Enigmatic Canadian Artist, Lewis, Saved From Oblivion By Enthusiastic Vinyl Heads: Is the album as good as the hype?
June 2, 2015
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Canada – When John Murphy, a Victoria-based record collector, picked up an album called L’Amour at a flea market for a dollar, he never expected it to be proclaimed “the best album of 2014 that came out 31 years ago,” by the National Post. He choose the record for its striking album art and expected little of the music itself. “It’s amazing,” Murphy says. “It was too good to pass up, especially once I took a look at the song titles. It was a chance flea market find on a cold winter morning, back in 2008. I buy a lot of records based on cover art, but not many of them live up to expectations. I used to play Lewis for friends when they came over but I never thought this record would appeal to more than 10 or 20 people. It seems to have really caught on.”
Prompted by Murphy’s recommendation, his friend, Aaron Levin, featured the album on his blog, Weird Canada, and the record began to garner widespread attention. No one had ever heard of the artist or album before and no information could be found on either. That was part of the appeal, the record was an enigmatic hidden treasure, a rarity in the online era. Only when the record company, Light in the Attic records, decided to reissue the album to satisfy the demand of hundreds of record collectors, did any of the album’s backstory begin to surface.
Writer, Jack Fleischer, was hired to pen the liner notes for the album, he found only “a skeleton of miscellaneous small anecdotes and minor details regarding Lewis. It is just enough to have a good idea, but not too much so as to spoil the mystery.” One of few concrete facts Fleischer discovered was that Lewis’ real name was Randall Wulff. Everything else from here on out relies on the 30 year old recollections of only a few people. While staying in the Beverly Hills Hilton, Wulff is reported to have recorded the album at a tiny studio across town known for booking punk bands. The album art was shot by photographer, Ed Colver, who said he was paid with a check that later bounced. Before Colver discovered the bad check, with the record still hot off the press, Wulff left town and was never heard from again. According to Fleischer there are rumors that Wulff “would jet set to different places as he was loosely affiliated with finance and investments in the stock market,” and that “he was leading the life of a global playboy basically and part of that was making records in L.A. and supposedly later, Europe, too.”
The album itself sounds as hazy as its backstory. The album is an ethereal compilation of soft synth folk tunes. Wulff’s gentle baritone drifts between piano, guitar, and synths – his mumble melodies flow in and out focus. The album is pervaded by a sense of disjointed melancholy, like the hazy sadness of waking up from a good dream. The album is drumless and bassless and most of the vocals are unintelligible but that doesn’t take away from its impact – it hits you in some deep ineffable place, like an entry in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
The album with its inviting hazy aesthetic is the perfect accompaniment to the fleeting promise of the beginning of summer. Listen to this album on a soft blanket under a swaying willow tree while letting the first tentative breeze of summer wash over you.