erasing clouds

Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory, Mudpuddle Park, Wy'east Can't Sleep, Super 8 Soundtrack

reviewed by Dave heaton

Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory's music is all spelled out in their name. Their songs have the laidback, bohemian-life-in-the-country feel of groups like Ladybug Transistor and Neutral Milk Hotel, making appropriate the reference to Sauvie Island, a wildlife-centered landmark near Portland. Yet their songs are also positively space-bound. They use guitars and other instruments to subtly sweep you into a dreamy haze, and their lyrics have a surrealist bent that's evocative of other worlds. Lastly, David Klopfenstein, the songwriter of the group, does seem like a one-man music factory. Then again, that could just be because I've taken in all three of the group's full-length releases at the same time. The songs on Mudpuddle Park, Wy'east Can't Sleep and Super 8 Soundtrack were all written and recorded throughout the 90s. While available locally before, the three recordings have just been released internationally in cassette form, on the Italian label Best Kept Secret.

Mudpuddle Park is filled with pop ditties that shuffle along with both a classic Tin Pan Alley sound and a psychedelic 60s vibe. The lyrics are emotion-packed yet offbeat. They're portraits of times, places and nature that contain as many non-sequitors and puzzles as they do feelings. Nature seems to play a decently big role in the album, yet it's always dealt with more as a mystery than something pat and easy to box in. Take a line like this, which might not make literal sense but makes intuitive sense: "Somewhere she hears me whistle all my love to the trees/somewhere she hears me whistle all my pain." The mood throughout Mudpuddle Park is bright with melancholy tinges. Musically it's a very upbeat, fun album, yet there's always a sense of something deeper going on, something beyond what we see.

Wy'east Can't Sleep opens with the sound of a guitar gracefully breaking through the atmosphere with a beautiful melody. Mellower than Mudpuddle Park, the tape carries through from that point into a series of songs that play up the group's pretty, psych-folk side. Their sound here lies somewhere between Bowie's Hunky Dory and Nick Drake; it's moving further into space yet is also pastoral, still. The bounciest pop song on Wy'east is a cover, Cub's "Someday." Wy'east also pushes their lyrics further into psychedelia, as on one of the highlights, the enigmatic "Buster Crabbe's Circus," which has great eccentric lyrics like "Snowcone rockets poison you."

Super 8 Soundtrack has a similar atmosphere to Wy'east Can't Sleep, but is even trippier. These are traveler's songs for journeys into your own dreamworld. "The sun is high, believe me," Klopfenstein sings, and it sounds like he knows. These songs are filled with harmonies that sound like the duo is drifting off into space. Guitars sneak in and out, voices sing with abandon, and moods and colors swirl around our ears. "Go to the beach, where all the submarines pop up," he sings at one point, as if we know what he's talking about. But perhaps we do. On Super 8 Soundtrack, as on all of their recordings, Sauvie Island Moon Rocket Factory create galaxies which feel like home, even as they seem like far-off dreams.

(Note: These cassettes were released by Best Kept Secret. The band's web site is

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