You Can’t Change was the b-side of the only single released by Nervous Patterns, which was a collaborative project of Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout, who is perhaps better known as the owner of Memphis’ Contaminated Records. The duo released one self-titled album on both Cochon Records and Contaminated, which had a small pressing of hand-decorated LPs. Good luck tracking those down! The two first worked together as members of Lost Sounds and based on the chronology of that group I get the sense that the Nervous Patterns material was recorded around the same time (early 2000s) that Lost Sounds was still active. According to Discogs, the material for the Nervous Patterns album was recorded at Trout’s home studio, the Tronic Graveyard. Before Lost Sounds formed, Trout was a member of the group The Clears, which has a cool blend of the aggressive pop-punk vocals with synths, which is a pretty good combination at least to my ears. Trout has also released a few singles under the alias Alicja-Pop, the most recent coming in 2011. Sadly, Reatard passed away in 2010, but lucky for us he was active enough in the Memphis scene that new great projects of his keep surfacing.
Gimmer Nicholson had been poking around the Memphis blues/folk scene for a number of years before moving to San Francisco in the mid-1960s. He recorded a few demos on a crude reel-to-reel deck and sent them to his brother, who brought the tapes in a brown paper bag to Terry Manning back in Memphis. When Nicholson returned from the Bay Area, he went into the studio with Terry-the same studio where Big Star would later record-and they began combining Nicholson’s acoustic playing with electronic delays.
I recorded on an 8 track 1″ Scully at 30 ips. Although most of the guitar is acoustic, there is actually some electric also. Gimmer had a Gibson Howard Roberts, a beautiful jazz guitar that is almost an acoustic (I liked it so much that I bought one a few years later, but I stupidly sold it when I moved here to Nassau in ’92). He played that through a Fender Bassman blackface amp, through some kind of guitar delay/repeat box I had, which had just come out. Gimmer was euphoric about the delay, and loved to set it very long, then play a phrase, and when it repeated, he would play live a copasetic second phrase, then do the same for the next bar, playing with the second phrase, and so on (sort of like a “round”). When we did the acoustics, I got the longest tape delay that I could to accomplish this. It had to be carefully timed to the tempo of the composition. EMT 140 plate reverb was also used.
With recording finished, Manning began the mastering process only after providing a rough mix for Nicholson to take home. This proved disastrous, as Nicholson was outraged when he heard this new, cleaned up mix and left Memphis in a huff. The album gathered dust and Manning moved on, but not before the sounds of the album would infuse other artists in that milieu, most notably Chris Bell. Manning released the album, titled Christopher Idylls on CD in 1994 on his own imprint, Lucky Seven Records, the first time the songs got any wider audience. However, the good folks over at Light in the Attic Records have recently announced a new vinyl reissue of Christopher Idylls that is available for pre-order and set to ship later this month. Gimmer Nicholson passed away a few years ago after years of working for the Red Cross, according to Manning. He had contacted him regarding some new compositions, but nothing materialized. It appears this beautiful release will have to suffice.