Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

Alison Cotton – “Shirt of Lace”

On her latest record Alison Cotton (The Eighteenth Day of May, The Left Outides) continues her descent into some of the more secluded reaches of psychedelic folk. As the title suggests, Only Darkness Now is stark, hushed, and somber, but the true moment of clarity appears as the record draws to a close. Cotton covers outsider folk icon Dorothy Carter’s “Shirt of Lace,” completely recasting it as a dip much farther into the bell jar than Carter dared to go. The original is by no means an upbeat affair, but Carter’s dulcimer gives the song a stately brush of English folk. For her rendition, Cotton balances synth drone that resonates in the listener’s bones with her own spectral delivery. Draped in a cavernous capture, Cotton’s voice seems to pierce the veil between another plane and our own. The song is still echoing the English folk traditions, but now it seems to be caught between the echoes themselves. The album is out now Bloxham Tapes.



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Wednesday Knudsen & Willie Lane

Back about a year ago, Wednesday Knudsen (The Pigeons, Weeping Bong Band) and Willie Lane (The Golden Road, Elkhorn) released a duo set on Black Dirt Studios in-house label Natch. The set was a highlight from both artists, combining Lane’s slippery guitar blues with Knudesen’s ability to mold atmospherics from electric guitar, alto saxophone, and flute. Their dynamic is symbiotic, each pushing the record further into dark corners of spectral loneliness, fusing folk and psychedelic jazz into something a bit more protean than either. The pieces hang on the air in cold humidity — wounded, weary, but engrossing in a way that’s hard to shake. The pieces feel instantly canonical to something older than the players. Its a record that has hold of the central root of psychedelic sprawl.

The record is the first (of hopefully many) on the new Feeding Tube sub-label Drowned Lands, headed up by Black Dirt’s Jason Meagher. The Natch series alone provides a good amount of fodder, and I’m holding out that the Garcia Peoples and Hans Chew LP is next, but this is as good a place as any to start. The players have deep roots in the Hudson/Pioneer Valley psych scene, and this is too good a set to simply hold sway over the digital realm. With a proper LP entry as mark 001 in the Drowned Lands catalog, this is both a statement of purpose and a deserved pressing of a fantastic document of two top artists at work.




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rootless – “Lost At Sea”

While the Flower Room family largely encompasses the output of Matt Lajoie and Ash Brooks, it’s great to see that a recent tour with Jeremy Hurewitz’s rootless has lead him to enter into the ranks of the label. While he’s released some lovely tapes on Aural Canyon, Hypnic Tapes, and Null Zone, this LP opens up a new chapter for rootless. Hurewitz’ meditative, patient guitar lines still grace the headspace, but this time the set is augmented by the haunting, yet perfect touches of instrumentation provided by Mexican musician and folklorist Luís Pérez Ixoneztli. Luís Pérez’s prowess comes in subtle waves, adding all manner of pre-Columbian ocarinas, whistles and shakers to the record and they carry with them an earthen ache that sets this track and album apart from the rootless catalog. Docile Cobras arrives 8/21 and promises to be a necessary addition to 2020.





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Jan Dukes de Grey – Sorcerers

Often overshadowed by its follow-up Mice and Rats in the Loft, which would see Derek Noy expand his compositions into long, winding epics that pushed the norm at the time, there’s plenty to love in hindsight about Jan Dukes de Grey’s debut. The group was formed as an offshoot of Buster Summers Express, which Noy had been a member of before he began working on his own compositions, splitting to work on his own band in 1968. When approached by guitarist/flautist Michael Bairstow about joining the Express, Noy instead convinced him to form the new outfit with him and the group began crafting Noy’s expansive library of songs into an album, eventually signing with Decca.

