Guma

by Guma

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    Originally released as part of the Big Ego Records subscription series for Spring of 2019, available here in limited quantities with silver embossed numbering out of 500.

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about

“I want to watch you eat lemons in the belly of spring” reads to me like a Robert Frost character waxing to their unknown lover—cool, fresh, and newly budded. This was the first lyric that really gutted me on Guma. In “Final Form,” T.J. Masters sings about citrus-eating and about thinking of others thinking about him as his guitars cruise over Tabor Allen (Cherry Glazerr) and Ana Barreiro’s soft-yet-certain drum team. Anna Butterss (an LA favorite of mine) agrees on upright bass between melodic phrases that seem like just the right amount of conversation. Like when you’re excited about what someone is saying and you’re letting them speak and you’re listening, but ideas—responses—are forming in your head. You’re still listening intently, observing all the potential replies without feeling so inclined to grab one, and it’s okay to let them pass through you. “Let the temperature bring what the temperature brings,” Masters says, a blasé but somehow hopeful way of giving power over to something or someone else. Which is much like the way the demo versions of these songs, originally recorded in Masters’ bedroom, were crafted anew by a band of musicians hand-picked by Chris Schlarb (Psychic Temple, BIG EGO Studios). Total blind trust is always something I’m after.

The instrumentation on Guma feels indulgent to my personal desires: heavy shaker presence on the whole record, slick, clean and dry guitar, hard-panned snare hits, harmonies as an arrangement technique, and a blanket of trumpet and saxophones. Nothing too flashy; “pure and undivided.” There’s a coy connectivity to each song in spite of the band’s apparent effortlessness. I’m a sucker for a single snare hit as a fill--nothing more, nothing less. The horn arrangements by Alex Sadnik are wide and not overly showy, adding cool and concise stabs and swift, quick, teetering melodic lines to the already witty chordal makeup without hamming up the jazz tropes too much. On the out section of “Top Floor,” members trade fours over chromatic changes that descend, unexpectedly, while T.J. lets us know, “I give you the best days of my life.” (Perhaps a nod to those b-roll classic rock hits; I’m thinking of Kevin Johnson here.)

I asked T.J. a few questions to get to know him a bit more personally outside of the record. We had met once very briefly in NY at a mutual friend’s studio, but I don’t remember talking with him about much. Since then, he told me, he had moved to Austin, rebuilt a 50-year-old motorcycle by himself, and made this record. He mentioned being attached to the idea of his own demise, but to me these songs belie a musical hopefulness. I love the tongue-in-cheek plays on spirituality: in-jokes about death cruise over delicately silly percussion, Steuart Liebig's fretless bass, and almost ragtime piano on “Palm Bone.” Social media is something we all think about now (isn’t it?) and T.J. reassures the lot of us that we’ll never get it right. But I think he got it right with this record. It’s not demanding, and after about four listens I found myself humming melodies from the harmonized guitar lines in “Elephant Plant,” which reads lyrically as a horticultural threat to a house plant.

I wonder who “Spirit Glide” is about. I never asked T.J. because to me, it’s about The Truman Show. I think of those interviews where Jim Carrey tells us that he’s just a normal guy. Masters sings, “It doesn’t matter if you get me wrong/I still think of you as pure and undivided.” Perspective—it actually can be shifted if you try. Did Truman ever come to live as a “normal” human in society after he discovered he was being watched and duped his whole life? We don’t know! But holding something that’s been tainted in one’s mind as both pure and undivided: that is a soft approach to willpower.
- Meg Duffy, Los Angeles

credits

released March 15, 2019

Tabor Allen - drums
Ana Barreiro - drums
Anna Butterss - electric & double bass
Steuart Liebig - electric bass
T.J. Masters - acoustic & electric guitar, lead vocals
Tony Rinaldi - acoustic & electric piano, Hammond organ

with
Doug Fischer - backing vocals (2, 4, 8), shaker (3)
Evan Garfield - conga, bell (3)
Danny T. Levin - trumpet
Sebastián López - conga (3), backing vocals (2, 4, 8)
David Moyer - tenor & baritone saxophone
Natalia Pérez - vocals (2, 4, 5, 8)
Alex Sadnik - alto saxophone, horn arrangements

Produced by Chris Schlarb
at BIG EGO, Long Beach, CA.

Mixed by Chris Schlarb and T.J. Masters

Recorded from May 4th - 6th, 2018
Engineered by Devin O'Brien
Assistant engineering by Jason Chavez

Mastered by JJ Golden at Golden Mastering, Ventura, CA.

Additional recording in New York, NY. & Austin, TX.
Additional engineering by T.J. Masters

Back cover photography by Devin O'Brien
Layout by David J. Woodruff

All songs written by T.J. Masters
Published by Guma University Publishing (BMI)

license

all rights reserved

tags

about

Guma Austin, Texas

T.J. Masters is a writer, musician, and community radio host living in Austin, TX.

