Stumbled across new music this morning from a South Carolina expatriate, Micah Gilbert, that triggered memories of his early Columbia, SC band Glass Bead Game. A vaguely psychedelic, baroque pop ensemble, they were the most exotic sound these young ears had heard at that point in my life as a freshman at the University of South Carolina. Though they had been a popular act at places such as The Beat and the G.R.O.W. Cafe in the early 80’s, by 1985 the band was pretty much done, and I would only get to hear them a couple of times at outdoor events. Their music was on tape at the university radio station, WUSC, however; “Krishnamurti’s House” especially got some significant airplay from yours truly over the next few years. There was a cassette-only release of their songs, I have been told, but it may have only been a demo and not an ‘official’ release.
Gilbert moved to Athens, Georgia and started a new band, Magister Ludi, that continued in the Glass Bead Game mold with some different players. In the early 90’s he recorded and released a solo album that was gentler, yet still regal-sounding pop not unlike Robyn Hitchcock, another underappreciated oddball songwriting genius. He currently lives in the United Kingdom and has become more active as a songwriter and performer over the past year or so, it appears.
I’m not expanding on much of this here because Gilbert does it better on his current website Secret Deer, where he details the history I’ve sketched above, lists all the various people he’s played music with including John Keane, Jane Scarpantoni, Robert Kirkland, and others, and most importantly where you can access new music from him via his bandcamp page.
The new songs are more basic in their sonic nature without the soaring, complex sonics of his early work, but many have full band arrangements and other players involved. His Beatles/John Lennon influence, which has lurked just under the surface of his previous work, seems more fully realized on the new material. Gilbert’s words have always been a mixture of the mundane and the metaphysical, leaving one scratching one’s head even as it bobs in time to the tune.
It is wonderful, and a little strange, to be listening to Gilbert’s voice again after so many years, but some things are not easily forgotten–like the chorus to “Krishnamurti’s House” that’s been stuck in my head for 30 years. You can hear an ‘updated’ version of that song on his bandcamp page, and while it’s not the raw missive from the otherworldly pop universe that plays in the eternal jukebox of my mind, the chorus is still a stick-in-the-head moment all these years later.
Even though he never really left, it’s nice to have Gilbert back at least in my own sphere of musical awareness.
Here’s a new song Gilbert posted just last week:
And here is the “Krishnamurti’s House” recording with original Glass Bead Game member Chelsea Snelgrove:
And this song, posted in September, may be my new favorite Gilbert composition:
And in case you missed the embedded link to his website above, click here.