The mighty Carlton Melton have been trailblazers in psych rock since the late 2000s, putting out revelatory rock albums that play with sounds as varied as 60s fuzz guitars, 70s experimental, and ambient textures that encapsulate 50 years of forward-thinking music.
But like every great trailblazer, you gotta start somewhere.
For the Melton crew it was in a geodesic dome in the California wilderness back in 2008. It wasn’t a “gig” per say, but more of a gathering of friends and like-minded souls to play, in the band’s own words, “head music”. Get a little intoxicated with the wilderness, the wine, and some smoke and plug in and go. See where the vibes take you. With the towering trees above, that geodesic dome must have seemed like some rocking space station in the middle of nowhere. Two of Melton’s future members were there that night, Rich Millman(guitar/synth) and Andy Duvall(guitar/drums). There was a revolving door of musicians grabbing whatever was available and letting the vibes take them where they may.
Rich Millman explains more:
“Andy had brought up his guitar and amp and used it on ‘happy song’, ‘against the wall’, ‘full moon ridge’, and the bonus tracks ‘thirst cycle’ and ‘purer’ (extended). Andy also got on the drums for ‘fucking funky shit’ and bonus tracks ‘another log on the fire’, ‘speeditup’, and ‘rubbery room’. Brian got on the drums for ‘happy song’, ‘against the wall’ and the bonus track ‘purer’ (extended). Andreas stopped by and played drums on ‘full moon ridge’. I played guitar and synth throughout the evening. Some other folks stopped by throughout the night offering shout outs and guidance. It was a special night and eventually forged the beginnings of the musical group Carlton Melton. We hope you can find some joy and amusement with this blast from the past. Long Live Dome Rock.”
The evening’s festivities were recorded on an M-Audio handheld recorder taped to the ceiling of the dome. Millman then dumped that onto a Tascam 424 where he then made CD-R recordings and handed them out to friends and folks that were interested. One of those folks was Scott Hewicker at aQuarius records in San Francisco and they liked it enough to request a few cd-r’s to sell at the shop and also posted a kind review by Scott. This led to more CD-Rs being burnt and then that was that. Carlton Melton was born, as was “dome rock”.
Up to this point Live In Point Arena was only available at super high prices on Discogs, but thanks to Lay Bare Recordings you can own this piece of Carlton Melton history on glorious double vinyl. Not only that, but this version comes with five bonus tracks that weren’t on the original CD-R. So no need to drop $150 on a 13-year old CD-R.
What do you get with Live In Point Arena? You get to hear Carlton Melton forming right in front of you. Tracks like “Happy Song”, “Legion Of Doom”, and “Full Moon Ridge” are a looking glass view of what would come on albums like Pass It On, Country Ways, and Always Even. Or what would evolve into epic late-era albums like Out To Sea, Mind Minerals, and Where This Leads.
The recordings, while not high fidelity, feel very in-the-moment and visceral. You get the scope of sound and are drawn into what would become Carlton Melton’s sonic world. The dome lends a certain cosmic headspace here, giving an almost hallucinatory feel. This is loud dream music; existential drifting on sound and the spirit of the moment.