Cue the usual tales of underperforming sales and poor distribution. While the band did well on the road, opening for Pink Floyd and The Who, the record was met with tepid reactions, which isn’t entirely fair. While its pretty standard hippie folk for the time, there are some notable inclusions that push them, if not to the top of the pile, past quite a few of the more revered stragglers. There’s a bit of an early Tyrannosaurus Rex warble in these tracks (apparent in the title track for sure) and Biarstow’s flute adds some lightness to the record. They’d change labels following the release of Sorcerers, putting out their seminal Mice and Rats in the Loft on Transatlatntic in 1971. The band then shifted lineups until the name wore away, replaced by the simple Noy’s Band.

Noy’s Band wouldn’t find much footing and eventually that too was disbanded. Not would go on to play in a proto-punk outfit, Rip Snorter before trying once again with Jan Dukes de Grey in 1975 with his wife, Fiona Deller and a rotating cast of mucians. Through connections with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, the band obtained a production deal with Britania Row studios and put together their third and final album, Strange Terrain, which, through costing a small fortune to record was never released at the time. It was finally issued by Cherrytree in 2010, which brought a bit more light to the band among folk-heads at the time. Good to see the band’s early works getting the reissue treatment, though.




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Ty Segall & Cory Hanson – “She’s A Beam b/w Milk Bird Flyer”

An excellent collab up this week from Ty Segall and Wand’s Cory Hanson. The pair have had intertwined paths in the past with Segall releasing Wand’s first LP on his own God? Imprint and the pair kicking around the same L.A. psychedelic headspace. The songs were recorded five years back but they’ve held them close to the vest for some time. This week all sales of the single go to the L.A. Black Lives Matter efforts, so pick it up asap for maximum impact. The songs tackle the turbulent and soft-psych sides of the both artists’ endeavors. “She’s a Beam” has a sloow build before exploding into psychedelic sci-fi light. I’m partial to the flip, myself though. While the a-side is full of blinding flash, “Milk Bird Flyer” has a verdant, psych-folk feel to it, with Segall’s rather documented love of T. Rex coming through nicely. Soft guitar rambles are accented with refracted beams of guitar glitter that feels familiar, yet still thrilling each time they sprint into that sunburst sound. Fans of either artist will find plenty to love here.



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Ash & Herb

Maine duo Ash & Herb (Ash Brooks and Matt Lajoie) have been incubating a haven of psyco-delic bliss in the Northeast for sometime. Under their Flower Room imprint they’ve housed releases by both Matt and Ash solo, combined, meditating as Starbirthed and interspersed into different tessellations of the two — with focuses ranging from Kosmiche to folk. When combined, and flying under the Ash & Herb banner, the results can vary stylistically. Their last single hit on a Cosmic Americana choogle that was well received around here. Perhaps someday they’ll return to the grooved graces of that particular valley, but for “Roughin’ It” they travel outward, into the gaseous ether that clings loosely to this Terra Firma.

The pair recorded the bulk of the album live in spaces around New England and it showcases them pushing their improvisational itch into the furthest reaches of headspace harmony. The album kicks in with two tracks that buzz with a writhing energy — insistent hum n’ thrum that resolves into cosmic glances. They soften the approach as the record works its way in, not quite finding breezy but settling on a swayed hiss for “Mudra of Creation.” The song, and really the record on the whole, has a raw quality to it. There’s a vulnerability that feels like it hovers between bootleg live lightning and homegrown private press goodness. The playing is untethered, yet fluid. The band’s not wrong to label some of the nodes here Frippian in their approach and we’re all at the benefit of the mutable magic that takes place over the extent of this tape.

Highlight “Ascension Tea” rides the invisible airwaves through the small bones of the skull, reverberating the senses and looking to lock down the lysergic energy that we all need to get us through the day/week/month at hand. The sounds slip through the soil of our consciousness feeding the soul with a refreshing dose of damp psychedelics and free zone simmer that’s vital when the air fogs with spring’s sop. While this would all be a bounty on any day, Matt and Ash don’t let the spring run on just this release alone. Alongside this they offer up a new EP from Ash that’s every bit the equal to the zones traversed here and a bevy of outtakes too. Plus a stash of Herbcraft sketches that give context to Wot Oz while standing up well on their own. Check the label’s site and get digging into all that they have to offer. Stream the whole album below before it’s out tomorrow.



