Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

Wax Machine – “Birdsong”

A second peek behind the upcoming Wax Machine album dives deeper into the band’s lysergic depths, ferreting out their jazz impulses and melting them into the furthest reaches of acid psych. “Bird Song” is a damp, mossy cut that finds the band crawling from the coven of fuzz-ravaged West Coast psych into the arms of their own UK folk experimenters. With Joe Boyd’s specter casting a shadow over the track, the band creeps down the same caverns as Susan Christie or even Fairport Convention at their furtherst reaches of unconventional burn. The song stands as a highlight in their upcoming LP. As with like-minded souls such as Dungen before them, they aim to create a studied absorption of ‘60s eclecticism and give it life in a new era. The LP lands March 20th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.




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Elkhorn

This one’s been eking out piecemeal over the last couple of months, but to be honest, its hard to take The Storm Sessions as pieces. Since, essentially, the entirety of the record was put together as longform improvisations, the spontaneity and flow of the songs should hit the listener with the same fluid intensity in which they were conceived. The Storm Sessions is a journey one shouldn’t disembark lightly. Joined by longtime friend and collaborator Turner Williams (Ramble Tamble, Guardian Alien) in the sequestered aftermath of foul weather, the two sides play out with an appropriate ache of isolation that such circumstances might imply. At the heart of “Electric One” and “Electric Two” lies the interplay between Jesse Sheppard and Drew Gardner on acoustic and electric guitars, their strings as usual, locked into a sonic dive through the dark heart of desperation. Sheppard’s tangle of notes sings in hypnotic, soothing motion before Gardner lets into the improvs with an incandescent electric burn, lending a burnt plastic parlance to portions of the set.

Weaving his way through is Williams who adds shading to the cold confines of the storm with electric bouzouki and shahi baaja. This past autumn I saw Williams lay into the latter on stage with Jesse and it’s a sight to behold. Prowess aside though, Williams is a master collaborator adept at letting his playing lay a bedrock for these improvisations. On the A-side, his playing buzzes around Drew and Jesse in calligraphic embellishment. On the flip, he lays down a thrum that acts as an anchor pulling the two back from the cliff’s edge. Strung together, the three craft an album that’s as engrossing as their double set from last year, records that already stand out at the top of their catalog. With this, they’ve proven that even without planning to, they have the ability to outpace many of their peers with a sheer force of will. We’re barely a month into the year, but this already feels like a defining moment for 2020 musically.


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Wax Machine – “Shade”

Been in love with the sounds of Brighton’s Wax Machine since I heard them last year and its great news that they’re about to kick out a new LP for Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The band shares a lot of psychedelic DNA with Canadian carousers Badge Époque Ensemble, bridging folk, jazz, and psychedelia like a band dropped out of time. “Shade” is one of their best, laying down a velveteen slink of a groove and lacing it with flutes before diving deep into the vortex of echoplex perfection. While the band has a pretty hard tether to the ‘60s, they’re pulling the countercultural kernel forward to melt the madness of 2020. The band is pure vibe, an aura of cold humidity begging the body to slow down and sink in. The record was produced by Go Kurasawa from Kikagaku Moyo, and the like-minded psych warrior helps bring that aura to full glow. The record rises from the mists at BBiB on 3/20. Saxophone psych is 2019 in the rearview, full steam flute-psych for 2020.

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Six Organs of Admittance – “Haunted and Known”

Breaking away from his run of Hexadic records, Ben Chasny returns to the fold as Six Organs of Admittance, knocking loose the ash from the air with his psych-folk slink. There’s no incendiary burn on “Haunted and Known,” just the slow stalk of Chasny’s guitar and an undercurrent of creeping unease. The track is consumed by fuzzed orchestration as it works on, pulling the listener under the oceanic pulse of Chasnys writing. The song, along with the previously released “Two Forms Moving” separate themselves from Chasny’s recent efforts, eschewing the hard-to-penetrate complexity of Hexadic and the clear-cut singe of “Burning the Threshold.” There’s a calmer veneer, even when the menace envelops the edges. This is a languid look at Six Organs and it feels like a balm on a bad year. The record is out 2/21 on Drag City.




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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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