13th Floor Elevators—
Bull Of The Woods

Released 1969 on International Artists
The Seth Man, August 2000ce
“Bull Of The Woods” was The Elevators last album, and despite the near absence of Roky Erickson (His appearance here marked by a mere four out of eleven songs) it is a remarkable album. It does stand in complete contrast to their first two Lelan Rogers-produced albums, “The Psychedelic Sounds Of” and “Easter Everywhere,” but due to its limited production the bass is confined to a crawlspace muddling midrange and the drums crackle with overdone treble while liberal applications of delay are applied to the guitars. This causes the band (already in an inspired state of cacophony) to orbit the clattering drums into a diffused, poor recording where the instruments are all merged into a fraction of the audio field while a great space hovers above it. Ray Rush, the aptly named producer, made the record sound like he WAS in a major rush to get these tracks down -- presumably before the Texas Rangers came knocking on the door one more time.

But even he and three engineers couldn’t contain or mute this album as The Elevators’ playing is so wobbling in its tracks yet vibed-up it shines through the dark forest of lo-fi, anyway. Caught as they were within the post-psychedelic meltdown in the wake of their lead singer and songwriter Roky Erickson’s incarceration at Rusk Mental Hospital for possession of marijuana, as well as the eventual departure of their older folk-generation svengali, Tommy Hall (he of the ‘doot-doot-doot’ electric jugging), it’s a wonder they were even alive. At this point, their previous release, “The Thirteenth Floor Elevators Live” (which was nothing of the sort: it was studio outtakes with “Got Live If You Want It”-type audience overdubbing) was IA’s way of at least keeping up the appearance that The Elevators were still a functioning group. But “Bull of The Woods,” issued that December from similarly assembled outtakes and re-recordings of earlier tracks, featured not only the 1967 lineup of Erickson, Sutherland, Hall, Thomas and Galindo but also Ronnie Leatherman (brought in to fill in a few tracks on bass) as well as a ridiculous amount of echo, reverb and an utterly non-dimension horn section that was used to flesh out an album that was largely in part the effort of guitarist Stacy Sutherland who carried the weight of the songwriting credits (five tracks, co-writing a further four with Tommy Hall) and swinging his guitar through multiple uses of delay that dissolve and scatter within the freewheeling looseness of this album. Unfortunately, the lyrics are by and large as mysterious as the cover itself as they are all supremely echoed. And even when they’re not they’re sung in a such a lazy, Texan drawl through echo that they could be singing it in Martian and it would be just as discernable. But the freewheeling feeling is highly charged and grounded; striking out all over the place like lightning over a dark, Texas field peppered with tall, polished aluminum rods.

“Livin’ On” opens up the album with Erickson’s ever-sonorous and yearning vocalising madness over a derailed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” Sutherland rhythm guitar riff, the drums clatter and the half-assed horns make the panels of sound shift even more so, creating a rhythmic holding pattern of no real definition. Sutherland is playing like Duane Eddy in an echo chamber with undulating ripples. “Til Then” (a re-write of the early Elevators number “Wait For My Love”) continues the crazy quilt with Don Galindo on bass, although you can barely hear him because the drums are so OVERRECORDED that they wipe out everything with a near distorted trebly tweak out. And Sutherland’s guitar is similarly taken into another dimension with all the extreme amounts of reverb that they emit more like laser beams that report and roll on for far too long. “Never Another,” an Erickson/Hall composition, sees the Elevators screaming out in spades. Hall backs with electronic jug riffs, and the guitar on the coda after Erickson’s vocal on the second chorus (you know, the SCREAMING one where he even outdoes James Brown) is all Sutherland deep tissue penetration, third eye escalating guitar structure that is endlessly unfolding and lotus-like as guitar playing got in 1968. "Never Another," man: even if the rest of the album was filler, this song alone would make it an essential listen. The Sutherland compo “Rose And The Thorn” houses a strange, hovering electronic echo in the back of the speakers, a ghostly choral and even an explosion (!). “Down By The River” ends the side with an almost Grateful Dead “Doin’ That Rag” feel, but murkier, darker and more mysterious.

“Scarlet And Gold” opens side two with a riff reminiscent of “Bad Moon On The Rising” over the muddy midrange bass with wooden cymbal tapping and wayward drums fills that stretch a canvas behind a battered yet heroic choral in the back over the chorus, interpreting the meaning of the words, lost as they are through Stacy Sutherland’s Texas drawl. “Street Song” is where the whole shebang really verges on falling apart at any moment: the guitar is distorted, the rhythm acoustic just click-clacks down the railroad tracks and everything is echoed out to sheer fuck with no excuse and no clarity whatsoever. Until...that heroic, tripping Morricone spaghetti Western theme that hijacks the song into a fantastically trippy, lurching mini-epic, like Stacy and the boys perched upon horses on a Texas ridge overlooking Rusk Mental Hospital, ready to swoop down and bust Roky out. And when they do, it’s a clatter of hooves --sorry, drums -- And all hell busts loose in a Sutherland-led rave-up of unparallel proportions, even for The Elevators. It does find it way back to the main theme of “Street Song,” but how...I still can’t figure out. The music is on such a high and wonderful flow for most of the album you don't hear songs per se, but only feel them pass.

“Dr. Doom”, opens with the broken down horn section, but Roky’s gentle vocals sooth and smooth it into place for most of the time -- at least, until the chorus, where the vocals get crowded into a botched double-track that barely holds on long enough to operate as harmony vocals, sounding all the world like a three-way conversation. “With You,” a song by bassist Ronnie Leatherman, is a brief, hopeful folk-rocker shot through with another elegant Sutherland staccato guitar burst.

“May The Circle Remain Unbroken” is a quiet Erickson song with a building, echoed guitar riffing a constant thread over Erickson’s whispering of the title, this darkly psychedelic track’s sole lyrics. The poignant sentiment is rendered into lightly tapped and echoed bells reaching over strands of organ while the helplessly echoed rhythm guitar strum delay continues onwards until the fade as a last bell is struck…the early morning holding promise after a particularly revelatory and colourful night. Unbelievably, it was issued as a single -- on the “A” side, no less. And with it, The Elevators passed into history as one of the best, and perhaps the first truly psychedelic bands of the sixties. But to quote a classic radio spot done for the promotion of this album: “...The spirit of the Elevators is LIVIN’ ON!”