Over the last couple of years Jen, along with her partner Matthew Rolin, have garnered acclaim for their live sets, issued to cassettes, culminating in an excellent album for Feeding Tube earlier in the year. The pair have also issued a limited run cassette as a trio with Jason Gerycz (Cloud Nothings) that expands into a noisier nook than they hang in on their own. With another tape just released in Trouble In Mind’s new experimental series, its shaping up to be quite a year for the duo. Jen’s hammered dulcimer adds a touch of crystalline beauty to their works and she’s long been a self-professed folk nerd on social media, giving me every reason to reach out and see what gems she has hiding in her collection. Jen’s picked a record that’s long found its way into the hands of obsessive collectors, but has been finally getting a bit of its own due this year. Find out how the debut from Jan Dukes de Grey made its way into her collection.
“I found this album during a stretch of years in my early 20s when I listened to nothing but folk music,” recalls Jen. I’d been into some form of it or another since I was very young, and somewhere towards the end of high school I started digging deeper, but most of college and the handful of years following were—looking back now—principally defined by this total obsession I had going for everything under the umbrella of ‘folk.’”
“I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with psychedelic or acid folk as a teenager—there were artists like Six Organs of Admittance, Espers, Vashti Bunyan, and Animal Collective who were all on my radar (largely thanks to Soulseek and a couple of cool friends) — but didn’t occur to me at that time to examine what I loved so much about all of them and then investigate other artists whose music had that common thread running through it, too,” she laments.
“Anyway, back to when I was 23, maybe: I had finally discovered the Incredible String Band (one of the most important bands of my life, really,) I was finally aware of the term “psych folk,” and I had a ton of free time to immerse myself in as much of it as I could uncover. I remember lying in bed on a really dismal January afternoon with my headphones on, scrolling through a list of artists, trying to find someone or something I hadn’t heard before. Jan Dukes was on the list and Sorcerers was the album available to stream. I pressed play, and by the end of the ~55 second opening track “Dragons,” I was completely intrigued and more than a little enchanted.”
“While they’re [relatively speaking] more widely known for their second album Mice and Rats in the Loft, a sprawling and generally unhinged prog folk epic that’s an undeniable masterpiece, I really adore its predecessor Sorcerers. because it’s like a series of aural vignettes; it’s stripped down and it’s infused with a sweet, strange, warm charisma. Derek Noy’s delivery as a vocalist and a guitarist is deeply weird and compelling, and Michael Bairstow’s recorder and flute accompaniment is ramshackle and perfectly complementary. The three song stretch of “M.S.S.,” “Texas,” and “Yorkshire Indian Sitting in the Sun” that closes out the A-side is just sublime, whereas songs like “High Priced Room” and “City After 3.00 Am” are shot through with some of the manic—or maniacal—energy and plodding, strutting, almost stuttering percussive guitar work that went on to help inform the band’s sound on Mice and Rats. Noy’s ability to fling his voice from the depths of a guttural growl into the soaring heights of a wild sort of howling keen or yodel, and leap from there into a fairly “normal” and delicate English cadence (slightly “fussy” à la Ian Anderson, Richard Thompson, or even Roy Harper) is singular and kind of disturbingly charming,” muses Powers.
“Much to my joy, the label Alternative Fox gave the world a vinyl reissue of Sorcerers earlier this year and it’s still available over at Forced Exposure. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who’s into psych folk.”
Unlike Jen, I didn’t have anyone cool enough to get me into Jan Dukes de Grey until those reissues she mentioned on Alternative Fox surfaced, but their works are every bit the necessary deep dive that she mentions. Any fans of fantastical UK folk should find something to love here and I was really excited at her pick. There’s thankfully still some copies of this one left direct from Forced Exposure and Powers/Rolin Duo’s latest, The Nightland just found its way out from Trouble in Mind last week and its an excellent accompaniment to their Feeding Tube LP.
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