Exotica Song Of The Month: September 2012





Eden Ahbez
Eden's Cove






Eden Ahbez (1908–1995) is undoubtedly one of the most beloved and slated figures in the Exotica scene; only his album Eden's Island, released in 1960 on Del-Fi Records and my first-ever published Exotica review, does truly fall into the Exotica category. And it's exotic in a twofold way: not only does Ahbez's unique arrangements feature many exotic instruments, but his viewpoints and the overarching setting itself can only be considered as weird nowadays, merging the beatnik era with the hippie movement, his poems with sparse accompaniments, and the New Age feeling with the well-established rules of Exotica. Eden's Cove can be considered the ultimate song in this regard: it is utterly exotic and catchy, but injects a huge dose of Eden Ahbez's utopian blueprints and societal changes. It features the best of all aforementioned music-related genres. As such, Eden's Cove is as terrific as it is terrifying for today's listeners. The sound quality and exotic arrangement are enchanting, but the evocative vocals and suggestive lyrics are not without their flaws. I'm still quite a bit fond of this piece, as it manages to mesh so many ideas and styles with ease. Read more about Eden's Cove below, and why its seemingly tropical setting may carry one too many hippie wisdoms, that are, however, surprisingly applicable today, providing an interesting counterpoint to the ephemeral Easy Listening constructions and faux-Polynesian jungles that are so common in the Exotica genre.

Launching with an upwards spiraling piano riff, the female choir is immediately singing the catchy lyrics of the titular cove on the fictitious isle called
Eden's Island. And right from the get-go are the croaking, creaking guiro shakers involved, probably the signature percussive instrument of Ahbez's whole album. The warm marimbas are trembling along in the background, while Ahbez joins the choir as their lead singer. The lyrics are highly suggestive and sexually ebullient, so to speak, especially so in regard to the very early 60's that had next to nothing to do with the end of that decade. But these insinuations of the cove as a love nest for young people do have a second meaning that links in the boldest way to the utopian figments and concepts of the beatnik era, highlighting a society that depends on and actually cares for each other, preceding Alex Garland's successful 1996 novel The Beach  together with the titular movie adaptation by more than 30 years. The middle section is revved up, sounding more ritualistic and tribal than the sun-soaked marimba mélange suggested beforehand. Piano stabs, clinging tambourins and allotted marimba droplets altogether form the complemental backing skeleton for Eden Ahbez's chants which are answered by the choir's famous ooh yeah yeah, ooh ya ya echoes. The beatnik’s chants are actually slightly altered repetitions of the tune's first phase, but less lamenting and mellow rather than dynamic and uplifting: Eden has a sandy cove / where boys and girls will fall in love. They make fires on the shore / love is all they're living for. The final phase mirrors the beginning, and the guiros splutter as piercingly, the solar glint of the marimba glows as iridescently and the piano floats as mellifluously as before.

Eden's Cove is a special case in regard to the Exotica genre. It's the one composition that lets Eden's Island jump the shark for many a listener, and don't get me started on Eden Ahbez's toasts and spoken poems about his utopian world view; the whole album is loaded with these bewildering allusions. And still, Eden's Cove mediates successfully between the many styles and genres of the 60's: it's an almost propagandistic beatnik piece about the Age of Aquarius and the Wandervogel movement, but cleverly camouflaged as an Exotica piece. Its positive energies and New Age-intertwined notions are definitely extraordinary nowadays, but hell, is it a catchy and exotic track, as are the music-related portions of his album. The changed value system is hidden behind the suggestive lyrics – though every Hip Hop fan will yawn at them, naturally – and implies the coming collective try to change the established capitalistic system with anything but love and joy. As such, Eden's Cove is a surprisingly meaningful Exotica piece. Sure, we can laugh at it today, but the devoted genre fan might as well enjoy the arrangement, the bonfire atmosphere, the coves and beaches that are formed in his or her mind. Aesthetically and from a compositional viewpoint, Ahbez's ditty is top-notch and a truly unique Exotica piece that is less fake and more paradisiac than many a birdcall-fueled jungle piece. It's easily available on digital download stores, so give it a go. If you cannot fight your bewilderment, then so be it; Eden's Cove is very catchy, but also a tad too quirky for even some diehard genre fans. I for one am glad to like it very much. It could have been different.






Exotica Song Of The Month Review for September 2012: Eden Ahbez – Eden's Cove (1960). Originally published on Sep. 2, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.