Like me, you may not have heard of Al Berkowitz; and you may be forgiven for thinking, as I did, Al Berkowitz is obviously a singer / songwriter. It’s more complicated than that. Al Berkowitz is a trio from Spain who play psych rock fused with folk music and a 1960’s lounge / easy listening. None of them are called Al Berkowitz.
The band were formed in 2006 when the Spanish psychedelic band The Inhabitants joined forces with American beatnik Aldous Berkowitz . After Aldous’ departure in 2007, they christened the band Al Berkowitz as a homage to their former bandmate and mentor. They are now a trio consisting of Ignacio Simón, Santiago Estrada and Lorenzo Palomares.
Al Berkowitz is formed around multi-instrumentalist Ignacio Simón and his angelic, beautiful honey-dripping voice. The album was self-produced by Simón in an idyllic and tranquil setting off the coast of Cádiz (Spain). The music drifts effortlessly between a psychedelic haze and folk aspirations reminiscent, at least in part, of the likes of Tim Buckley and Scott Walker.
The opening track, ‘You And I‘, sets a sun-kissed and chilled scene. With its Spanish guitar, echo-drenched vocal and angelic choral backing, I’m transported back to the Mediterranean Sea, watching a beautiful sunset unfold before my eyes. But ‘The Frenchman And The Rabbitman‘ disturbs me. The angelic voice is replaced with a lemon twisted psych rock. I feel somewhat rudely and abruptly awoken; and so the journey begins.
With ‘How Could We Get Ourselves Lost?‘ the album’s tranquility returns which leaves me thinking the previous eight minute psych out was in some way representative of a bad acid trip. An interruption that possibly has significant and underlying meaning. Am I detecting this is a concept album?
Ignacio Simón‘s beautiful and delicately angelic voice is perfectly accompanied by the sadness of a cello on ‘How Could We Get Ourselves Lost?‘ and the fourth song to make up ‘A Long Hereafter‘ is ‘Magical Cynical‘ with its oompah-pah piano and sing-a-long chorus, it fills me with a nostalgic sense of golden age vaudeville drunken merriness through 1960’s rose-tinted glasses.
The album is very clearly set out in two parts and ‘Nothing Beyond‘ begins with ‘Farewell My Lady‘ with its stirring psych rock attitude. Confusingly, the song ‘A Long Hereafter‘ appears in this second part. This song has me thinking of Scott Walker, Jacques Brel and Ignacio Simón as a troubadour.
‘Nothing Beyond‘ has a dreamy sadness. Full of echo the song floats in a telling way. Like the end of a something beautiful that has served its time and been left to drift effortlessly and happily towards a heavenly unknown.
‘Sensitive, Not Dramatic‘ introduces an industrial element with its rhythm churning away in the background while monastic-like harmonies fuse psychedelic headiness with experimental err towards kraut rock, as A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond closes gradually like vapour caught in a light breeze.
A Long Hereafter Nothing Beyond was originally released on the Spanish record label Green Ufos in March 2013. The album was apparently well received but suffered from a limited run promotion. Temple Arts signed Al Berkowitz in 2014 and felt it only right this album should be re-released with full support and promotion across Europe in the hope that Al Berkowitz would receive the critical success they feel, the band deserve.
The re-release of A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond has been remastered and edited from 12 to 8 tracks, as the original release included 4 tracks against the band’s wishes. Further to the re-release, Al Berkowitz will be relocating to London later this year to help promote themselves and pursue wider appreciation in the UK and across Europe.
Ignacio Simón has a beautiful, angelic voice and A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond, a truly wonderful album; and Temple Arts are right, more people need to hear the music of Al Berkowitz.
Al Berkowitz – A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond is now available on Temple Arts.