Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

Elkhorn – “Electric One (Part B)”

Its been no secret around here that Elkhorn issued one of the year’s best LPs, but the pair proves that a towering achievement such as Sun Cycle/Elk Jam is only the beginning of a productive streak that takes them far into 2020. Cloistered with their friend and collaborator Turner Williams after a snow storm cut short that night’s show the three embarked on a lengthy improv session that resulted in two side-long flights of fingerpicked ripple, ozone-smeared electric singe and Williams’ meditative runs through electric bouzouki and shahi baaja. I’ve seen Turner work that bouzouki when he laid out some improvs with Jesse earlier in the year and it’s a sight to behold.

The result of these sessions is a record that burrows deeper to find the cosmic thread than ever before. As we are again encased in the sort of ice that birthed these pieces in the first place, it seems only fitting now to light this candle for all to see and shine it out into the world. This is Elkhorn finding the thread at the center of the universe and spooling it out into ribbons of psychedelia, spiritual jazz, meditative float, and Kosmiche. The Storm Sessions arrives February 7th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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Enhet för Fri Musik

Even with the global connective tissue tightening daily in realms of music, its still hard to ferret out some of the best bits from across the globe. Times like these I’m glad that outposts like Grapefruit are looking out for me. In 2017 the LP, Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig was issued on Omlott, a label run by members of Enhet för Fri Musik and let quietly out into the arms of collectors of psychedelic folk and freeform ephemera. The band’s issued a few others in 2015, but this record shines as a jewel in their catalog. The record seeks to dig into the pastoral folk of their forebears, capturing the winds in their strings like Pärson Sound, Trad Gras Och Stenar, and International Harvester before them. The record is psychedelic in an organic way, not relying on effects or pastiche, but rather rooting itself in the experimental impulses of noise and free folk, spoken word, and concrete ideals. Its not reaching for acceptance, but digging for art in the frostbitten grounds of their homeland — a bracing, barren, yet homespun record.

The band and the accompanying labels run by their members, Förlag För Fri Musik and Omlott, remind me of their Finnish counterparts in Fonal records, a tight-knit collective that pulls light out of frayed and fractured ends of the musical spectrum. The record captures the spirit of a few of their alumni as well, with the intimacy of Islaja coming through alongside the inventive experimentalism of Kemialliset Ystävät and Paavoharju. The band includes members of higher profile Swedes in the mix (Neutral, Makthaverskan, Arv & Miljö, and Blod) but they don’t bleed over too much with these tributaries, giving the record something of a sacred harbor. While there are certainly elements of Neutral’s starkness, the band seems to create its own world nestled among the whispers of the fields. Grapefruit are certainly right that this was a gem that was lost on many on its release and as such the new issue is a welcome addition to a wider Western audience this year. As I sit locked in ice for the last couple of days, the discomfiting warmth of this record has been appreciated. Its like an itchy sweater, just enough comfort to stave off the cold, just enough irritation to keep you from becoming complacent on the couch.



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Matt Valentine

It’s been a bang-up year for Matt Valentine, with his searing second album from Wet Tuna landing last month and now the arrival of his 8-years baking solo LP, Preserves headed down the dock from Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The latest takes every incarnation that Valentine has inhabited over his years and throws ‘em in the blender, but don’t go thinking this is a hodge-podge, unfocused affair. MV grinds those sounds down smooth and viscous – melding psychedelic folk, with electronic swamp gas and lighting it on fire with the frantic freak foam of brain-bending guitar. This is Matt as his most potent, burning from the core and set to singe. The album blends midnight séance shivers with alien radio ripples, sounding like the FM waves have been hijacked and are picking up some sorely needed psychotropic solace from across the cosmos. Songs blend into one another without seams. It’s all one big batch of Preserves, steeped and sweetened for your pre-dawn consumption, gelled together into 40-odd minutes of melt.

The record calls up every acquaintance Valentine’s brushed against over the better part of the decade with longtime compatriots like Erika Elder, Pat Gubler, Willie Lane, J. Mascis, and Samar Lubelski making their way into the psychic seep of this one. The guests siphon and out Valentine’s sonic stew, giving the record a communal careen, but at the core is simply MV communing with the quasars one more time for good measure. It’s quite possible this might be the perfect companion piece to this years’ Water Weird — a moonburned coda on that album’s smoke-soaked blues. The two fit together into an extended fever dream hunkered down in sauna surroundings, sweating out the evil ether for all the transcendental sinners out there. Don’t just take my word though, the whole album’s streaming below and you’re welcome to get a taste of it yourself.


