Alela Diane To Be Still (Names Records) CD - Another amazing discovery from this past year -- I saw Diane share a bill with Marissa Nadler in Ft. Worth, and she made a definite imprint on the gray matter with her old soul voice, impressionistic lyrics and delicate touch on guitar. With To Be Still, It all coalesces into a warm, gentle slice of Americana that falls somewhere between the hazy country folk of Townes Van Zandt and more recently Gillian Welch. Diane makes it sound all too easy, but I know better.
Ex-Reverie The Door Into Summer (Language of Stone) CD - Killer Philly ensemble here performing a spectral psych folk/glam rock hybrid that conjures a dark minimal magic that's inescapable as heard in the stripped down harmonies and hand claps of "Dawn Comes for Us All." Its austere chorus erupts into an awesome post Sabbath snarl with Gillian Chadwick's ethereal vocals serving as the perfect foil to all that demonic fuzz. They come off sort of like Sandy Denny fronting Bardo Pond at points. The Door Into Summer (its title, I'd guess, taken from the Robert A. Heinlein novel of the same name) is pervaded with a kind of solitary mysticism that references Fairport Convention, Jefferson Airplane and modern day misty eyed psych folkies like Espers (whose Greg Weeks is a big fan). This is the kind of album I thought they stopped making back in '76. Glad I was wrong!
Perhaps Transparent) 2CD-R - I still have fond memories of watching Alan Davidson, who basically is The Kitchen Cynics, having an intense discussion about Mississippi blues with Jack Rose in the basement of a taqueria in Providence, RI. That kind of passion isn't fabricated. And as a songwriter Davidson is all passion and aching emotion with his sepia toned visitations of moments passed but not forgotten. From his home base in Aberdeen, Scotland, he's labored in relative obscurity through the years, releasing 20-plus fuzz tinged trad psych folk collections for the faithful in various formats, showcasing his soft croon and slightly outsider perspective on life, love and the passing of time. His songs are centered around his trusty acoustic and voice, both doused in reverb, along with some effects, flute, piano and bells woven in.
Flies plays like a greatest hits 2CD, only it's entirely new material recorded over the past two years specifically for this release, and I'd say its as fine a summation of what Davidson's been up to as any I've heard so far. He's operating at the peak of his abilities here. Flies One finds sleepy folk melodies draped in reverb and effects with fingerpicked melodies which reach an emotional crescendo on "Green Grows the Laural2," a long lost meeting of psych folk Donovan and the Incredible String Band. It's a masterpiece that takes its time telling a story of youthful longing refracted through the prism of age over a meticulously crafted musical backdrop. Davidson's playing and singing here are destined to leave a lump in the throat of even the most die-hard rationalist. Also remarkable from One is the 16 min "Conversation Pieces" which unites a renaissance air with exploratory prog and improv in a way that should appeal to lovers of spaced out MV/EE. Two is just as good with a combination of delicate instrumentals and even some banjo in the case of the haunting "Miss Tiptoe." Fans of Roy Harper, Incredible String Band, COB (whose "Music of the Ages" is covered here) really need this one, me thinks.
Ben Nash The Seventh Goodbye (Aurora Borealis) CD - Here's another one that's been bouncing around the cosmic corridors for a while now. The Seventh Goodbye is some primo astral folk and blues with a strong debt to Six Organs of Admittance that still manages to sound like something more than just an awesome knockoff. Nash has a great tone within a dense mix of effects, ethnic flourishes, odd percussion and chants, and the results across these eight tracks offer a diverse mix of more song-based morsels and epic trance psych jams that transfix without wearing out their welcome. Nash was just 23 when he recorded this. Impressive.
Shawn David McMillen Dead Friends (Tompkins Square) CD - Dead Friends is the followup to McMillen's solo debut, Catfish, also on Tompkins Square. Where that one evinced a more broken free noise feel, which wouldn't sound too shocking to anyone familiar with McMillen's Ash Castes on the Gulf Coast, this one has a more shambolic country blues feel, with debts to Neil Young, The Band, Stones and McMillen's time with Warmer Milks (which yielded the ridiculously under-heard Soft Walks LP on Animal Abuse). Rickety folk space gives way to the beat down loner blues with slowly cycling basslines and acoustic embellishments before we're dumped in the grime with the damaged industrial psych of "The Moth," which gives way to the Exile on Mainstreet country glory of "No Time Left in This Place," featuring some soaring fiddle action from Ralph White. The more I listen the more I realize this is basically a kind of musical summation of McMillen's psychedelic interests over the years, and as much as I want to try to classify or tag it, it's impossible. Thumbs way up.
PG Six Live at VPRO Amsterdam (Perhaps Transparent) CD-R - PG Six is one of the main contributors in the mighty Tower Recordings (originators of fractured post industrial folk bliss); solo he offers something a bit more controlled and structured in the trad UK psych folk mold. His first two solo albums are classics in the genre -- then and now -- and this awesome live session, captured crisply at VPRO's Dwar's Festival in Amsterdam, comes from right around that fertile period in PG's solo timeline in late '04. The songs here are drawn mostly from his debut, Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites (Amish), and feature the stripped down duo of PG Six on guitar/voice and Tim Barnes (also of Tower Recordings, Jim O'Rourke, the Quakebasket label, etc) on percussion. PG has since moved on from this sound into a slightly more folk rock sound, but I always hope solo (or in this case duo) PG Six isn't too far from sight, as there is clearly always magic in the air when these two combine their considerable talents. Also very happy to see Townes Van Zandt's "High, Low and In Between" featured here, as PG covers it better than anyone. His voice is an old friend I'm always ready to catch up with. Thanks Transparent Radiation for making it possible!
Skygreen Leopards Gorgeous Johnny (Jagjaguwar) CD - It's been a minute since we last heard from the Jeweled Antlered psych folk butterflies in Skygreen Leopards, and it's been worth the wait as Gorgeous Johnny is the most focused and tuneful fuzz folk diorama they've turned out yet. Along with the expected folk and pop influences (from Donovan to Dylan and Nagisa Ni Te) is a more pronounced vintage psych pop feel (The Kinks, Love, The Zombies) and the arrangements are stronger, the hooks sharper, and Glenn Donaldson has never sounded better with his acid kissed higher register vocals. A very fine folk drift for lazy Sunday afternoons that should appeal to fans of classic folk pop and modern twee strum at the same time.