The Crystal Spider

A compendium of known information regarding an anonymous artist whose recordings include:

Terry Rojvi, Jim Collins Music Performed By The High Mass, Boots/C.C/Snake & Remus Box: Untitled/Live At The Rainbows End/No Tape Outside, Arian Sample Self Titled, Tommy Roundtree Jungle Blood, Gary K. Open Air Ceremony, Various Artists RT. 1 BOX 320- A, Harry Cologne Loose Hill and Wallace Drury Shithouse Wings.


A voice that will send a chill down your spine, music that will put you instantly under its spell, lyrics that are by turns cryptic, religious, personal, humorous, disturbing and pleading. Since the late 1990s a mysterious artist has been quietly releasing some of the greatest works of modern psychedelia under a variety of assumed names. This page is an attempt to gather all known information about this artist.

None of what you will read on this page is 100% confirmed (including release dates).

There has be some willful obfuscation by record dealers regarding the provenance of these works, as well as severe price gouging, but unlike many private press LPs of days yore, where you are left wondering what all the hype was about, this stuff is the real deal. All of the mystery surrounding the music itself is somehow appropriate for an artist who has been masking his identity for nearly two decades, releasing his music under different pseudonyms on a variety of non existent record labels.

Though this man's work could be said to be made in the pursuit of truth, I have no intentions of revealing his identity. I do very much hope that the existence of this page and that fact that it receives many thousands of hits per year will encourage him to continue on with his mission, however dark and possibly deleterious to his health and sanity it may be.


Known Discography 
More detailed information on albums and track listing on discogs.com
AUDIO HERE "do whatever you want with it..." updated 2016
LYRICS being updated slowly

The Surprise Symphony CD/LATHE (Blackberry Records 1998)

 
Magic Island Small CD (1998 Blackberry Records/Captain Trips)
Jim Collins Music Performed By The High Mass LP (Prosper Records 2001)


Terry Rojvi LP (Noose 2002)


Life Lives 
LP (Delta Records 2004)


Zelda Rising LP (Community Records 2004)

 
Boots Self Titled (Black Lead) C.C Live At The Rainbows End (Soft Coffin) / Snake & Remus No Tape Outside (Flash Records) - Box 3LP (HP Cycle 2006) released individually circa 2004

Arian Sample Self Titled LP (Hogs On Ice 2007)

Tommy Roundtree Jungle Blood LP (Free Ride 2007) 

Gary K. Open Air Ceremony LP (Grayscale 2010)


Various Artists RT. 1 BOX 320- A 10 x 7" EP (2013)
Carlos Calderon Next One Is Real 7" (Roll Over)
Carly Farr Untitled 7" 
Ray Diaz Untitled 7" (True Sister)
Charlie Waters Bridge Report 7" (Bend Or Break Entertainment)
Mark Lay Untitled 7" 
John Soderquist Untitled 7" (Constant Music)
Greg Pompeii Untitled 7" (Fossick Music Ltd.)
Huey Long Untitled 7" (Rethinking Punishment)
J. Romero Words And Music By J. Romero 7" (While It Lasts)
Charles Jerome Slow Cars / Red Flags 7" (Diminishing Returns)

Harry Cologne Loose Hill LP (Wilson Spider 2015)


Wallace Drury Shithouse Wings LP (Park and Orange 2015)


Some Day Soon LP (Hill Records 2015)

Some Notes:


CD Releases
Our mystery man began his recording career in earnest during the mid 1990s, releasing at least two albums on his own Chicago-based label, Blackberry Recordings, but our story starts in Louisiana. It seems as though this music was the byproduct of a rather heady scene going on down in the bayou, centered around the musician Damien Youth. Damien's house was called "The Compound" and it was here where this music was born. Here is what Youth has to say about the place:

The compound used to be my blood family’s house and land. When I was fifteen, they moved away and I stayed behind. Ten years later, it was a cosmic compound, filled with artists and junkies - people that just wanted to drop out, do acid, work on projects and then build a fire at night and all come down together. Being that this was all taking place in a small southern town, the rumor spread fast that I was the local Charles Manson and everyone at the compound had to deal with the cops fucking with us. It was a brilliant time but it was also very spooky. 

The Surprise Symphony and Magic Island 1998 CD releases are collaborations with Youth and other denizens of the Compound. It is likely that these albums were recorded there in the earlier 90s and then released few years later, after the artist had moved to Chicago.

The Surprise Symphony is the first known release by the artist, who used the name Robyn Nice when associating himself with this project. The album has an early Pink Floyd vibe at times and features the guitar work of Zane Armstrong and a female singer known only as Berkeley. The vocals and lyrics are by our mystery man and the music is written by Damien Youth.  Not all of the tracks have vocals, and the ones that do are sung in a hushed whisper. There was also a lathe of this album cut by Peter King in New Zealand.  

The anonymous artist wrote all the material on Magic Island’s Small.  Here he is credited as "Spyder." That disc is the "Madcap" to The Surprise Symphony's "Piper", with the artist playing piano and Youth playing all the other instruments.  Small is similar to the later LP releases.  The CD was released on Blackberry in the United States and possibly by Captain Trip in Japan (I've never seen a physical copy of the Japanese release, but I did find it on some websites). 


Vinyl Releases
It was in Chicago where our anonymous singer began to collaborate with musicians who were finely attuned to his aesthetic and the sound started to truly coalesce. He is the vocalist and songwriter on many LPs and one set of ten 7"s released since the beginning of the 2000s (recording dates unknown). The music on these records shows a heavy influence of some of the more obscure strains of late 1960s and early 1970s private press folk-psych.

