The artist formerly known as Larry “Machine Gun” Sievers is back with a new album of his unique original compositions. If you’ve seen an older gent wearing a black hat with white ostrich feathers out and about downtown Iowa City, that’s Larry. After playing drums in local heavy metal bands in the 1970s — playing so hard he destroyed his drum kit, as the legend goes — Larry has worn several hats (so to speak): Goodwill Industries cashier, metal music expert, flaneur and bon vivant.
For the past decade or so, Larry’s focus has been on producing instrumental music using second hand keyboard workstations, the ones with a ton of different digital sounds, with drum & bass auto-accompaniment. It’s safe to say no one on earth besides Larry has gone as deep into the possibilities of those instruments. Wesley Willis was a champion of the keyboard workstation, but Wesley really wrote hundreds of different lyrics for the same song with the same arrangement.
Larry’s musical mind is unique; there’s no repeating chorus or verse. Instead, he composes what are actually several-minute-long melodies that follow their own abstract meandering path through multiple unpredictable key changes. The song titles, such as “Nymphs of the Forest, Lakes, and Streams,” “Nymph Druids” and “Exotic and Erotic Planet,” give you an idea of the movie playing in his mind, for which this album is a soundtrack — but aside from song titles and cover art, the story behind the music is private to Larry alone.
Kingdom Of Mermaidia is definitely outsider music. But it is no novelty; over the years the sophistication of Sievers’ harmonic wanderings has increased, and it’s always a surprise when he finds the tonic chord and ends a track. The only thing preventing me from playing this (and Larry’s many other albums) endlessly is that the layered bell and strings sound he uses eventually wears out it’s welcome. But as a place to visit for a while, Mermaidia is pleasant, engrossing and unique.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 206.