It's been astonishing to see, in this time of self-isolation, how quickly a seed of an idea can become a full-blown project that can be unleashed into the world. So it was when Andrea Vascellari, who has a small label in Italy called VeniVersus, decided to put together a music compilation to support the World Health Organization.
Vascellari, a fan of the legendary San Diego band Black Heart Procession, met frontman Pall Jenkins while he was in Italy, and judging by the resulting compilation, "Love in the Time of COVID," has impeccable taste in music.
Jenkins, of course, a much beloved San Diego musician, not just for his work with Black Heart, but with Three Mile Pilot, Mr. Tube & Flying Objects and plenty of solo work, too. Most recently, he and his wife have been running Abpopa, a micro-loft boutique lodging in Hillcrest that is also home to its Music Den, a small record shop. When asked to donate a song to "Love in the Time of Covid," Jenkins enthusiastically obliged, and though the label was looking for older demos or B-sides, he took it upon himself to write and record a new original track in just one week. The result is “On the Rise,” a beautiful and haunting track that fits snuggly on the compilation among artists that fit the label's simple mantra, “We love quiet music.”
Jenkins is the first musician I ever witnessed bending a saw and playing it with a violin bow during a performance, so, needless to say, the use of cool sounds here is just as interesting. “Is that a glockenspiel?,” I ask. He sniggers slightly. “It's actually a Mellotron and an Optigan ... They're all keyboards ... and an acoustic guitar,” Jenkins said.
Detecting that I don't actually know what a Mellotron is, Jenkins kindly explained the mechanics.
“The glockenspiel [sound] is from an actual taped recording of a real glockenspiel, but they put it onto tape loops and put it in the keyboard, and then they have samples of that,” Jenkins said.
As a whole, the compilation “features only previously unreleased recordings by some of the most relevant acts from the slow-core, dream-pop and drone-rock scenes,” according to the project's organizers. And it is excellent, whether or not you consider that it was turned around in about two week's time. It can be streamed for free; however, donations are kindly accepted: “All proceeds will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, supporting WHO’s work to track and understand the spread of the virus, to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information, and to accelerate research and development of a vaccine and treatments for all who need them."
Under the stay-at-home orders, the Music Den and it's adjoining gift shop, Soet, are closed, but he can sell online or by appointment. In fact, he's sold several turntables since the pandemic hit and has even been asked to personal-shop, selecting records for customers who then approve his curated choices before purchasing.
While it seems like Jenkins has a lot going on, “I still feel kinda lazy in this weird way... I don't feel really highly motivated, which is odd, but I'm starting to ... but I might as well do something with my time.”
Isn't everyone feeling this existential angst in their own way?
Allowing himself some room, Jenkins concludes, “One step at a time.”