Early June and one’s thoughts turn, inevitably, to Livorno and the annual pilgrimage to the Surfer Joe Summer Festival. I’m already looking forward to seeing both The Space Cossacks and Frankie & The Poolboys for the first time. I’m also excited at the prospect of seeing The Phantom Four and Messer Chups again and I’m eager to see all those bands I don’t even know I like yet. I also know that, if I manage to stay awake long enough, I’ll be there in the Tiki Room in the early hours of Sunday morning to see the man himself, Lorenzo “Surfer Joe” Valdambrini, hitting the stage alongside the rather splendid Bradipos IV and I sure hope that he will be playing plenty of tracks from his new album, Swell of Dwell.
Lorenzo has always made it clear that he is a lover of “trad” surf music, although the Summer Festival itself always plays host to instrumental (and sometimes even vocal) surf music in its very broadest sense, something which is made extremely clear by this wonderful new album.
When I first encountered Lorenzo, he was (whisper it ever so gently) the singer in a Beach Boys-style vocal band, The Pipelines, in which he also drummed on occasion. Some years later he has transformed himself into a surf guitar player of the very highest order, able to trade double-picked runs, glissandi and palm muting with the best of them, as you will hear when you get your hands on a copy of Swell of Dwell.
This is an album on which Signore Valdambrini has not only played all of the instruments, but handled the producer’s role too and what a good job he’s made of it. The playing is, as we’ve come to expect, exemplary, capable of both great power and intensity, but also of a pleasing lightness of touch and melodic joie de vivre. In addition, Swell of Dwell sounds great: guitars drip and twang just as they should, the bass is solid and the, at times, jazz-inflected drums underpin the whole thing without overpowering.
If you can, get yourself to Livorno for the Surfer Joe Summer Festival (which runs from June 21st to 24th), but if you can’t, put on a copy of Swell of Dwell, pour yourself a beer and imagine yourself in the Livornese sunshine with the rest of us. It’s what the summer is made for.