Never before heard 1970s lo-fi home recordings resurrected in new album
By CJ Sommerfeld, Staff Writer
He strategically picked a band name whose lettering would gain the band exposure in record shops
Last month, Anthology Recordings—a label that repurposes music from the past—archived a long lost and never-heard album by Robert Lester Folsom. The record, titled Abacus Atlanta Sessions, resurrects lo-fi sounds of the ’70s, a texture often viewed as erroneous in present day music. Despite only being released now, forty-five years after it was recorded, it sounds like what some of today’s music is inspired by.
In the 1970s, Georgia-born Folsom recorded his own music with a stereo tape deck and reel-to-reel recorder. He named his label Abacus Records. Here, he self-produced and engineered his only album for his band also named Abacus; the album was titled Music and Dreams. It too was revived in 2010 by another independent label, Mexican Summer. Following this, in 2014, Anthology digitally released another album of Folsom’s which was comprised of the first batch of his un-heard home recordings under the title Ode To A Rainy Day: Archives 1972-1975.
In a short documentary, Folsom’s band-creating and producing measures are creative endeavors, however they are done with a business-like mind. He self-taught himself how to compose and record, and he also transformed his reel-to-reel stereo tape deck into a multi-track tape deck. In choosing a name for his band, he strategically picked one whose lettering would gain the band exposure in record shops. With its first three letters being a-b-a, it preceded ABBA, making it the first record that people would see when thumbing through the collection of records at the store.
After producing his first record, it was difficult to find places for his band to play Abacus originals—songs which not many people had heard of. Instead of being open to new music, many people in the South at that time preferred to dance to tunes which they were familiar with. It is a shame that only one of his albums were previously released, however thanks to Anthology’s atypical vision, these lo-fi sounds and the unconventional way which they came to be have been made available for the public.
This new-but-old record Abacus Atlanta Sessions reminisces porch and garage made rock and roll, and dad cover band sounds. Its tracks vary from psychedelic instrument ensembles as in “Truck Stop” and the first third of “Lunar Pie.” The illusive beginning of the ten-minute song slows into droned vocals and pensive minor chords, just before concluding with another instrument ensemble—this one hindering of texturally thick 1970s roll and roll.
“Jericho (My Quiet Place)” sounds like it could have been written about Vancouver’s own beaches. The number induces daydreams of some faraway utopia with its psychedelic riffs. Another tune, “I Want To Tell You,” is a love song and is reminiscent of chillwave artist, Toro y Moi’s legato vocals. Folsom’s untrained voice resonates through the album, reminding us that something doesn’t need to glitter to be gold. The album’s seven tunes contrast in style and timbre and make me wonder if they were ever meant to be comprised together on a single album.
It is impressive how we can still enjoy tunes that were created a half-century ago, much like it is interesting to think that a lot of the music we hear today is built on all that has come before it. Who knows what other unheard melodies will be released decades after they were produced?