“Come along and wake up on the way,” sings Goon frontman Kenny Becker, “orange shapes arrange and change again/quiet Isaac in a mild dream.” The lyric evokes the hazy dreamscape spaces occupied by the band’s new album, Hour of Green Evening. It describes an in-between time, the pre-dawn quiet over a still-sleeping suburban neighborhood, insects buzzing and the creatures just stirring awake. The yearning of kids in their beds for the world beyond, of being stuck just on the precipice of everything. The sun soon to rise, the whole world about to be in bloom.
Goon began as Becker’s Bandcamp solo project in 2015. At a friend’s encouragement, Becker compiled the best of his tracks and released them as an EP, 2016’s Dusk of Punk. He recruited bandmates from his college buddies and released a second EP, all the while working on the band’s first full-length, 2019’s Heaven is Humming on Partisan Records, followed by the self-released Paint By Numbers 1, a collection of his mid-pandemic home recordings. After several band members departed for other jobs, cities, and life experiences, Becker recruited a new band—Andy Polito on drums, Dillon Peralta on guitar, and Tamara Simons on bass—and set about recording a second LP, Hour of Green Evening, in Tropico Beauty studio in Glendale, California, working with producer and engineer Phil Hartunian. Alex Fischel from Spoon also sat in on the session, providing piano and keyboards.
“We tracked ten days in the studio to start, and ended up working a total of twenty,” says Becker. “For the first six or seven days we did it live, the four of us in the room, with Phil in the control booth, tracking straight to two-inch tape. It was isolated deep pandemic vibes. We felt like we had enough days booked away from the world to really take our time.”
The evolution of Goon has come to full fruition on Hour of Green Evening. It’s the band’s most complete statement, engaging all aspects of their sound to stunning effect. The record conjures the nighttime suburban world of Becker’s youth, a mix of concrete and cookie-cutter homes with the lush beauty of California landscapes. The album thrums with mystery, with the half-remembered past hazy as dreams, the mixed sense of comfort and longing for freedom so essential to youth. The world of Hour of Green Evening is lush and strange, populated by people dreaming, sleeping and waking, existing in that in-between space of the nighttime world. Plant references abound, the “hydrangea lawns” of “Last Light On,” the “eucalyptus wall” of “Wavy Maze,” the oleander in the hypnotic “Lyra,” all swirling together in an endless suburban gloaming.
The dew-soaked morning maw of “Angelnumber 1210” blurs the space between waking and dreaming as distorted guitars cut through the atmospherics. “In a past life you softly slept through waking hours” sings Becker, “and in the boughs beams of sound play a welcoming.” It’s the merging of worlds, the divine suggestion of angel numbers leading the earth-bound narrator towards trust, growth, and progress, even across various lives and timelines.
The light, rangy “Ochre” is a deceptively dark song. Again, Becker calls to the imagery of the half-asleep times, singing, “I wandered out of bed/cuz there’s a firing line in my head/and it worked for a minute/opened my evil eye.” The calmness of the music and the ease of Becker’s delivery belies the anxiety at the core of the song, with images of fire, destruction, and pain drifting by, accented by Alex Fischel’s manic piano flourishes.
The quiet, beating heart of the record is “Emily Says.” The title references both the Velvet Underground and Becker’s wife, Emily. Distorted guitars alternately sludge and sparkle while Becker sings his best melody, gliding soft as a bird over the maelstrom, a strange, idiosyncratic take on the traditional love song. “It’s about how falling in love can save your life,” says Becker, “but it doesn’t fix any of your problems. The chaos of life will persist, but it’s a little bit better, because we’re not facing it on our own anymore. We’re together.”
Hour of Green Evening stands as the most powerful statement from Goon yet. Becker and company evoke a sense of childhood yearning in a night-blooming suburban world, a sleepwalker’s journey beneath the orange-glowing streetlights. It’s a record of melodic richness and finely textured production, slipping easily between heavy guitars and glimmering vocals, a fullness that comforts but never overwhelms. The songs have a melancholy to them, but they never succumb to hopelessness, knowing at the heart of the darkest night there is still light, goodness, and maybe even someone else there to help you wander through.
[written by Jimmy Cajoleas]
Wajatta began in the most fitting of places: an underground warehouse party in 2017, where Tejada was playing a late-night DJ set and Watts, a long-time fan of his propulsive techno productions, was in the audience. From there a friendship blossomed, formed over strong coffee, similar backgrounds and shared interests: ‘80s sci-fi films, old-school hip-hop.
Watts can currently be seen nightly as the bandleader for CBS’s The Late Late Show With James Corden. He first burst into American audience’s lives as the co-host of IFC’s groundbreaking variety series Comedy Bang! Bang! Over his 15-year career as a solo performer, he’s honed a unique style that blurs the lines between music and comedy, as is evident in his 9-minute TED Talk in 2012, as well as multiple comedy specials for both Comedy Central and Netflix, and at the invitation of Jack White, the record Reggie Watts Live at Third Man Records. Everything he does is 100% improvised — most notably, the multi-layered music tracks he builds on the fly, looping his beat-boxed rhythms and soulful vocals into spontaneous musical inventions that are funky, hypnotic and often hilarious.
In Wajatta, Watts infuses those same techniques into Tejada’s sinuous sounds, creating a refreshingly playful take on electronic music — one in which it’s often hard to separate the machines from the human voice. “There’s a lot of stuff happening that you may not realize is Reggie,” Tejada explains. Though he’s a big fan of Watts’ uncanny beat-boxing skills, Tejada prefers to disguise those effects among the pulses and patters of his analog synths and vintage drum machines. “It’s cool for it to be like, ‘I didn’t know that was his voice.’”
Tejada, for his part, has been at the vanguard of West Coast techno since 1994, releasing a succession of acclaimed albums, singles and EPs for such prestigious labels as Kompakt, Poker Flat, Cocoon, Plug Research and his own long-running imprint, Palette Recordings (est. 1996). Among his best-known tracks are the moody, mesmeric “Farther and Fainter” (from his 2011 Kompakt full-length Parabolas) and the 2005 underground banger, “Sweat (On the Walls)” — now a staple of Wajatta’s high-energy live shows, where Watts delivers witty, freestyle riffs on the track’s original spoken-word vocals.