Terry's Rojvi and Jim Collins' Music Performed By The High Mass are both the earliest and the most fully realized albums. The records themselves were first quietly distributed via the lists of rare record collectors Paul Major and Stan Denski. Some copies were also set loose on the world for non-collector prices by Clint Simonson and Chris Freeman. The Jim Collins album is a gorgeous, spiritual and spooky affair from start to finish and there is some particularly searing guitar playing and wild hoarse-voiced singing on the Terry disc. These two are in some ways the best albums by the artist, and they contain countless chilling and mesmerizing moments. One gets the impression from very early on that he is a man both enriched and scarred by the psychedelic experience of the Compound. Then again the whole thing could be just a big in-joke: fake cult psych. Either way, these two LPs are a good place to start with your listening.  


Around this time, the artist contributed one song to the compilation Pull Up The Paisley Covers: A Psychedelic Omnibus (Aether Records, 2002). Recording as Taurus, he gives a spine-tingling cover of Ed Askew's "The Garden" off the classic 1968 album Ask The Unicorn.

Box, a three LP set, is interesting in that the A sides of each disc contain songs and the B sides are instrumental jams or field recordings. The songs on the Boots LP are quite sexual, bitter and unhinged, showcasing a very thrashed out acoustic guitar style. The C.C disc has a more subdued and melodious vocal.  It is quite likely that this singer is not our mystery man at all, but fellow Compound character Chris Cologne, who had a CD release on Blackberry back in the year 2000.  I've examined that disc, entitled Horn, very carefully and I am fairly certain it is not made by the subject of this site but by the same man on the C.C albun. The music on that disc, entitled Live At The Rainbows End, is reminiscent of 1960s English Folk and features acoustic guitar fingerpicking. More vocals in this style appear briefly on the B side of that disc followed by the sound of a campfire with people talking faintly in the distance, perhaps a memento of the Compound scene. The more recognizable voice of the Crystal Spider reappears on the A side of the Snake & Remus disc which features acoustic guitar with hand percussion and a few droning backdrops. Also of note is that Box is the only release since the Blackberry recordings that is on an "above ground" record label. The whole set of three LPs was "released" by Canada's HP Cycle, though most likely they only distributed the release after the artist handled the pressing and packaging of the individual records.  Only a few copies of the individual albums have been known to turn up outside of the ones collected in Box

Up next are Life Lives and Zelda Rising, two instrumental LPs that have been dubbed "Cosmic Jazz" by some, are the main outliers in the discography for the reason that they contain no vocals and that they are the only pieces of vinyl for which the personnel is known. Both albums were cut during a recording session with bassist Matthew Lux (from the groups Chicago Underground Orchestra & Isotope 217), drummer Angel Ledezema (from the groups Midstates & Defender), a third member known only Brahm (from the band Nerves) who plays reeds and finally the artist on keyboard, chimes and general ambiance. The initials P.F. also mysteriously appear on the Life Lives LP jacket.

Tommy Roundtree's Jungle Blood is the most stark recording in the discography, being especially noteworthy for its focus on the acoustic piano as the sole instrument on nearly all of the cuts. For a time Jungle Blood was my favorite of his records because it wiped away all the cobwebs to reveal the true soul of the man. Might not be yours. Either way, you should only listen to it after absorbing all the other recordings. 

I would describe the releases starting with Box and going through Tommy Roundtree and Arian Sample as dealing with the mundanity of everyday life and in general having a pretty negative outlook on it all, though the records are peppered with spirituality and humor from time to time. Arian Sample again enlists a band, though they mostly play it very low key. He sings "I want to smell you burn," and we believe him.

A few years went by with no known activity before the mysterious Chicagoan released "Open Air Ceremony" under the name Gary K., though the center label lists the artist as Gary Keller. This album is the mellowest of the bunch, a spooky and often hushed psychedelic affair, with the mood drifting between paranoia and pure white light. The most striking thing about the record is it's more positive outlook on life in general and the opposite sex specifically, who seem to be represented in a more warm and alluring way than ever before. A female vocalists sings lead on one song and contributes elsewhere, as does another man whose voiced is overlapped with itself during a spoken word segment.  Some songs are enhanced by a primitive sampling keyboard (such as the Casio SK-1).

The artist's most ambitious and mature work to date is an epic collection of ten 7" EPs (totaling one hour and twenty five minutes of music), credited to ten different artists and housed in a container that reads RT. 1 Box 320- A. The songs feature our antihero accompanied by minimal guitar, piano and keyboard.

As of late 2015, three new albums have appeared. Harry Cologne Loose Hill, not to be confused with the earlier albums by Chris Cologne, this singer-songwriter effort is unmistakably the work of the Crystal Spider, as is Wallace Drury Shithouse Wings, another collection of songs accompanied by keyboard, guitar and saxophone. Both albums contain songs about what compels one to make songs. There is a hypnotic flow between vocals and instrumentals on these two releases. A third album is credited to Some Day Soon and contains two side-long ambient noise pieces. 

The mystery deepens...


Related Music
Kyte was a band that featured both Damien Youth and "Robyn Nice" under the assumed names Archie Kyte and Scott Kyte. Damien takes over vocal duties on the group's sole album, No Robots, so you won't find the same level of spookiness as on the other recordings listed on this page. The artist also provided support to Youth on his 1998 Blackberry release Bride of the Asylum.  Damien and Robyn had in fact been collaborating on projects as far back as the 1980s, including Men & Their Plants and That Twisted Look. Home recordings were made, although they are somewhat different from the other works that populate the rest of the discography and are for curious completists only. The Chris Cologne CD, which is not by either artist (though both might have had a hand in it) is somewhat better than these other projects and is definitely worth checking out for it's relation to the Compound.

Kyte No Robots CD (Zygote 1998)

Damien Youth Bride of the Asylum CD/Lathe (Blackberry 1998) 

Chris Cologne Horn CD (Blackberry 2000)