When you take zany lyrics, spacey riffage and stylish, cosmopolitan drumming that owes as much to the old school jazz construct as it does contemporary experimental post-rock, you end up with Little King and the Salamander (demos), the masterpiece album from The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina, which is out now wherever independent music is available. Little King and the Salamander (demos) is, as its name implies, a demo anthology of unreleased material that the east coast three-piece developed in-studio, and it’s a golden moment for the band to put it mildly. “Jeepers Creepers,” “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina,” “Thinking of You” and “Together” are easily the most unruly and relentless sonic experimentations from the band to date, but alongside the other ten songs that make up the track listing, they bring us into the eye of the hurricane that is this profoundly engaging trio of musicians.
There’s a lot to be explored in Little King and the Salamander (demos), and it all starts with the folk songs “She’ll Do Anything,” “I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door)” and the bristling balladry of “Fade into the Night.” The acoustic tracks are the cornerstone of this album’s charisma, and they pepper the contents of the record with a humble, accessible strain of folk-pop that is just as heavy and unforgettable as the more rock-centric songs like “Hey Everybody,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and the surreal “White Light and Lullabies.” Although it has a sprawling collection of different sounds for psychedelic aficionados to spend hours picking apart, the band included no filler nor throwaway tracks (a nice change of pace from what most so-called demo albums have to offer).
I’m halfway inclined to be skeptical as to whether or not some of these songs really are rough demonstrations of raw material, only because of how calculated a delivery they sport. Tracks like “Slip Away (Dreamin’ Again)” and “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” don’t sound like a band trying to find their groove and figure out the direction of a composition still in its infant stages of development; they sound like single-worthy powerhouses that could have just as easily made their way onto Act 3 in their present state of production. If any critics questioned whether or not The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina were firm in their style of attack prior to this album’s release, they’ve got a pretty assertive answer in these songs, which prove once and for all that this band is totally in touch with their creative direction and utilizing the full capacity of their collective talents.
For those of you who haven’t gotten into this group’s music yet, Little King and the Salamander (demos) offers the perfect segue into the universe of mind-bending psychedelia and folk balladry that The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina have singlehandedly conceived. Everything has been falling into place for this threesome to break into the mainstream American consciousness, and this record has a chance to bring the band a degree of international attention that their caliber of play demands and, quite honestly, deserves. They’re riding a wave of renewed interest in postmodernity to the top, and their latest LP ensures that they won’t be escaping the limelight anytime soon.