Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

Modern Nature – “Peradam”

Jack Cooper’s (Ultimate Painting, Mazes) new haunt Modern Nature announces an album to follow up their stellar 12” from earlier this year. First offering “Peradam” isn’t quite as rooted in the motorik mindset that held sway on “Nature,” but its still got rhythm on its mind and a sweeping sense of motion beneath the autumnal croon of Cooper and the soft scuttle of sax. How To Live is being billed as a halfway hideaway between Neu and Can’s German Progressive patter and the more lilting folk of Caravan. Honestly, I’m all in on the prog-folk permutations that Cooper’s tumbling through, and while this track has some fine charms, I have a feeling the key’s going to be locking the whole album together into a tapestry of propulsion and strum. The record employs some fine extended bench, with Cooper collaborating mainly with Will Young of BEAK> with contributions from Aaron Nevue (Woods) and Jeff obias (Sunwatchers). Check out the first video above and look out for the new LP August 23rd on Bella Union.



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Olden Yolk – “Grand Palais”

The second album from Olden Yolk continues to sparkle with a new single, “Grand Palais,” today. Not as driven and direct as lead single, “Cotton & Cain,” this shows a bit more of the band’s West Coast psych lineage. The band lays back into the froth of fuzz riffs and bouncing acoustics before that the sunset slide into twang following the chorus. The song’s bolstered by cap gun blast percussion and the soft sighs of Caity Shaffer wafting on the breeze before its submerged in a haze of sound and soul as it draws to a dizzying close. The band continues to push their folk-pop just up to the edge of psychedelic pool without letting the waters stain them too deeply. Each new offering from them is a giddy delight, placing the record far up the list of essentials for 2019.

The band’s taking the record on the road with Ryan Jewell and Frank Maston on board in the band, which is another great reason to get excited!



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Peter Howell & John Ferdinando – Ithaca, Agincourt, & Other Psych-Folk Fairy Tales

Every Record Store Day there are a flood of releases that no one in their right mind needs to own. There are a dozen or so scattered titles that are necessary portions of back catalog that just get a bit overshadowed and would have ideally made great reissues given some space to be discussed on their own. Then there are the real gems. More often than not these real gems get pushed aside as well. They’re often reissues or records that appeal to a select group of collectors and aren’t flashy enough to get pre-release press. Sometimes, though, the best part of this is you can pick them up in regular distro dives once the dust settles. A few of these found some critical reception – Brett Smiley’s Sunset Tower reissue on What’s Your Rupture, the essential Alice Clark eponymous LP on We Want Sounds. This year, however one of the gems that slipped by softly came from Munster Records. The label issued an almost complete overview of the collaborative works of Peter Howell & John Fernando to little or no fanfare.

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Fog Window

For those of you paying attention, Fog Window lives in the extended family of Devin, Gary & Ross, the bizarro psych trio who have been frothing in the fringes for the last decade or so. The players themselves have been on the horizon even longer. Gary Panter issued a single with the Residents, did design work for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, contributed comics to RAW and knocked out a Yo La Tengo cover painting and you barely thought to say ‘thanks.’ Panter hooked up with Devin Flynn, also a purveyor of fine comics and illustration (Y’all So Stupid, Adult Swim, Yo Gabba Gabba), as a duo LP on Ecstatic Yod/Feeding Tube in 2011 and eventually they pulled in fellow psychedelic traveler Ross Goldstein to the fold. The partnership set the scene for two LP’s of melatonin-mad psych-folk goo that’ll warp yer wagon if you let ‘em, 2011’s Four Corners and 2014’s Honeycomb of Chakras. They’ve absorbed a couple more campfire cosmonauts into the mix for the lovely sprawl that is Fog Window’s debut – with Lily Rogers and Curtis Godino of the band Worthless rounding out the roster here.

With the deeper bench the band expands the notions of psychedelic drip that and DMT satellite transmissions that DG&R have molded into shape over the last few years. The record is hard to pin down (as might be expected) and the styles shift like colored oils under glass. Rogers adds an ethereal touch with her high register folk fawning, giving Fog Window a dreamy quality on shimmering tracks like “Time in Miles” and “Hippie Girl.” Don’t get your head set on where this is going though, the band won’t sit still for your dream-folk fantasies. The tone shifts to campfire clatter, humble and hummable, and then slides through the silt into spoken word workouts that are half-remembered through the haze of substance, reality, and time.

