Words: Elvis Thirlwell | Photo: Mila de la Torre
The last record from Noon Garden’s aka Charles Prest’s ‘parent’ band, Flamingods, 2019’s sparkling ‘Levitation’, impeccably capsuled that group’s spangling, psych-pop experience – that Sonic the Hedgehog feeling of zooming through loop-de-loops, fuelled by the constant dopamine rush of gold ring accumulation.
Something of that gladsome, sugar-rush sensibility is felt in Noon Garden’s debut LP ‘Beulah Spa’. Flamingods enthusiasts (I know you’re all out there) can settle nicely into much on offer here. The go-lucky scootering of the synth-chirping titular epic, the strawberry-lace funk of ‘Decca Divine’, or the irresistibly catchy weirdness of high-watermark ‘Dud Day’, share a certain familial likeness with Flamingods’ air of tripped-out fun.
Despite all that, there’s this ear for catchy melody, this penchant for electronic excursions that plunges Noon Garden into a world of his own. A total labour of love, ‘Beulah Spa’ exists wholeheartedly as an insight into the personal creative identity of Charles Prest, an internationally focused artist, with Jamaican/ Nigerian Heritage, and a Bahrain-based upbringing. He spent six years writing it, split between London, Bahrain and Dubai. He plays everything on it except the saxophone. He produced and mixed it all himself. There’s also the sleeve artwork that plumbs the realm of visual autobiography – the childhood pics posing with playground hula-hoops, the cool-as-fuck modern-day Charles wearing Sunburst Gibson and sunglasses like shining armour.
For what it’s worth, Beulah Spa lives and breathes as a noble artefact of experimental DIY psychedelia. All the smudges, scratches, thumbprints and workings of Prest’s very soul have been branded onto audio and left in plain earshot, for all to examine and judge. So, go ahead.