By Carolyn Vallejo
El Tryptophan’s new record Guilt Vacation reportedly holds a roster of 20 musicians, but it’s hardly surprising considering his just-released single “Ida.” It’s a track that travels many sonic worlds and covers a lot of terrain, adding layer upon layer of unexpectedness.
Naturally, there are going to be a lot of drug references to El Tryptophan’s music. L-Tryptophan, after all, is a brain-altering chemical. But “Ida” is inadvertently the prime example of how music can trip your stone-sober self out.
There’s a lot to this track, so let’s take a little journey, shall we?
“Ida” starts off simple enough with a folksy acoustic intro, and even as vocals float in, nothing seems to catch you off guard. Lovely – a song about a muse named Ida. Nothing daunting there. The chanting comes in, and the repetition of Ida’s name summons up new aural worlds.
At first it’s ‘60s, cheery, go-lucky electric riffs and same shakers, with a tone as gentle as a Simon & Garfunkel tune. Light and fluffy until that chanting beckons the bridge. All music cuts out, except for a layer or two of vocal overdubs and a buzzing electronic tone reverberating under a poignant lyric:
“So what did Ida do? Ida knew just who was who. She did. She did know.”
Spooky, right? Then the song rises right back up to where it left off, only this time the spirit of Ida has brought with her a whole slew of playful sounds. Here, El Tryptophan adds some croaky, rolling clicks, bubbly keys and off-key horns.
There’s more over-dubbing, whirly-gigs and watery audio. A bass drum beats. Hands clap. A voice whispers. It’s probably harder to believe that the complexity of this composition wasn’t concocted by more than 20 musicians. I know: a “whirly-gig” isn’t an instrument. And yet, El Tryptophan creates a sound that can only be described as such.
It all exhales at the end with a NSFW conclusion, and the listener is left wondering where the hell their mind just went to. El Tryptophan is beyond an appropriate name for this group. It’s psychedelic, with dual-faced lyrics (Ida Lies, Idolize, that kinda thing), spoken word, uppers and downers, bells and whistles. It’s what some would call a “trip.” I can’t wait for the music video.