Posts Tagged ‘psych-folk’

Ash & Herb – “Salt Lick”

Notch another win for the constant creep of Cosmic Americana and East Coast freak psych, Ash & Herb are back and things are woollier than ever. After a solid offering from MV&EE house label Child of Microtones, the duo have a new 7″ on the way from Maine label Flower Room and the A-side’ll knock you sideways. The band is gearing up for album #2, titled Dome Cookbook (channeling Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic vibes, eh) but before they go that route the band is kicking out a double shot single. “Salt Lick” ropes in a previously unfelt funk to the mix, pinning a chooglin’ beat to spacey keys and reverbed marinated vocals for a track that’s keeping pace with their circle of contempos in Wet Tuna, MV & EE, and Mountain Movers, while also feeling like a force all their own. The band’s debut owed a lot to the shrouded school of forest folk, but its clear with the release of “Salt Lick” that they have no intention of blending into the bushes by the time that second LP rolls around. This is a stacked high bonfire party track that’s begging to be blasted to the top canopy of any camp out. Too bad its January, but keep this on file for the coming spring thaw.



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Masaki Batoh – “Tower of The Silence”

Though he’s long popped up on contemporaries’ records, and issued a clutch of essentials along with The Silence, Masaki Batoh’s solo records have often leaned into a more experimental approach rather than bring to mind his days in Ghost (the one and only, imo), which, makes his upcoming LP, Nowhere so exciting. The album digs into the same haunted well that wrought so many lonesome, ominous essentials from his former band. “Tower of The Silence” is built on a tangle of fingerpicked guitar that buoys alternating moments of reverential silence and impending doom. Even counting in The Silence’s catalog, its one of the best pieces to emerge from Batoh’s catalog in quite some time, feeling like it must already exist within the harbinger hollows of Ghost’s psychedelic dioramas. If the piece is any inkling as to how the rest of Nowhere will play out, then fans are in for something of an essential. Check out the bone-dry video above and look out for the new album in February.



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Trimdon Grange Explosion

Forming in the wake of The Eighteenth Day of May, Trimdon Grange Explosion is an extension of the previous band’s psychedelic folk while also embracing heavier modal impulses that had only begun to pop up in within the members’ previous form. The band drags their hands through the waters pooled by Pentangle, Fairport Convention and John Martyn and pulls off the likeness well, but they’re not simply and exercise in revivalist nostalgia. Like contemporaries Espers or White Magic, the band also embraces the less Anglo influences that have cropped up since dark folk was the vogue in ‘’69. Within traditional structures on ballads like “The Bonnie Banks of Fordie,” the band embraces the sawing yawp of John Cale’s string sounds and the slight wobble that underpins The Incredible String Band.

There’s another shade that pops up on Trimdon’s debut, though, and it’s a woven strand of indie that’s not just a hangover from the Espers/White Magic connection, but hews closer to perhaps Vetiver in its approach. On “Christian’s Silver Hell” and “Heading For a Fall” the band keeps the fuzz, clangor, and atmosphere, but when Alison Cotton is away from the mic and Ben Philips picks up vocal duties the band adopts a bit of a lighter tone. They work the duality well, with Cotton letting the heavy mantle of murder balladeer billow her sails and steel her gaze and Philips providing the sobering shelter from her storm.

There’s something inviting about the darker strains of folk, subverting the form from storytime revelry to strombringing omens, but too much gloom drags the swimmer under the tide for good. Trimdon create a vital symbiosis between blood and bone – the paralysis of mourning and the steadfast necessity of travelling on at all costs. There’s a stately grace to their eponymous album that picks up the yoke from their former band without being beholden to it. Rooted in the ash and dirt, the band are steadily seeding the clouds to bring on a deluge of hurt and relief to eventually wipe it all clean.




