Terry Clouse. Photo by Phil Thach.
Psychopomp will shortly be music in your ears.
Kids, I am excited. This week’s piece is something of a homecoming for me. Fifteen years ago, I covered the music beat for a local weekly alternative paper (seems familiar somehow…). I had a thousand-word regular column dedicated to local performers, and one of the first bands I ever wrote about was an unbelievably talented progressive rock group called Somnambulist.
That they were so very skilled isn’t really the unbelievable part so much as the fact that they were a Chattanooga band that almost no one in Chattanooga had heard of.
Oh, sure, they did tours up the East Coast and had a pretty hefty fan club in Europe, but hometown heroes? The typical response when asking the typical club-goer back then was, “Somnambu-huh?”
It was the first inclination I had that Chattanooga had, or could have a real music scene if only more people were made aware of the kind of talent that was already here, so I made it my business to help make that happen in whatever way I could. This is why I wrote then, this is why I write now, and in the time between then and now the music scene here has exploded.
But for me it all started with Somnambulist—and a fellow named Terry Clouse.Terry is one of the best bass players in this (or any) region. You might disagree but you would be incorrect. He’s one of the best, and it is a given that any project he’s a part of is going to corral some equally talented individuals, so when he told me he has a new project called Psychopomp I dropped everything else and said, “Tell me more!”
The quick rundown: Psychopomp is a three-piece consisting of Clouse on bass, guitar and vocals, Jody Park on keys, guitar and vocals and Matt Turnure on drums, keys and vocals.
The boys are reminiscent (to my ears anyway) of an early, pre-pop Police with wickedly shifting time signatures and key changes the likes of which could inspire Dr. Thaddeus Venture to science such has never scienced before.
In a word, their music is complicated, but not needlessly complicated and that’s a huge distinction. I have known more than one exemplary musician whose raison d’etre was to show everyone how technically advanced they were. That sort of thing is very impressive for a minute, maybe a minute and a half. After that, it’s just musical wanking.
Not so these fellows.
Their music is complicated, it is complex—but always with a purpose. It is precisely as complicated as it needs to be. Anything less would fail the band.
The fellows gave me a preview of what’s coming up: A handful of tracks they described as being extremely rough, but if this is what passes for extremely rough, then the finished product should be diamonds.
“Euclid’s Nightmare” is a terrific name for a tune that is absolutely Lovecraftian in its geometry. “Lava Lamp Pagoda” has a somewhat brighter feel, due largely to liberal use of the organ. “Don Juanna Be Left Behind” would make Wynton Marsalis envious. Somehow in this tune the fellows have managed to capture a distinctive Caribbean vibe in a jazz overcoat.
It’s smart music, music for the thinking man. It is music for musicians. This is not to imply that it’s less accessible to the non-musically inclined. You don’t have to play to love it—but if you do play, I think you will find that it tickles your brain in a way most music does not.
One thing is for certain: This is about as far from pop music as it gets, and what a refreshing and welcome change that is.
The boys have a plan to record an EP and get some live gigs under their belt before settling down to the serious task of releasing a full-fledged album.
Keep your eyes on this column for details when that comes to be, and in the meantime look up Mr. Clouse and friends on social media for the latest updates on what promises to be another brilliant project.