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Buck Curran

2018 saw the release of Curran’s last album, a quiet and contemplative affair that leaned heavily into his stringwork. The album, aptly titled Morning Haikus, Afternoon Ragas split its works between the Takoma school and the more eastern leanings of Basho and Bishop. This time Buck reinvigorates his focus on the lilting, fingerpicked works but also lets his mournful troubadour side shine as well. Curran cut his teeth in Arborea, whose fragile psych-folk feels as if it would be consumed among the grey skies that he creates here. The title track shakes with a clenched dread, but the feeling doesn’t dominate the album. Rather, there’s weariness here — sorrow and ache that seem overwhelming, melancholy that curls like ash on the air. Curran’s tapped into some of the same streams that fed Chasny’s work before he lit the fuse on the ragged wire electric burndowns. In place there’s no char on the album’s bones, just the winds whipping through the caverns of the heart, cold and lonesome but hopeful that home is on the horizon.

The singer-songwriter side looks good on Curran, and No Love Is Sorrow finds itself easing into a comfortable sway, even when there’s a lump in Curran’s throat. In trying years, its worthwhile to look at the love and let it overhwelm. The goodness can be just as daunting as the bad and the balance between ache of loss and ache of gain fights for control of No Love Is Sorrow. If your folk tendencies tend towards the doom-clouded or psych-folk fodder then there’s much to love here. Curran’s expanded his arsenal and let the strings stand on an even footing with his songcraft and furrowed sentiments. This one’s proving to burrow deeper with repeated listens.




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Family Ravine

Another lovely entry to Round Bale’s roster and a high watermark for Kevin Cahill (East of the Valley Blues, Peripheral Living) shifting his focus from the roots / Americana of East of the Valley, who last had a solid sender for Astral Spirits, to lighter landing psychedelic folk streaked with rain. There’s still that ripple to the stringwork that burbles with the insistence of water, but on his own, without brother Patrick, he’s exploring more closely the greyed skies of UK folk this time. Leave Every Single You was informed by a lonesome separation. Cahill expressed a sudden interested in cults, and those who leave them behind. Perhaps a bit of that sneaks into the narrative of the strings — loss of faith, seclusion, disillusionment, shame, and shelter. Whether or not you bring that mindset to the record, the icy feeling of distance and isolation weighs heavy in these hymns.

Cahill’s picking lays in stark restraint to so many recent acoustic releases it comes as a sort of palette cleanser. His shading is all nuance, no flash. There’s a clear skill behind the playing but on Family Ravine’s debut Cahill never finds its necessary to flex. The closing track is the closest that the record comes to an outright stunner, but its more the composition than the playing that hits hard. While the rest of the record is stark, not bone dry, but certainly leaning that way, the final track moves from the hillsides of the UK to the German countryside, languishing in the cavern pastoral hues of Popul Vuh and Achim Reichel. The track bounces around the room in pulses and waves, letting the ripples that Cahill creates wash back and forth on one another in cascading obfuscation. It’s hard to know where one figure ends and the next begins. The disorientation is a perfect closer to an album about life change, shaky ground, and uncertain horizons.


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Relatively Clean Rivers – S/T

While this is a low-key reissue in terms of fanfare, repressing a 2013 version of the latest iteration on Phoenix, having Relatively Clean Rivers back in print is always essential and a notable occasion in its own right. Now the squeamish politics of reissue labels apply here. This in itself is an unofficial reissue, so take that in mind when looking at purchasing. I, myself, picked up a version of this record in 2004 on the shady as ever Radioactive label before knowing too much about them. While I’d rather that the money benefitted all parties involved, this is an impossible grail to find otherwise, with originals topping out around 900-1K. The record was originally issued by bandleader/songwriter Phil Pearlman in 1975, self-released under the Pacific Is label. Pearlman had spent the ‘60s working with outre-leaning units like Beat of the Earth, though he’d gotten his start back in ’64 in a much less psychedelic capacity with Phil & The Flakes. Beat of the Earth’s originals will break the wallet just as hard as a copy of RCR and also suffer from a bounty of unofficial reissues. Built on a much looser thread of psychedelic float, the Beat records pushed into extended jams that put them squarely between the East Coast gnarl of VU and the West Coast sunshine of The Dead. Out of this Pearlman leaned toward the latter, whittling the jam element and embracing a faded psych-folk that would birth his masterpiece.