Small Cool World airs every Thursday from 4:30pm-6:00pm on KOOP 91.7FM in Austin or online at koop.org

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Track Name: The Next Time I See Stephen
THE NEXT TIME I SEE STEPHEN

The last time I saw Ray Davies it was in HD
And he was playing those songs that I love to hear
And I found 'em online for free
And it's not like it's difficult
It's something I think anyone can do

The last time I heard this record I thought the mix was perfect
And I don't even know if you like that band
But it's not like it's difficult to ask
It's something I think anyone can do

The next time I see Stephen I'm gonna thank him for no reason
That ship has sailed but I can see it from the beach, and I like what I'm seeing

And I don't even know if you like that man
But it's not like it's difficult to ask
Track Name: Final Form
FINAL FORM

What do you want to do with me?
I want to watch you eat lemons in the belly of spring
I could ask you to do anything

He doesn't like when I sing
Let the temperature bring what the temperature brings
Odor and rain

Every day is the same
I need you to know that I'm doing it right
That I so rarely feel tethered to my final form
My supreme way of being

Still thinking about the people that I want to be thinking about me

Fifth sense on the things that I like
I put hours and hours and hours into that bike

Time is a piston
And I need you to know I can prove it
That I so rarely feel tethered to my final form
My supreme way of being
Track Name: Palm Bone
PALM BONE

Great, another public wake under the belts of fools
Under the so-called rules of the union
Yeah, I saw that too-- the people I follow are cool
It comes up in my suggested videos

You can talk about anything
You can look at any picture of any person
You can see what they're all doing
You can learn how to do it too
But you can never get enough and you will never get it right

I struggle to get by stubborn as a mule
Why pay too much for school?
It's going to be with me for a long while
So I give it one time for the ones who've thought about shooting yourself in the mouth
It comes up and I suggest you let it go

In the desert alone is a palm bone
And it stands up on its own
In the house on my own is a palm bone
And I can't stop giving in
Track Name: Top Floor
TOP FLOOR

Red strings mean I gotta change
Because I want to know her
Not enough to know her too
Ankles to eyelids
I don't want to talk about it

If I try, I can remember that everything I want to write is on the top floor of my being
No smear of ink
But I make it a project
Just what are you looking at?

Why try to say it, you can trust me I was there
And there's quitters to be buried
Means I gotta change
Just enough to know her too

Body to spirit
Not without merit
I don't want to talk about it

I know, and I remember that everything I want to write is on the top floor of my being
No smear of ink
Fixate on the object
Just what are you looking at?

As far as I am aware, I can see the top floor of my being
Looks so serene

I give you best the days of my life
Track Name: Floor Models
FLOOR MODELS

Days grow up
And you make a choice
Time takes all kinds

Keep your voice
It is a physical history
The tell of the mood
Like a personal museum

“Let us eat”
I say it all of the time
But do you know what I mean
Do you?

Days grow up
Too much for meaning
See what you want, do you?
Take that one

I'm never bothered when I'm out
I've seen the big wheels that I've heard so much about

Keep 'em moving
Track Name: Elephant Plant
ELEPHANT PLANT

This is the plan
When it's over, take you in my hands
Run to the van
Cut you in two

Elephant plant
You look good, and I can't understand
Why you give in
I'm talking to you
In the corner of the room

This is the plan
I made dinner, and I'm washing my hands
Know that I can
Know my will and I will let it be you
Track Name: Spirit Glide
SPIRIT GLIDE

I remember they told us the train wasn't coming through
They put us on a bus, but I was happy to tripping with you
For a moment forgetting my blues

It's funny how life's questions are all about me
I didn't think I was the star of a movie, but I know I could be
I know I can put up with the depression and the cash money

If it's not what you're thinking, maybe you change your mind
If it's not what you're seeing, maybe it takes time

A stranger and a bride are soon united
It doesn't matter if you get me wrong
I still think of you as pure and undivided

Can you believe that we were there on the back of a round and rippled spine?
I was thinking what would he be thinking if he were alive and well-liked
Envy the guide
Pride of our dreams,
Supple and lean,
Made in famous magazines

A circle to the vine will be provided
It doesn't matter if you're doing it wrong
I still think of you as pure and undivided
Track Name: Wild Onions
WILD ONIONS

I'm all squared up with every woman I've loved
Each, as in every one
Know I keep them distinct
I'd given myself all the freedom of motion
What a delicate thing

I'm headed for the country

And this world ain't too big that I can't get around it in time
But I've got to get up
In the year of decline
It's not that I like being high all the time
But it's not like I mind

So I'm headed for the country

He led me outside toward the finest hours
Brought to my mem'ry caps that we devoured
Like the air of a culture under a rolling pin,
I can smell almost everything
The grass, the season's pass,
And wild onions he had found

So we're headed for the country

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