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Donovan Quinn – “Satanic Summer Nights”

Has it really been seven years since Donovan Quinn graced us all with a solo record? It seems this is absolutely true, though his collaborative project with Ben Chasny, New Bums, helped to heal the wounds of time in the interim. In that light, news of the upcoming Absalom comes with a sense of excitement and the first cut from the record, the twisting, epic “Satanic Summer Nights” sets the mood just right. The new album sees Quinn reconnect with a heavy cast of regulars in his musical universe – Chasny, of course, is here, lending a hand to mix the record, plus appearances by Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers), Jessica Roberts, Jason Quever (Papercuts), Michael Tapscott (Odawas) and Eric Amerman flesh the album out to one of Donovan’s heaviest hitters yet.

“Satanic Summer Nights” captures the whirlwind feelings of youth, the crushing weight of change, and the sting of betrayal set to a background of humid summer air. The pulsing pop twists and time changes give the song the grandiosity of Nikki Sudden tying together three of four of his best deep cuts into a pounding medley before collapsing to a heap on the stage. Given his roots in Skygreen Leopards, Quinn has remained an inspiration for RSTB since the very first days of the site, and I can say without hesitation that this feels like one of his most affecting records. Take a few spins through “Satanic Summer Nights” and look out for the new record on Soft Abuse December 5th.

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The Ivytree – A Pillar of Clouds

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year from the Ivytree camp. Following the excellent, if not to say essential, collection that Glenn put together for Recital earlier in the year covering unreleased recordings from 2001-2004, Tall Texan has a new collection going even further back into the archives. The extremely limited offering covers Donaldson’s works as Ivytree from 1999-2004, picking up some overlooked covers like “Blind River,” which appeared on a Tom Rapp tribute compilation put together by Jeff Alexander of Dire Wolves. The cover appears there under the name shift The Olivetree, though it’s unmistakably an Ivytree treatment at heart. It slots alongside nicely with a (sadly) timely Ivytree cover of the Hunter/Garcia track “Rosemary” from Aoxomoxoa.

There’s an alternate cut from the split with Chris Smith, but the rest of this material remains pretty much unheard and, as with the last collection, it’s nice to tumble down the rabbit hole of Glenn’s long simmering minidisc archives to slip back into the early aughts fog of psychedelic folk that enveloped The Ivytree. Repeated listens endear these tracks as deeply as early gems from Glenn, and if you’re looking to paint the full picture of The Ivytree/birdtree songbook then this one should already feel essential. As mentioned before, this one is even more limited than the previous collection (ltd. 100 on blue vinyl) so probably best not to mull the pickup too long on this. The cool temps are coming, and despite its West Coast birth, this is perfect for the smoke-curled hours that lie ahead.




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Wet Tuna

When Wet Tuna first unspooled their debut last year, they tapped into a primitive blues soup dipped strait from the swamp. It’s a humid, boiled record that folds one song into another with barely time to swipe the sweat before each groove subsumes the next. The band was built on the stage and they brought the deep zone groove nexus into the studio with surprising success. On the follow-up they still keep the cosmic tapestry intact, but they’ve begun to thread a few new strands into the tattered tap as well. The record is still living on midnight fuel, formed from their own admitted tendency to let the substances settle for a few hours until the balance is right and the clock slips past the uprights into the pre-dawn hours.

They channel this time-slip pseudo-seance onto a two-inch proof of purchase – a haunted haven of dank grooves to get lost in and vaporized boogie that cures the soul. Matt and Pat have boundless roots in the psychedelic pantheon, but collectively this is probably one of their most pure and primal discs. Water Weird is the cosmos captured, the burnt mind made good and projected through three layers of psychic meniscus into the ever after. Water Weird is the night made manifest and given flight over the horizon of infinite ink. There’s something ineffable, intangible, and alchemical about Wet Tuna and it all comes to a head with Water Weird. If this isn’t sitting atop your year end, then I’ve got some serious questions about priorities to discuss with you.

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Prana Crafter’s Will Sol on Terry Riley, Don Cherry, Karl Berger ‎– Live In Köln 23.2.1975

Last year Prana Crafter’s Will Sol released two vital parch-folk LPs for Beyond Beyond is Beyond and Sunrise Ocean Bender, both showcasing his mossy, forest-folk prowess mixed with a tenancy to scratch that wooded habit with the key to the cosmos. He’s pushed the cosmic tendencies even further this year with a split with Tarotplane that uses one side of a 12” to wind his folk into kosmiche delights. It seemed only natural, then to ask Will to contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series and see what’s driven his sound. Will’s picked a ’75 collaboration from Terry Riley and Don Cherry that picks at a peirod that pushed both artists catalogs to in new and interesting directions. Check out how this came into Will’s live and what impact it’s had on his music.

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Big Blood

Another one from the ranks of Raven’s past, Big Blood has been a bit of a fixture here (and on the old Blogspot) since back in ’08 when The Grove grace my ears. The band’s continued with a rather enviable output over the years. Following their work with Cerberus Shoal and the always underrated Fire On Fire, the couple has kept a stead stream of records and CD-rs coming out on their own Don’t Trust The Ruin, Time-Lag, Blackest Rainbow and Feeding Tube. The latter lands as the home to their latest, The Daughter’s Union. The album was actually recorded prior to their last Feeding Tube outing, Operate Spaceship Earth Properly, which came out last year, but with the band’s dense catalog it’s sometimes hard to keep track. The title likely alludes to the fact that this is the first album that fully features the couple’s daughter Quinnisa, and her contributions, as on its companion from last year, give the band a harder edge.

