A longtime RSTB fave, King Tuff and Kyle Thomas have been on the site since the earliest years. From days of tracking down a handmade CD-r to the Sub Pop catalog, Kyle Thomas’ works have always found him a true pop chameleon. Outside of King Tuff Kyle’s been a fixture in many other favorites as well — the psych folk family affair in Feathers, scorched earth seance psych in Witch, and syrupy pop of Happy Birthday. I’ve tried to snag Thomas for the Hidden Gems feature before and the timing just hasn’t been right but as he stands on the verge of his latest, Smalltown Stardust, I was able to take a peek into his listening pile. True to form the pick is outside of expectations and something that’s new to me. Check below as Kyle recounts how a record of field recordings of Venezuelan birds made it into his rotation and how it’s become a fixture.
“A good friend of mine, who has kind of become my record collecting guru over the years, hipped me to it,” says Thomas. “He’s gotten me into a lot of things and completely changed my perspective on record collecting, to the detriment of my wallet. My record collection used to be mostly rock, folk and jazz, and now it is mostly composed of highly strange and interesting records that probably shouldn’t exist, but they do! I was over his house one day and saw this on his shelf. He put it on and I couldn’t believe my goddam ears.”
“I don’t think many people are putting on bird sounds to listen to in their daily life, admits Kyle, “but they should be! To me, this is maybe the most psychedelic record ever made. You truly feel like you are inside some sort of alien forest with the most otherworldly birds you can imagine. At times it sounds like there’s a chorus of froggy bubbles lifting up into the ether, and suddenly a prismatic raptor cuts thru, sounding half computer half rainbow, and splits your mind in two. Other times the motherfuckers just sound like they’re actually playing songs on a flute, but it’s their goddam voice. There’s really no way to describe it. It’s music on a much higher level than any human could ever create. And they got great outfits on to boot.”
As usual I ask if the record’s influence seeped into his own music in any way to which Thomas ponders, “I can’t say that it’s directly influenced my music cuz I’ll never be able to sing as good as these goddam birds, but it has influenced my soul deeply. It’s a reminder that life and nature is just so insane and beautiful and miraculous. I’ve eaten mushrooms and listened to this and closed my goddam eyes and saw some serious shit. I hope that everyone has at least one experience like that in their life.”
I’d been unfamiliar with Roché’s field recordings, but it’s as serene as Kyle describes, definitely a record for meditative moments, and surprisingly, not a total obscurity to find these days. The record was reissued in 2018 by Belgian label Sub Rosa. The new version also includes and introduction by writer David Troop, author of An Anthology of Stimulant Based Writing and Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds among others. Lock into the natural wonders of these field recordings and prepare for King Tuff’s latest, Smalltown Stardust, out next week on Sub Pop.
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