If you didn't hear Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Imaginary Tricks' debut album Skommel after its release last March, you missed the opportunity to experience one of the year's best albums, a set so well considered and executed that it felt like the mid-catalog work of a long-established band. The group's creative spark plug is Mike Visser, who envisioned a sonic expanse that touches on the psychedelic experimentalism of the Flaming Lips, Deerhunter and My Morning Jacket while maintaining a skewed foot in more conventional Soul and Pop camps. Visser possesses the vocal qualities of some of Rock's most memorably innovative singers; the impassioned croon of Rufus Wainwright, the emotional swing and wry humor of Ray Davies, the slightly unnerving introspection of David Byrne. As a result, Skommel bears the distinctive marks of a fearless studio scientist at home with exploring music's outer fringes and a Pop/Rock auteur with a firm grip on influence and translation.
Prior to Imaginary Tricks, Visser was the guitarist/vocalist for a Sacramento-based jazzy Alt.Rock trio called Frank Jordan, that got some healthy buzz from opening slots for Dr. Dog, Grandaddy and Jimmy Eat World, among others. After the dissolution of Frank Jordan, Visser went cross country and crashed with friend Chrstopher Watson at his Pennsylvania home; Watson eventually founded the Friendship Fever label, and signed Imaginary Tricks. When Visser moved to New York, he started a new solo project called Springs, and also began doing solo shows; the only Springs album to date was released in 2012 and featured members of Dr. Dog as the backing band. To shake off another case of the musical doldrums, Visser moved to Los Angeles and discovered the genius of SK Kakraba, a master of the gyil – the Ghanan version of a xylophone – and from recording with Kakraba, Visser learned how to play guitar rhythmically, something he had never done before.
Imaginary Tricks received a good deal of well-deserved praise last year, but certainly not the level of attention that should have accompanied its release. With any luck, Visser's current tour will reignite interest in an incredible band, its amazing debut album and its astonishingly talented frontman.