'Design' is the third album of songs by Dig Your Own Cactus.
Dig Your Own Cactus is the duo of Ted Quinn and Tony Mason, with friends and guest artists Elia Arce, Fred Drake and Joe City Garcia.
'Design' was recorded at the Joshua Tree recording studio, Rancho de la Luna, just a short walk down the dirt road from Tony's home, Casa Blanca - the site of Mason's Back of the Moon studio - and Ted and Elia's nice green house.
Ted and Tony (Elia and Fred, too, for that matter) moved to the high desert village of Joshua Tree to make art and music away from the influence of the big city noise of Los Angeles. The music reflects the calm ambience of a place informed by the natural cycles of the moon and the weather, as experienced by people who spent most of their years in the city looking for a way out and finding it in creative expression.
The songs of 'Design' range from the mid-tempo rocker 'Pilgrim' - with a chorus of 'Yalla Ya Haaj' taken from the Muslim chants of pilgrims on their way to Mecca - to the gorgeous and sparsely arranged pseudo-Gospel, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-elitism, anti-ism-ism, 'Tolerance,' with minimalist piano and drums by Mason leaving Quinn's poem hauntingly naked. The tune is inspired by Nat King Cole's version of 'Morning Star' as heard in the film bio of composer WC Handy. Mason's musical accompaniment is pure Plastic Ono Band raw.
Between the opening and closing tracks is a 'lost at sea' sounding version of the traditional ballad, '(The Wreck of the) Sloop John B.' - which may be closer to the loneliness of the boy genius Brian Wilson than his own hit version recorded by the Beach Boys.
'Ride' is a surreal soundtrack to the post modern wild west, a poem by Quinn, punctuated by both a Minnie the Moocher piano and sonic lead guitar of Joe Garcia, the composer of the songs' melody, with the horse-imagery-laden chorus sung in unison by Quinn with Arce.
The fourth song, 'Shepherd Boy,' is a lullabye to Matthew Shepard, the gay college student murdered in Wyoming. Again, Masons' backing for Quinns' lyric, is reminiscent of vintage Lennon, with backing vocals by Fred Drake ('all that you give/will be yours...') and two young chanteuses, Autumn McNamara and April Bunnell.
'Indian Nuclear Summer' is an ambient piece created the night of India's first above-ground Nuclear test. No words could express the sadness of a place, the birthplace of the Buddha, developing the weapons of mass destruction. Quinns' sorrowful chant lies buried under an atmospheric aural landscape created by Mason, Arce and Quinn.
'Warrior' tells the true story of a night Quinn and Arce spent in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park, whose peace was interrupted by 'drunken soldiers, vulgar with power.' Masons' tune captures both the tranquility of the desert and the paranoia of the times.