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Simon Finn – Pass The Distance

Superior Viaduct has already been handling a ton of great reissues and overlooked essentials, but with the addition of Antarctica Starts here they’re expanding their labyrinth of sublabels to rope in a bit more fun. ASH specifically mines the ‘60s and ‘70s, though they’re not restricting themselves to any particular genre within that time period, which leaves this endeavor pretty open ended. While it seems like opening up the Viaduct brand to older releases could have been easily accomplished without a new logo and name, I’m all in on the SV folks getting into the vast pool of labels scraping from the ‘60s and ‘70s. As it turns out they’ve chosen a crown jewel of psych-folk for one of their inaugural releases, so we’re off to a good start here.

Alongside the wooded weirdness of Fresh Maggots, Relatively Clean Rivers, Pearls Before Swine and The Incredible String Band, Simon Finn’s 1970 LP Pass The Distance stands as a necessary vision of stream of consciousness, cracked-mirror folk. Finn’s sole album was recorded with producer Vic Keary at his Chalk Farm Studios. Keary had helped Finn record an earlier single, “Butterfly” that was met with solemn indifference from UK labels at the time, but the pair sketched out time for a fuller session to follow, hoping for more success with a fuller vision in tow. Finn had just met guitarist David Toop and percussionist Paul Burwell at a local restaurant a few weeks prior and invited them into the sessions. The serendipitous meeting would help to add to the record’s mystique, with Toop’s sleepy guitar curlicues giving Pass The Distance almost as much shape as Finn’s own lyrical loops.

The record was originally issued on Keary’s own Mushroom Records imprint rather than finding a home among the major contenders of the time, but the label suffered quite a few legal setbacks right around the time of release and Pass The Distance was withdrawn almost as soon as it was issued. Finn then faded from music, teaching karate in Canada and focusing on farming with his wife. The ASH edition is not, however, the first reissue of this gem. David Tibet of Current 93 contacted Finn personally to inform him of the record’s cult status among collectors of ephemeral folk and issued it on CD in 2004, even prompting Finn out of retirement for some shows at the time. Little Big Chief followed in 2014 with a short run LP, but this presents the best chance of getting your hands on a vinyl copy these days. Fans of the aforementioned folk outsiders, or keystone touchpoints of the movement like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett would do well to look into Finn’s fevered folk. Its not the most high marquee name in the genre, but it’s a worthwhile listen to be certain.




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Grave Flowers Bongo Band – “Birds”

Hoover III member Gabe Flores strips back the psych to a warm sunny burble on his own Grave Flowers Bongo Band. The L.A. band whips up a psych-folk froth that brings to mind Fresh Maggots a young Bolan’s T. Rex before he found moniker brevity and cocaine. There’s definitely a beard of stars at work here, and true to their promise, bongos. On “Birds” the band adopts the “faded demo from the hip” approach that’s worked well for their contemporaries in Paint this year. On the track, the band feels far from the pounded pavement of their L.A. locale. Perhaps they’ve pushed out to the Canyon and beyond for an off-kilter psych soup that’s built from the static transmissions of Gary Higgins, Sam Gopal, Trees, and John Peel favorites Tractor. Like the best psych-folk this one’s wobbled off its axis and sticks around to delight all the way through. The LP lands in full on Friday via the good folks at Permanent.



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Charalambides

I’ve mentioned previously that Charalambides exist in a kind of ephemeral limbo between psych, folk, drone and experimental songform. Their music often conjures visions of rites and rituals more than concerts proper. There’s something elemental about what Tom and Christina Carter are invoking. Their songs are scarred by stone and smudged by the ashes of ceremonial fires. In the same way a camera can’t actually trap your soul, the ½ inch tape can’t hope to truly soak up their smolder and infect the listener the way a dusty basement gig can, but Charalambides: Tom and Christina Carter comes as close as any to achieving the impossible. The couple have been scraping at the raw nerves of folk for long enough that they’ve achieved elder statemen status and their latest proves exactly why they’ve remained vital for so many years.

