Essential New Music: P.G. Six’s “Parlor Tricks And Porch Favorites”

Tea drinkers doubtless knew from the start: Keep an eye on this P.G. Six guy. The name, which seems to conflate a popular brand of England’s favorite steeped beverage and his most portable instrument, gives little away. Does it fly a flag of affiliation? Is it pulling your leg? Turns out, a little of both, plus some hiding in plain sight.

If you happen to catch Pat Gubler onstage and in the right mood, you’re bound to leave the venue with one hindquarter elongated; I have heard him reduce an audience to tears of hilarity while confessing his sins against responsible lawn care. But Gubler also has a long history—from his involvement with Tower Recordings to his recent contributions to Stella Kola’s swell self-titled debut—as an ambassador of psychedelic sound craft. And we haven’t even gotten to Gubler’s sporadic-yet-estimable solo career, which brings us to his debut longplayer, Parlor Tricks And Porch Favorites, now reissued on vinyl.

Upon its original release in 2001, Parlor Tricks And Porch Favorites was something of a cosmic musical portal. It offered passage to two locations. On one side, there was a marvelous musical past to be reckoned with and learned from; on the other, a world of potential applications of those ideas. Gubler clearly had some opinions about what represented the best that the 1960s had to offer. If you couldn’t tell how much his melodic sensibility owed to the British folk revival, his cover of Anne Briggs’ “Go Your Own Way” zapped you with a lightning bolt of truth. If your ears weren’t already tuned in to the ongoing synthesis of folk and minimalist compositional ideas, his bowed harp playing on “Letter To St. Cyr” (the instrumental that begins and ends the record) was the antenna they needed. The fuzztones that reached out from behind Gubler’s forlorn singing on “The Shepherd” were a reproach to every advance in guitar-effect technology that followed the Electric Prunes.

Turn around, and the album showed you where such resources might take you. The braided woodwind, organ and acoustic-guitar lines on instrumental “Unteleported Man” pointed a route toward zones so removed that no chemical agent could get you there. Whichever way you looked, Gubler and percussionist/recorder Tim Barnes showed how potent these best sounds taken from different parts of your record collection could be when imaginatively bound together.

Point made, Gubler moved on. While he’s worked with some of its elements, he’s never made another record quite like Parlor Tricks And Porch Favorites, so its reissue is long overdue. This belated 20th-anniversary edition includes an additional LP of contemporary live tracks that fill out the P.G. Six cosmology to include Pearls Before Swine and X. The gorgeous gatefold cover abstracts the original CD’s art, as if to acknowledge that even when you know the past intimately, the present is a complicated place to be.

—Bill Meyer