They drop out of the dream entirely by the time we roll into side three, amping up the ozone past more than a tickle in your throat and knocking a bit of cosmic sense into the listener with a toasted blues shuffle that could take a tête-à-tête with Endless Boogie and come out sauntering. While I appreciate the whole of Fog Window’s mercurial madness, this side hits me just right. “Landing Gear” sets the tone for the second half of the album, which seems to slide further off this crumpled coil and into the wet ink wonderland of the band’s rubberized hallucinations. By the time the fourth and final side is upon you the ground’s gone gummy and started to rise like quicksand, but if feels natural. It feels right. Fog Window are there to hold your hand as you tip off the edge of this shoddy temporal existence. They’re sonic Sherpas for end times shepherding us all into the smoke on the horizon.

Check out a stream of the LP below. Double gatefold comes with a bonus newsprint zine featuring art by the band.



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Dire Wolves – “I Control The Weather”

Despite the band’s massive output over the last few years, you’d be forgiven for having missed out on releases from the mercurial Dire Wolves (sometimes appended to “Absolutely Perfect Brothers Band” or “Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band”). The band’s been running the psychedelic small format mill ragged with tapes on Eiderdown, Sloow, Sky Lantern, Baked, etc and have been bouncing LPs between serious scene tentpoles Beyond Beyond is Beyond and Feeding Tube for a small stretch. Yet, this seems like the year and more to the point, the release, that splashes their heady maelstrom of psych-folk across your speakers.

Returning again to BBiB, the band have released the first cut from upcoming full-length Grow Towards The Light today. The track finds the band locked into sonic struggle with the eternal vortex – guitars lashing at the wind one minute, melting in thick candle wax runs the next. Fiddle slices through in a nimble dance with the percussive roil and atop the whole churning froth, Georgia Carbone incants a vocal spell with words that seem utterly not of this earth. This is the band’s first turn without original vocalist Lau Nau, and Carbone steps ably up to the task at hand, giving the song a mystical push towards oblivion. The track is just the beginning of the band’s descent into the fray, but it’s enough to captivate with repeat listens until you get your hands on the full cosmic journey.



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Elkhorn

While they’ve been fixtures in the NY live scene for a while yet, and have been racking up accolades with releases on Eiderdown, Debacle, and Beyond Beyond is Beyond, this is undoubtedly the year that Elkhorn makes an indelible impact on the psychedelic spectrum. With the release of a tandem pair of albums for Feeding Tube, the duo gives two distinct visions of their doom-slicked folk fallout. On Elk Jam, the band functions as a proper four-piece with acclaimed guitarist Willie Lane and drummer Ryan Jewell giving Drew Gardner and Jesse Sheppard an improvisational backdrop to work against. This LP locks the players into a shaggy trip that weaves an even denser tangle of guitars than the duo usually finds themselves caught in and knocks their rippled runs against Jewell’s expert anchor. It’s an excellent stab at the Six Organs/P.G. Six/Rangda school of psych-folk freeform that would set them apart in any year, but they don’t let things hang on Elk Jam alone.

That leaves Sun Cycle, the dark jewel of the band’s catalog. Opening cold and frost-bitten with the slow creep of “Altun Ha,” the album plunges the band into the dark corners of psych-folk, bubbling under the skin with a high-plains harrow. There’s a heavier sense of danger in the veins of Sun Cycle, feeling like the soundtrack to a dystopic Western, where the stakes are high and hardly anyone’s walking off into the sunset alive. Lane and Jewell are still here, but they’re less foils for Elkhorn than hues in their palette, creating deep oil paint scars of cracked black and saturated blue underneath the brilliant amber runs of Sheppard’s twelve string and Gardner’s electric purple drips of psychedelic sorrow.

To say there hasn’t been an LP of instrumental intensity on this level in quite a few years is no hasty statement. Wiliam Tyler’s coming close this year, but Elkhorn are topping the mount. As a pair of LPs, there aren’t too many instances of someone stormbringing this hard with quality equaling quantity. Sun Cycle in particular knocks the band into the ranks of Rose, Chasney, and the brothers Bishop. If you’ve been holding out for an essential release in the first half of 2019, look no further, this should be turntable bound and locked down for the next couple of months of your life. Let its pain become yours, its briefer moments of joy salve the soul and its sparkling strings ease the mind.



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Sparrow Steeple

Philly’s Sparrow Steeple cloak themselves in an aura of psychedelic mysticism that plucks from the psych-folk and prog rock camps equally. Much like the worldbuilding bluster of Wolf People or Black Mountain, the band makes it seem perfectly plausible to run guitars through a melted fuzz wormhole, tack on blooze blasted harmonica and sing about Leprechauns, Wizards, Wolfmen and Whispering Woods. While most modern psychedelia has left behind the Seventies’ penchant for injecting their works with a fascination with fantasy, the band tumbles through their fanciful references with the renewed confidence of lit nerds who’ve updated from heavy stacks of Tolkien to the painted panels of Gaiman, Remender, and Marjorie Liu.