While the sound is a bit toughened at the edges, that doesn’t mean the band has lost their folk hearts. Transitioning from their early, wooded sound into more Fairport/Josephine Foster territory that gives rock a place at the folk table, they let the new heaviness seem in organically. Colleen and Quinnasa meld their vocals into shaky, aching harmonies while underneath there’s a renewed sense of rhythm and riot. The band tackles some unlikely sources for covers (The Troggs, Silver Apples) and they fit the album together into a psych-soaked vision of ‘70s-indebted rock that’s floating somewhere between the Laurel Valley and the Eastern mountain ranges. The record is another solid endorsement of Big Blood’s prowess – a veteran band that only seems to steep their sound further in their influences, interpolating them and weaving folk and rock into an inviting wicker warmer. If you’re not already coveting each new Big Blood release, it might be time to start.



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Mosses Release Microdose Cassette for Black Dirt

More psychedelic goodness out of the eternal wellspring of Black Dirt Studios this month. Aside from the Natch studio sessions, which have given us great works from Wednesday Knudsen & Willie Lane and Hans Chew with Garcia Peoples, the studio’s Microdose tape series has been killing it lately. First Sunburned Hand of the Man released a scant edition for Intentions, of one of their best to date, and now we’re all being treated to the first new music from Ryan Jewell’s Mosses in quite some time. Chances are if you’ve seen a psych band in the last couple of years you’ve seen Ryan on the drums. He’s just finished up a run with Chris Forsyth at Nublu in NYC and is barely taking a breath before he heads out with Olden Yolk on a tour with Luna next month.

With this cassette, though, his duo Mosses offers up a hell of an entry to Microdose called Speaking Mountain. The set, like all in the series, seems to move between poles. The band eases in with electric ripples and organ swells. The tablas set in and the tone goes drone as they get deeper into the verdant hills of “Herbal Wash.” The set pits Danette Bordenkircher’s keys against the groove of his drums, moonlit flutes filter in against fingerpicked purity. Bordenkircher’s haunting synths permeate the release setting it aloft on the ether, and she stuns wit the aching 12 string ripples on standout “Fever Dream Vacation.” For those who only know Jewell behind the beat of the psychedelic pantheon, Mosses is an opportunity to see him shine in a different light – full spectrum sound and glowing with a crystalline shimmer that’s a joy to behold. As with the rest of Black Dirt’s doses, the physical copies of these are in short supply, but you’re gonna want to get this in whatever format you can.



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Sunburned Hand of the Man

Trying to keep up with the output if Massachusetts psych collective Sunburned Hand of the Man is almost a futile gesture. I’m willing to bet there might be releases they don’t own. However, especially now that the band’s Bandcamp is a thriving archive of all things Burned in and their orbit its worth paying attention as older releases filter in and newer one’s quietly slip alongside them. Case in point, the band just lobbed up a real gem in their latter output this week, Intentions a micro-release that was recorded in 2017 at Black Dirt with Jason Meagher and intended for a larger release. It wound up instead as an edition of 20 cassettes in Meagher’s microdose series from the studio. Odds are, then, that this one has eluded your grasp.

The vibes here are decidedly less noisy than some of the practice space / small run issues that have been bleeding out of the Burn lately. Possibly closest in scope to their Burnieleaks 3 CD-r from a while back, the band is screwed down into some tighter woven webs of psych-folk and German Progressive psych. They’re picking up plenty of Duul nods and picking at the more capital P – Prog leanings of the great Swedish Silence label. What’s nice is the restraint here. The band doesn’t go as far out as they can and it gives this one a layer of polish that can sometimes get lost in the onslaught of releases. That’s not to say that this is a buttoned-down skimmer – It is still a Sunburned Hand of the Man release, after all.

They open the beast up with a smooth shot of sunset psych-folk, acoustic strums pulling at the ennui centers of the heart. On standout, “The Great Hope,” the band trades a grooverider rhythm with space-slicked synth spears and burnt-ends guitar scorch. They follow it with a “Coffee & Cheese” which sounds like an instrumental breakdown in a ’70-71 Groundhogs live set, on the edge of breaking into “Rich Man, Poor Man” at any moment. They blow further into spaced synths territory elsewhere, hanging some cosmic clouds on the set that pair nicely with the downed-sun guitar runs. “Agitation Cycle” might be as far out as the band swing here, but there’s still a kite-string pulling the band away from the paper shredder noise brigade they can get mixed up with on a typical moment’s notice. The set slides away on the loping grooves of the disorienting “Framework” and it clocks in as one of their best in a quite a while. Highly recommended!



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