Posts Tagged ‘Herbcraft’

ML WAH

There are many sides of Matt Lajoie (solo, Cursillistas, Herbcraft, Ash & Herb, Starbirthed) but the ML WAH name is dedicated to a more devotional direction. Following 2011’s Ashram To The Stars, Herbcraft took a heavier tack, pulling more from Krautrock and the space spectrum, but Deep Roots is here as a spiritual successor to that album’s higher consciousness. There’s a deep body vibration to the album, shaking the chakras until the soul lights up like an ember. LaJoie’s hymns are covered in ash, ambling through the streets in search of solace, euphoria, or enlightenment. A clatter of percussion wakes the wound and LaJoie singes it shut with the slow melt of his guitar on “Santal.” Things take another turn towards disjointed stomp on “Wallah Sound,” where keys plunk like a kalimba over the heavy hop of percussion worked up to confront the spirit’s misgivings.

Though certainly rooted in psychedelics, with shades of Ash Ra Temple or International Harvester this record also owes a debt to the permeating pulse of Don Cherry. While the Wah doesn’t rock the horns like Cherry might, there’s certainly more than a touch of the mysticism that informed Organic Music Society clattering through its bones. This is one for the late-night meditations, with the cool breeze blowing against the baked-in glow of warm firelight. If you’ve found purchase in LaJoie’s past works (no matter the output) then you’ll already be on board for this, but for the free jazz congregation and the psych temple travelers, here lies an album that brings together the fold for a blissful bout of devotional thrum. Recommended for some deep listening.



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ML Wah – “Santal”

New deep vibes today from Matt LaJoie, who downplays his guitar in favor of creeping drones, midnight creaks of percussion, keys, and brass as “Santal” unfolds slow and sacred, rising from the deep like smoke through a fissure. There’s a touch of Turkish folk in the mix, but at its core the track exudes bayou vibes – a humid, hungry creep of eyes, rough scarred scales, and scattered bones. When LoJoie’s guitar finally surfaces through the haze, it slithers through the slick with a possessed gate, ambling and roiling against the thick air. Contrary to some of his tighter works with Ash & Herb, Herbcraft, and under his own name, this record comes closer to the peyote pulse of cosmic entanglement – dislodging itself from the yolk of traditional song format. LaJoie and label Flower Room invoke Don Cherry comparisons, and that’s not a bad place to start or finish, to be quite honest. Very interested to see how the rest of this one shapes up. The record is out May 24th and comes in some choice deluxe options.


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Modern Nature

Following the unfortunate fallout from Ultimate Painting’s implosion, the band’s Jack Cooper heads inward, which is saying something. His previous outfit had a particular proclivity for introverted indie-pop that felt like it carved a distinct connection with each and every listener. While he’s shying away from the pop aspect of his writing, that core connection and folk formulation remains on Nature. The EP, built on the cavern coolness of purred vocals and bubbling cosmic grooves, gives his work a psychedelic tweak, but its the work of someone spiraling down the depths of the unconscious coil rather than exploring the etchings in the dayglo painted stars above. He’s assembled a crack team to pull off his new vision as well, pulling in members of Woods, Herbcraft, Sunwatchers, and Beak on these four engrossing tracks.

While the propulsion of the title track begs Neu-nerds to come out of the woodwork, the track is self-professed in its allusions to the more experimental bend of ’69 Fairport Convention (in particular “A Sailor’s Life”) and the trend of bucolic English psych-folk toward the creep of drone’s embrace becomes a touchstone for the album. The opening and closing tracks are different visions of the same oasis, with “Supernature” taking the listener much further into the catacombs of consciousness. Elsewhere Cooper explores the sun-licked peace of acoustic thrum on “Flats,” and throws in a cover of the perennially inspiring “Blackwaterside” folk-tale, skipping just Ren Faire aesthetics that lesser artist can cave to and finding the meditative beauty that Jansch and Denny brought to the traditional piece.

Cooper seems to admit that this EP came out of something beyond him, and whether it becomes the beginning of something longer term or just a watershed to tide him through the transition remains to be seen. I’m hoping that he continues down this road, though. The experimental folk badge looks good on him and should the band begin rotating in talent like those assembled so far, it could be a great new chapter in Cooper’s pop cannon.

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Ash & Herb

A heady new project from Herbcraft’s Matt Lajoie, Ash & Herb pairs his psychedelic haze with partner in crime Ash (singularly named it appears), who provides some haunting vocals and lycergic instrumentation of her own. Not wholly divorced from Herbcraft’s earlier works, before they hit a heavier rock vein, the album wafts in on a puff of shamanistic smoke and settles down to craft temples in the woods. Picking out half ragas, divining rain spirits and then sublimating into a fine ether; the pair have captured themselves in some real improvisational glory. They catch the same spectral breath as Charlambides or Pocahaunted before them, finding solace in their own sense of time and place.

Tracks build up out of the clatter of percussion, feed on guitar and crumble away before they can imprint, occasionally picking up a lost transmission of blues scattered somewhere in the ionosphere. Lajoie’s early work as Cursillistas comes into play here, a band delighted in creaking and gnawing at the world in ecstatic bursts. He communes the same spirit for Ash & Herb, augmenting it into a smother smoke curl and pleasing some apparent Earthen gods with Ash’s harmonious call. There was a time when psych-folk went deep and there were plenty of folks poking around through the beautiful bliss of cacophony. Now, it’s fewer and further between, but Ash & Herb, like MV & EE, who head up their label Child of Microtones, prove that there’s still more to till in that soil.



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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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Herbcraft

Until now Herbcraft has floated in a bubble of serenity and drone float that was fitting of album titles that contained the words “ashram” and “astral.” They traded heady, nod-out jams like currency to a meditative student body, but on Wot Oz they’ve broken through the veil of astral float and plummeted headlong into psych churn like the rest of their catalog was just preamble for the oncoming storm of fuzz guitar and wah-shred to come. And it looks damn good on them. The opener “We’re Gonna Make It” lets on lightly, still tapping that well of ethereal smokescreen but by the time they hit “Fit Ür-Head” they’re running full bore into the torrent and letting the vibe lead the way. The record was born out of a taped warm-up session and its highly informed by an element of unrehearsed looseness but seemingly driven by hands that know just where to tread to divine the tortured pleas of the gods. The band has always been assembled of psychedelic travelers, but they’ve never quite hit the vein like this. Definitely their best look.

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