal-and-piano-based ballad that needs no dressing up with superfluous sounds.

March 2010