Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

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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Woods – “Strange To Explain”

News that Woods has an album on the way was among the best reliefs of the year. The band’s been lying low for a little bit, letting themselves ease into their own lives and focus on the label and festival. With the reveal of the first two singles from Strange to Explain, though, they prove that their time to rest has resulted in one of Woods’ deepest, most endearing records. The band revealed the title track this week and it’s a bittersweet, yearning song that tackles strange feelings of familiarity. The band’s sound is fuller than ever, fleshed out from the early days of their psych-folk sojourns into lush orchestrations that nestle into the greenery of their Upstate environs. Woodist fam and RSTB fave Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, The Reds, Pinks and Purples) shows up on background vocals and the whole thing sighs into the summer with an ease I hope is just over the horizon. The record is out May 22nd.



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Mosses

On their latest under the Mosses moniker Ryan Jewell and Danette Bordenkircher run the psychedelic gamut, creating a twilight quilt of influences that all seem strung together with a cosmic thread. The duo wanders the path from dark and ragged psych-folk to kosmiche winds that bump the bounds of the German Progressive barrier. Threaded with a subtle ripple of programming that recalls Ben Chasny’s latest in places, they prove that no niche of the psychedelic spectrum is out of bounds to bring into the mix. Their songs sparkle with pop in places — laden with catchy corners that beg for repeated listens. Elsewhere the notion of hooks melt away altogether, letting the moment take them down corridors as twisted and tangled as the can find. The band’s no stranger to an extended outro, but that urge to explore only cements their status.

Though they remain a pair at their core, this psych duo brings a few more friends into the fold of their Karass, with Meg Baird (Espers Heron Oblivion), Arjun Kulharya (Aquarian Blood), and Robbie Lee (Kahoots, Che Chen) among others lending some extended instrumentation to the mix. While things can get downright dark (“Ahh Auspicious”) there are moments of bright-footed pop (“MSR,” “T.V. Sun”) that prove that Ryan and Danette can craft a damn catchy tune, they just don’t seem beholden to the idea. There’s even a moment when the band pits the instincts latter day Jay Reatard against a strain of ‘60s organ pop (think Jay covering The Standells in the bones of “Time In Your Mind”) and it works. The untethered nature of the album gives the band license but they never abuse it. Instead Mosses have created their best yet — a psych-pop dark horse that slips into your brain under cover of night and makes its home there. Each listen just opens this wider and wider.




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Woods – “Where Do You Go When You Dream?”

Well I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you about this one, but its not every day that Woods give word of a new record on the way. The band’s been working on this one for a comfortable stretch, coming in as their eleventh album after 2017’s Love Is Love, with only a collaboration with Dungen sneaking in between. Their last was a response to political shift following the upsets of 2016, but now the feelings have had a bit more time to simmer. The first single “Where Do You Go When You Dream?” continues to act as balm, but this is also a decidedly mature and elegiac Woods. The song floats on a breeze of keys, drifting away from some of the sunny strums that have marked their past works. Its a melancholy track, steeped in memory, family, and friendship. Ochre-hued harmonies, full-fleshed production, and Jeremy Earl’s wistful vocals herald an album that moves the band into a new phase of their career with grace and ease. The record is out May 22nd on Woodsist.



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Doug Tuttle – “No No No No”

Doug Tuttle’s psychedelic folk LP from last year was a definite highlight that left the listener wishing for more from the Massachusetts songwriter. Seems that he might have agreed, and to follow up on the album there’s a very limited (ltd to 50) single coming out this spring on Six Tonnes de Chair. The b-side here, “No No No No,” continues the record’s mix of dreamy psychedelics and country touches. Autumn strums and sighed slides meld together into a track that’s bittersweet, with an overcast tone that’s cool and calm. As I mentioned this one is scarce at best, but even if you grab a digital of this, it feels like an essential piece of the Tuttle catalog. The single is out April 3rd.



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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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