David Novick, ‘David Novick’

Posted by on June 4, 2013


Sun Sneeze Records, 10/7/2012

California-based musician David Novick normally spends his time in the band San Francisco Water Cooler, and he also co-runs the Sun Sneeze label. His solo début finds him departing from the more raucous, garage-y sounds of his main band and focusing on dreamier moods. Over the course of seven songs pulled from four- and eight-track cassette recordings, he creates an ethereal space full of warm, intimate sounds and melancholy atmospheres. By bringing together all the choice parts of psych, folk, rock, and pop, Novick manages to make an album that is as striking as it is subtle.

The album opens with the fast-paced acoustic song, “Undo the Knot,” which brings in some hand drums, trumpet, and harmonica for good measure. The trumpet resurfaces frequently throughout the album and is a strong, bright accent to the always-present guitar. In this song, Novick sings of “The bracing cold of a winter when time stood still,” which seems like an appropriate scene-setter for the record. Thanks to both Novick’s arrangements and the lo-fi nature of the recording itself, it is full of longing, conjuring thoughts of lonely winter months.

“Silver” continues the driving pace set by the first track, but brings in electric guitar as an almost lyrical contrast to the acoustic background, while still maintaining the close, sparse sensation of the opener. “Seven Ghosts” sounds like a disjointed ’60s folk tune, bringing together acoustic and electric guitar – the brighter nature of the song is all the more surprising given the subject matter of wandering, lonely ghosts, and Novick singing lines like, “supposing it was you who sent them on their way again.” Novick ends Side I with a stand-out song that takes a major left turn from the previous tracks: “Ashtray” is a reverb-heavy instrumental piece that singles out a relatively basic electric guitar riff and accents it only with washes of incidental noise. The result of this is incredibly powerful, with all its hazy layers.

Side II opens with “Rain,” a slightly dark, but nonetheless beautiful acoustic tune that eventually gives way to Novick’s evocative vocals. At one point he sings “clouds in the east, dark again… perfect moon, solitary and still” to set a dreamy, otherworldly mood against the already atmospheric background. With it’s beautiful interlocking acoustic and electric guitar riffs and moody organ line, “Sweep” is an appropriately melancholy instrumental follow-up, and I got a weird, wintry, “No Quarter” vibe from the organ, which sounds amazing in this setting. The album ends on an upbeat note with the song “Be Still,” which features roughly the same instrumental mix but feels entirely different, sounding warm and inviting where the other seemed far more cool and distant.

If only there were a lyric sheet with this. When Novick’s words come through they’re invariably beautiful, but they’re not always easy to make out. On the other hand, if he wanted to create a more mysterious environment and get people to deeply focus on his music, he certainly succeeded; you could spend hours listening closely for something new, and those hours will probably pass blissfully.

The original 100 copies pressed of this album are long gone, but you can still give this a listen or grab the download from Novick’s Bandcamp page. Also, there is an LP reissue coming via GOD? Records, which is Ty Segall’s label with Drag City. After hearing the digital appetizer, I advise you to sink your teeth into the vinyl when it arrives.