The band is a kind of talisman for the resurgence of psychedelic folk that’s exploded post-2000 and the strains of Relatively Clean Rivers can be heard seeping into everyone from MV&EE, Woods, and Rose City Band to Damian Jurado and Richard Swift, who covered it Phil on a 2016 compilation. The record is lived-in and rumpled in the best ways — swapping between softly rolling folk and psychedelic embellishments like flute, synth, recorder and backwards guitar passages. Most private-press grails get held up in status simply because of their scarcity. Ownership is more of a boast filling the shelf than a need to have it on the turntable. However, Pearlman’s songs are of the highest order, which makes this one’s intermittent scarcity and questionable reappearance all the more vital. Its a record of incredible quality and should have been a mainstay alongside the West Coast psych classics from GD to CSN. Sadly I think that Phoenix operates on the same principles at Radioactive (and may indeed be tied to the former owners) so that means that its profiting off of the backs of artists. This music is vital, and essential. That much I can recommend. I’ll leave the link because copies are available from Forced, who should absolutely be supported and because the music of Pearlman should be available to all who need to hear it in troubled times.


Available from Forced Exposure.

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Dire Wolves (Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band)

It’s been a hell of a year for Dire Wolves. The bi-coastal psych slayers have been on an endless tear for over a decade, but some of their best moments have coalesced in between 2018 and the present. Flow and Heady comes close on the heels of the vinyl pressing for their tour-only I Just Wasn’t Made For These Set Times and in an almost tandem issue with another live to tape recording, Knee Deep In the Buchla on Stoned To Death. The latter is from the same tour just shifting the focus from Copenhagen to Prague. There’s a rash of live recordings within the cosmic sphere of late, but with the Wolves in particular, being in the room isn’t just a matter of experiencing one of their studio records flung far and wide. Often as the lineups mutate and the song matter evolves, certain shows can contain the only true version of a song. A pair of hungry mics picking up the delirium to be experienced outside of the walls that were doused in the electric sweat of the moment is a reason to be thankful indeed.

Flow and Heady takes place, as I mentioned, in Copenhagen. In particular it was recorded for their appearance at Festival Of Endless Gratitude. The festival is a freeform, psych-folk gathering that pulled Jandek and Lau Nau alongside the Wolves and a good crossection of Scandinavian psychedelic collectives. Already primed for elevated vibes, the festival appearance divined a transcendent set out of Dire Wolves. Covering ground not previously explored by the band in existing recordings, this is an aura that can’t necessarily be replicated by conventional means. Not that the Wolves mean to use anything conventional. On this tour the band connected with Nik Rayne of The Myrrors (guitar and clarinet) and Scottish player Bell Lungs (violin, voice and bird calls) who both add an extra dimension to the European dates and their presence is felt deeply threaded through the set.

The album is anchored heavily by the title track which takes up a good portion of the first side — pairing the band’s freeform wander with an expanded guitar interplay and ululating vocals from Bell. The song hangs on their own particular ether and soaks in the damp humors of the humid atmosphere. They roll out of it with something of a ritual or incantation before pumping the calm out of the room for a tangled mass of distortion and woven wicker lines set ablaze in the Copenhagen sun. “Dr. Esperanto” closes out the set with a combination of the two — guitars still smoldering from the previous outing, but laced with Bell’s violin and a haunting bout of vocal apparitions. If you’ve stuck around here long enough, then chances are you’re already following the band’s releases with perked ears, but for any newcomers to the Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band, this is as inviting a portal inward as any. Bonus: All come with bonus Download Content featuring 2 extra concerts (Die Friese – Bremen – 6th September and Rhiz – Vienna – 9th September)



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