The Special Pillow
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The Special Pillow

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Dan Cuddy's part-time, all-star psychedelic ensemble has done it again. While a seven year wait isn't exactly a proper amount of time to consider "in the wake of," Inside definitely rides the cosmic detritus of the Pillow's debut, Ancient History. Slightly more fuzzed out, and benefiting greatly from the production skills of Michael Deming (Beachwood Sparks), Inside's lilting, folk-y melodies shine throughout, as do inventive violin and viola arrangements. In fact, it's the strings that add most of the otherworldliness
to the proceedings, as the songs are rooted in a clear pop tradition. Despite the constantly shifting "The Whole Thing" and drone-drenched "Fantastic Light" that earn the album its true psych stripes, one can't help but feel a certain tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre, especially with an opener titled "Please Come To Our Séance" and forced-sounding references to sitars, teacups and ancient tongues. But syntactical reactions aside, Inside the Special Pillow is well worth the wait for fans of these once members of Hypnolovewheel, Sleepyhead and Run On, and a nice, warm place to enter to enter as a novitiate.

--Alex Stimmel
- From RESONANCE #41


After the dissolution of the quirky, mercurial indie-rock group Hypnolovewheel, bassist Dan Cuddy formed the Special Pillow, which is not the cuddly, twee band you might expect from its name. While the frontman's lyrics often evoke childhood innocence, that's usually to show something sinister in the sweetness, as with "Poison Apples," whose upbeat hooks and melodious nostalgia are subverted by mentions of "candy cyanide" and "jack-o’-lanterns filled up with razor blades." Generally following the "I Am the Walrus recipe for psychedelia—queasy insistent strings; surreal imagery; chords descending in discordant, unorthodox steps—the Special Pillow grasps what's thrilling and frightening in a kid’s unbounded imagination, capturing in song the moment that a coat draped over a chair becomes a monster in the dark. Not only do the album’s cello and violin shiver and warble, so does Cuddy’s coy, nasal voice, which slides and undulates around the melodies.
Despite two extended pieces, "Fantastic Light" and the epic, proggy "The Whole Thing," Inside isn't lugubrious, stuffy, or orchestral. Instead, the highlights—The droning, theremin-saturated "Nothing Important" and the country-tinged "You Can Do It (Just Don't Do it Wrong)"—reveal the band’s facility for crafting affecting pop. Though these songs work well enough on record, they come across even better live, where the Special Pillow goes with a streamlined, guitar-free setup, fully revealing the group’s ingenious arrangements. (Rob Horning)
- From TIME OUT NEW YORK, Jan. 1-8, 2004


The Special Pillow’s 1997 debut, Ancient History, was a marvelous blend of ’60s psychedelia and ’90s space-rock textures. Six years on, the follow-up, Inside the Special Pillow, offers pretty much the same, only with poppier songwriting and sharper melodic focus. As before, the Special Pillow is singer/songwriter Dan Cuddy, drummer/producer Peter Walsh and various friends, including violinist Katie Gentile and cellists Cindy Brolsma and Timothy Noel Harris, who add lush chamber-pop atmosphere to even the rockier tunes. The songs themselves are a fanciful, dreamy set of low-key, jangly/droney pop nuggets, with literate, impressionistic lyrics highly recommended for fans of Yo La Tengo and the Green Pajamas. (Stuart Mason) - From AMPLIFIER #40 (January/February 2004)


Discography

Tomorrow Night / Paranormal (Really Fast Racecar 7", 1995 )

ANCIENT HISTORY (Zofko CD, 1997)

INSIDE THE SPECIAL PILLOW (Zofko CD, 2003)

SLEEPING BEAUTY (Zofko CD, 2007)

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Bio

For more than ten years, The Special Pillow has been serving up songs by Dan Cuddy in a variety of flavors: sweet, sour, and psychedelic. The veteran indie-pop ensemble convenes on Monday evenings in a dusty and decrepit cell across the street from Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, honing a distinctive, string-driven sound, described in The Village Voice as “blissful and expansive.”
SLEEPING BEAUTY, the third album by The Special Pillow, finds the band streamlining its roster, sharpening its hooks, and expanding its musical palette. The pop songs are ridiculously catchy, the freaky parts are super-freaky, the heavy rock is extra heavy and rocky, and the quieter moments are ultra-pastoral.
Special Pillow stalwart Katie Gentile handles all the string parts on violin and viola and steps up to the mic for a lead vocal on “Blue Always.” Katie was a member of Run On and has appeared on recordings by Yo La Tengo, Antietam, and Tralala. She is the author of Creating Bodies: Eating Disorders as Self-Destructive Survival (The Analytic Press, 2006), and sings the theme song to WFMU’s Transpacific Sound Paradise.
Making his recording debut with the group, multi-instrumentalist Peter Stuart plays a number of exotic guitars and basses, as well as ukulele, mandola, and mandocello. He and Katie also chime in with plenty of harmony singing. Peter was a member of The Tryfles, The Headless Horsemen, and Wirebirds, and has performed with such notable acts as The Standells, The Beau Brummels, Blues Magoos, Mark Lindsay, and Richard Lloyd.
In addition to his steadfast drums, percussion, and technical wizardry, Peter Walsh introduces a subtly dazzling array of keyboard sounds into the mix and takes a turn on bass. A former member of Hypnolovewheel, Peter has drummed for Guv’ner and the Tara Key/Rick Rizzo Band, among others.
Recorded for the most part with Dane Johnson at Jersey City’s Grisly Labs, with additional sessions helmed by Peter DuCharme at NYC’s Music for Picture and Peter Walsh at All Mod Cons, SLEEPING BEAUTY’s wake-up calls and lullabies just might be the music of your dreams.