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Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Dream of consciousness

Posted By on Wed, Feb 2, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Legend has it that beat poet William S. Burroughs couldn’t remember writing his definitive work Naked Lunch. Apparently, he went to Tangier, blacked out and woke up several days later with the finished manuscript sitting on the typewriter stand. The Past Was Faster might have been similarly channeled to songwriter Kelley Stoltz’s four-track. Recorded at home by Stoltz (who also sang and played all the instruments), this debut release is a tiny, lo-fi work of art, decorated with spur-of-the-moment lyrics and off-the-cuff production genius.

"There was no thought in the process," sings Stolz on the psychedelic "Vapor Trail" and that much is delightfully obvious. One can imagine Stoltz enjoying his own lost weekend, hopped up on inspirational smack and roaming the house like a man possessed. We can almost see the rumpled artist wandering back and forth between the drum set in the kitchen and the vocal mic hung over the bathtub drain.

Every long trip has its mood swings, and The Past Was Faster documents the highs and lows. "Sculpture Floating on the Waves" morphs from calming, mantralike loops to play-the-piano-like-a-percussion-instrument-until-the-fingers-begin-to-bleed-a-bit madness. Bukowski would be proud.

Elsewhere, word-salad vocals devolve into headphone-ready instrumentals. And on "The Fog Has Lifted," Stoltz even convincingly recalls Beefheart’s early days as a private. I imagine it took a half-dozen pots of coffee (and producer Monte Vallier’s expert mixing) to sort out the damage in the morning.

Of course, that’s probably not how it really happened. Still, stranger rumors have started over less. Kelley Stoltz should be careful. The Past Was Faster is the stuff of weird new legends.


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