Nels Jenstad ‎– Ships / Moondog

Red Light Records

Nels Jenstad

Ships / Moondog 45T

Fri Form - Sweden, 2018

Regular price €15.00

Nelson Jenstad - or “Nels” as he sometimes shortens it to (a name closer to his heritage, as his maternal grandparents immigrated from Sweden) moved from Minneapolis to California in the 1980's to attend college. He has lived in the area ever since, dedicating most of his time to studying, playing, recording and teaching music.

During his long career he has proven quite a musical chameleon, but his first foray into recording happened in 1984. While attending the Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, Jenstad enrolled in a class dedicated to electronic music under the tutelage of professor David Englert. Out of this class an idea for the recording of an album was born, and a project spearheaded by the professor was initiated under the guise of an Electronic Music Club. As Jenstad recalls, Englert “saw the potential creative energy in this particular class of crazy and young college-age musicians” and was effectively “the brains behind the project”.  

Together, the fellow students of the Electronic Music Club would record and produce an LP compilation of their own songs under the title Synthesis Ltd. Opening and closing the album are the two written and composed by Jenstad himself. The opening track “Moondog” also features instrumentation by classmate Charles “Chuck” B. Gibbs, who is credited both as the producer of the compilation and on a number of other tracks. Nelson and Gibbs would later go on to form a “spaced out” punk rock band called Sincere Fibers.

On both the previously mentioned “Moondog” and the closing track “Ships” -  a sparse but evocative set-up of electronic instruments are used to create a chillingly present yet dreamlike atmosphere. 

What completes these adolescent school experiments are Jenstad’s heartfelt vocals. On “Moondog” they provide a melancholic and mystical picture of the vast and transient nature of the human mind, while on “Ships” the mood is more wry and theatrical yet perfectly in tune with the slightly bittersweet guitar twang echoing here and there across the track.

The album project, as with many private press efforts of this time, reached a very limited audience in the end. Few people outside of California even knew of its existence until recently, when the emergence of online communities brought together a world of hungry ears searching for the unknown spots on the musical map.  

Jenstad has since gone on to explore everything from prog rock, punk, blues, to ambient; and has released several albums online over the last few years. The digital age has somehow brought forth both his present and his past, and while Jenstad himself takes more interest in his present music (the OntoLand Project), he welcomes this newfound interest for his past.  

He does so with the request of a dedication however: to his fellow classmate and the production coordinator of the album, John Markert, who was tragically lost in an accident before the album was even completed. “He was a shining light in life and in the care that went into the album” - Jenstad states.