The band itself has existed, even when relegated to hiatus, for well over twenty-five years. Often Charalmabides recedes to the background while Tom and Christina Carter have pursued solo ventures, external pairings and guest spots on the works of others. Amidst all this tangential activity, though, the idea of Charalambides still burns bright. So, it is fitting that the album is subtitled Tom and Christina Carter. It is momentous when those two halves unite, like an alignment of planets that can’t help but throw elements into disarray. The record doesn’t pride itself on brevity. Most songs stretch beyond the nine and ten-minute marks with ease, never in a hurry to halt the ceremony the duo sets in motion. Songs tend to fill up a space like firelight, warm and flickering, alive, aloof and perhaps a little dangerous. There are those that go to lengths to find their conduit to the thrum of nature, but they’d be wiser than most to seek out the Carter’s gospel.

The record sees Tom Carter ruminating on midnight guitar rituals – haunted and heavy as Loren Connors and intricate as contemporaries like Chasney and Bachman. Christina is no less an indelible presence on the record, her voice reaching for the upper registers like Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan before her, imbuing their folk with a spiritual wonder that’s vibrating on the same harmonic hum as the nature around them. Its easy to tumble down the darkened paths of the Carters and get lost in the overgrowth and the dense earthen humidity, but there’s a light at the end that pulls the listener out of the dank. While that light offered escape, there are no promises about the changes that Charalambides inflict along the way. In a time ruled by wires and windows and incremental spikes in dopamine, the duo unleash an album to help it all crumble away – a dirt bath for the soul, an ego molt for the cult of culture.



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Charalambides – “True Love”

Despite longstanding solo careers and consistent collaboration, Tom and Christina Carter keep the Charalambides ship afloat and consistently moored in a precarious haze. In anticipation for their upcoming eponymous LP, their first since 2011, the pair releases the stark, haunted “True Love” With guitars ringing into the night air beneath her, occasionally crumbling under the atmosphere, Christina moves from whispers to wails, lost and lonely in the duo’s misted harbor. While the song may title like a love story, the delivery is more heartache than heartthrob over the track’s ten minutes.

The pair still have the power to captivate with minimal means. Their stripped setup has never won a loudness war, but there are some sounds that can’t be denied. Heading past their second decade, the band proves that slow and spectral wins out in the end.



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Ned Collette

Finding its way out into the world via IT records and Feeding Tube, Ned Collette’s monumental folk opus Old Chestunt is a spare and haunted record feeling its way through the heavy end of the acoustic spectrum. While there are some great players on the album, including long standing percussionist partner Joe Talia, and a cameo from Chris Abrahams of The Necks, the album is essentially a soul bared by an artist alone on his own terms. There’s a grey pallor that hangs about Old Chestunt, somber and soulful, craggy and careful. Collette brings to mind the skill sets of Roy Harper and Bert Jansch put to use with dry calculation of Jim O’Rourke and the steadfast intensity of Leonard Cohen.

At times he even brings to mind the storyteller soul of Lee Hazlewood, but Collette doesn’t share the winking humor or Lee or the aforementioned Roy Harper. Instead the album prefers the curtains drawn and the bath topped and teaming, with a curl of incense and candle flickering along with the strums. Don’t let that paint the album as hopeless, or dour, though, its contemplative, introspective and measured, but its not slipping down the drain with the remains of the bath. Instead he tucks in and revels in detached soul searching like the best half of the Waters penned Floyd years.

Despite being recorded over four years, the album paints a song cycle that’s cohesive and immediate. Collette captures a corner of folk that’s not been wrung dry over the years. The artist isn’t interested in the slightest that a song sticks to the listener through traditionally memorable means, instead he’s working to press it into the skin with the sheer weight of his writing. He has the ability to sparkle in runs of fingerpicking that lean towards the Takoma school, but he’s more tender than technical. He dips into the English tradition of Canterbury classics, but spirals the songs down a well of darkness that’s meatier than the Middle Ages could contain. Towards the end he looses the ties of folk altogether, letting noise and electricity overcome the atmosphere and bury the album in cinder and ash. Its not an album that can be listened to lightly and warrants multiple listens to let Collette’s full vision sink in, but once its under your skin, Old Chestnut is hard to shake.