The band holds roots in Strapping Fieldhands, who’d dug through similar territory albeit with a bit fuller lineup, and the skillset of that band lends itself nicely to the Steeple’s jaunty, pub-swum anthems. The album feints for harder hills on opener “Roll Baby” – probably the closest they really get to the rail-rocked classic chargers of Steven McBean – then they begin to seep into wandering troubadour folk as the album draws on. Adding layers of clanging bells, stomps, and claps, the album sounds like it was caught live on tape outside of a tavern about 4 in the morning. Seems like the only thing missing is a holler to “keep it down ya bastards, we’re sleepin in here” as the album wafts to a close on smells of hay and horse fields.

The band is keeping the idea of the drinking song alive, opting for jovial more often than not but, they do go in for the occasional cracked-sky warnings (“Leprechaun Gold”) and potion potent head-swimmers (“Stabbing Wizards”) too. There’s something of a mischievous Syd Barrett Mad Hatter winkiness to a lot of their lyrical content, but they sweep listeners up in the moment so that it hardly seems out of place and before long, you find yourself singing along. While probably not for every head out there, the album’s got a growing appeal that lets an indulgence in the fantastical seem like it might be ready for normalization. Everyday’s begging for a cloak and some Moondog horns in Sparrow Steeple’s world, might as well grab a pair yourself.



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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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Sacred Lamp

Familiarity with Canada’s psychedelic noise conduit Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn may have come to you in quite a few ways over the last year or so. Despite having been the eye of the storm when it comes to Canada’s more experimental core, Dunn also proved that he’s got a tender tear in him as well with his solo album, Lightbourn, last year. The album saw Dunn slinking towards more traditional songforms, finding solace in Northern Lights country and flaying open his heart. While he did occasionally break out the burn on a few of this songs, the album a fairly different animal from the CD-r stock pile of an artist who’s spent time in the trenches with MV & EE, Woods and the more outre end of the psych-folk spectrum. Even more unlikely, Dunn was integral to coalescing the band that would back up Meg Remy on U.S. Girls’ In A Poem Unlimited last year, straying even further from his comfortable soil with a blend of ‘70s pop twists and jazz-scratched disco that led to one of her most invigorating albums.

He’s proved a versatile artists who can’t be underestimated, or pinned down. So naturally, his collaboration with longtime cohort Ayal Senior as Sacred Lamp is akin to none of these things. If these are your entry points to Dunn, then the duo’s eponymous LP is something more ephemeral. Built on an interplay of guitars that run between the blues ballasted acoustic and twilight divining electric runs that feel haunted by the memories of something just beyond the folds of the horizon. The record is forever chasing the feeling of peace. The LP luxuriates in the guitar, touching on moments that recall Bishop and Chasney, Basho and the collaborative combos of Steve Gunn.

Its a rose-hued gem of a record that should appeal to any fans of those respective camps or the long tendrils that tie them to several schools of fingerpicked and potent psych-folk. This one feels like it has the capacity to slip through the the most slender of cracks. I’d advise grabbing hold before it does.



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Elkhorn – “To See Darkness”

For the past couple of years psych-folk duo Elkhorn has been amassing a catalog of burnt-cinder and toasted molasses guitar gems on labels like Beyond Beyond is Beyond, Debacle, and Eiderdown. Now they stand ready to stun with a two LP set on the way from Feeding Tube that’s packed with their best burners yet. I’m happy to premiere the video for one of the set’s absolute standouts, “To See Darkness.” The track’s steeped in soul-scarred smolder, carrying weight of apocalyptic magnitude in its wounded fuzz leads. The duo’s interplay of fingerpicked runs and high-plains sonic pestilence is peaked and prowling on this track. Should the gods of the small screen ever get around to working out a cinematic vision of Jonathan Hickman’s East of West a wise seeker should tap the duo to soundtrack the menace of Death spreading across the salted plain.

The pair rightly accompany the cut with an austere video of them live in the room with just a somber backdrop of blue to buoy the track’s sonic slash. Captured by Eric Silver (photography) and Josh Johnson (sound) the clip shifts the focus to the power of the music without looking to flood the viewer with anything except the awe and menace the song rightly inspires on its own. The album set, Sun Cycle + Elk Jam, recorded by Jason Meagher at Black Dirt, is out April 12th on Feeding Tube, I’d feel inclined to mention how necessary these are, but I feel like that video might have just made my case for me.



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