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Prana Crafter

Its already been a big year for Prana Crafter, with a stunning tape for Beyond Beyond is Beyond released around the first bend of 2018. Bhodi Cheetah’s Choice was draped in the hallmarks of great psych folk (think Relatively Clean Rivers recorded by Six Organs of Admittance), while pulling from the aesthetic traditions of masters like Amon Duul II and Trad Gras och Stenar. That release already made it into the top albums of the year when I ran down the first half tally, but its gonna have a hard time holding on as the Prana Crafter essential of ’18 with William Sol delivering a short-order follow up that cements his status as the new psych-folk class’ frontrunner. Enter The Stream hits just as hard as the tape that precedes it, digging deeper into the mossy wonderland of humid strums and heat warbled effects that drew me to Prana Crafter’s psychedelic vision. The LP seamlessly snakes between vocal and instrumental folk with an ear towards the grander scale, building a world over its forty-minute run.

The album, like some of the best of its genre(s) isn’t wholly interested in seeding your brain with standalone hooks. Instead the whole thing climbs in under the skin and takes root. There’s a darkness permeating Enter The Stream – quiet, lonesome, aching but never wholly consumed by the creeping dread. Its an album at one with the dark, thriving like mind-altering fungus on the dank corners the world forgot and reaching up towards the peeking light that filters down through the tree cover with a tentative curiosity. Sol knows his way around atmosphere and he wields it with the skill and scale of a cinematographer on the album.

He builds dread on tracks like “Mycorhizzal Brainstorm” then twists the knife on the ensuing “The Spell.” He balls up tension in the pit of the stomach on “Pillow Moss Absorption” then melts it all away with the orange-streaked closer “At The Dawn.” The album can’t be easily parsed, which I always find an endearing quality. Its not meant for part and parcel consumption, but rather it needs to be absorbed in full, preferably in low light with the weight of the day long behind the listener. If Sol was just teasing us with a release as high quality as Bhodi, then with Enter The Stream he proves that his legacy as a psychedelic force is well under way. This one’s an essential pickup for 2018 and only gets richer with each trip ‘round the table.




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Danny Graham – S/T

Since it seems there’s still no light at the bottom of the well of overlooked and lost releases out there, it’s heartening to come across a release like Dany Graham’s eponymous 1980 LP. Despite the time stamp showing the dawn of the ’80s, the record is rooted firmly in wobbly ‘70s songwriter territory, sharing a bent sense of pop with the R. Stevie Moore / Bobb Trimble / Carl Simmons set, but in spirit it perhaps sidles up most closely with Deep Freeze Mice. Like the Mice the album has a ‘60s hangover that’s squeezed through a scrappy private press filter. The record was such a non-starter that when contacted years later by issuing label Xerox searching for information on Graham, many of the session players didn’t even know the album had seen light originally.

There are moments of pure pop brilliance on the album, albeit refracted through rough production patches, an apparent lack of editing and a nice warm lap of hiss. Graham nails softball soul (“Early Morning Heatwave”), mad-eyed folk-pop (“We’ll Make A Deal (In Amsterdam), “Love Start”) and soft rock (“Feeling You Beside Me”). As an actual album, its admittedly a bit uneven, but as a collection it wraps up all of the brain fragments Graham let slip through the tape in fine form. There’s definitely a certain type of collector that’s going to revel in this and even more cultivators of lost psychedelic ephemera who are going to find the missing piece in their mixtape of melted pop they’ve been searching for. Kudos to Xerox for digging up this treasure and with word they’re also shining up Graham’s sole other release for a new issue, it seems there’s more to love on the way.




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