Friday, July 01, 2011

Cross-Legged Hippie Mystics and Subterranean Astral Goddesses

Theo Angell Tenebrae (Amish) CD - I meant to scribble a few words about this one ages ago, but that's okay since this is a one man operation. Angell of Hall of Fame and whose Aeraplinth album for Digitalis made such a striking impression a few years back, here weaves a more mystical spell of wandering acoustic apparitions lead through the dark spaces via his eerie naked vocal and understated minor key strumming, at times accented by percussion and Samara Lubelski's abstract violin, as well as the Hillside Tabarnackle Singers (this time including Matt Valentine, P.G. Six, Tom Greenwood and Lubelski). Elusive lyrics as inspired by mountain song, religion/theology and outside folk songwriting as they are avant-garde cinema and Dadaist worldplay coalesce into roving journeys through the backwoods of the mind. At once deeply esoteric and all too accessible -- welcome to the strange and wonderful world of Tenebrae. Stand outs to this listener, the gorgeous meander of "Never Heard That Baby Cry" and the sinister title track.

Arborea Red Planet (Strange Attractors) LP - The fourth album from the husband wife duo or Buck and Shanti Curran is a meditative slice of introspective astral folk as inspired by the great woods as the old troubadours (Patty Waters and Tim Buckley are given nods) and the new weird folkies that I've championed here over the years. I'm not really sure what to say about Red Planet other that it's a minimal soul-stirring knockout, with languid beauty anchored on Buck Curran's steady string work (guitars and many stringed things) and Shanti's ethereal vocals as exemplified on their stunning rendition of "Black Was the Color" and Buckley's "Phantasmagoria in Two" and Shanti's plaintive banjo picking. "Spain" (featuring Helen Espvall of Espers on cello) and "Careless Love" are soft, simple lullabies for the brokenhearted, while tracks like "Arms and Horses" and the hidden final, "Torchbearer" -- written in response to the loss of Shanti Curran's father -- offer more instrumental and emotional resonance to wander through. A record for letting go and accepting whatever's next.

Current 93 Honeysuckle Aeons (Coptic Cat) CD - How strange Honeysuckle Aeons sounds at first, even by Current 93's standards. Compositionally, it's something of a return to the stripped down piano ballads of Soft Black Stars and Sleep Has His House, but with new accents in the form of a ghostly theremin whir that haunts half the tracks and droning organ the creaks through the rest. It's a sensible enough progression from the hazier passages of last year's Baalstorm, Sing Omega, but I like this more. It's more stripped down and focused at the same time, and David Tibet hems in his vocals a good bit over more memorable melodies. In its own quiet, understated way this just may just be the best C93 album since Black Ships Ate the Sky, and the most softly haunted since Soft Black Stars. Listen to it late at night by candlelight.

Metal Mountains Golden Trees (Amish) CD - Helen Rush was one of the main contributors to the legendary Tower Recordings, but then so were PG Six and Samara Lubelski at different times. They comprise the trio of Metal Mountains, which makes this half a Tower Recordings reunion, or at the very least a psych supergroup of some note. To say Golden Trees is minimal hypnofolk masterpiece is no exaggeration. Its mix of ethereal fem vocals, acoustic/electric guitars doused in vintage reverb and fuzz, all rendered in immaculate yet vintage hi-fi production, is destined to send chills down the spine and elliptical spirals through the gray matter. At least that's the case with opener, "Structures Inside the Sun", a knockout of acid folk splay that's as good as anything along these lines I've heard recently. The rest of of the album follows suit and honors the Tower Recordings/Hall of Fame (Sabelski's other avant-folk trio, also featuring Theo Angell) tradition to admirable, eloquent effect.

Marissa Nadler Marissa Nadler (Box of Cedar) CD - Nadler's fifth album, first for her own label, is getting recognition all over the place, though I have to wonder what all those NPR worshiping coffee sippers in their adirondacks would've thought of her contributions to last year's Xasthur album, Portal of Sorrow. This is much more, hmm, digestible. Stronger influences from 50s country crooners and 60s pop chanteuses are felt, along with a heavy dose of the dark shoegaze drone glaze that's been seeping in since her third album. This is easily Nadler's most produced and sonically accomplished record yet (and that's really saying something), but she still manages to sound like something dug up from many decades past, her velvety mezzo-soprano lost in sad wonder of what could've been, eternally unsatisfied and looking to the horizon of come what may. Surely not for everyone but I'm still buying it. A solid mix of fingerpicking old world folk craft and modern soft pop for sad eyed dreamers.

Six Organs of Admittance Asleep on the Floodplain (Drag City) LP - Asleep on the Floodplains is Ben Chasny's follow-up to the masterful Luminous Night, and it's once more a fine mix of stellar songcraft and textured primitive raga jams. It could be said there's nothing really new here, but then there's nothing really new under the sun. The way Chasny manages to continue to matter is via his rich sound palette (every instrument is played by him this time 'round) and memorable melodies -- "Hold But Let Go" is yet another keeper in his considerable catalog of keepers -- while "S/Word and Leviathan" delves more deeply into mindless devotion with a droning wash of blazing raga picking, organ and vocal chant, the kind of dark mystery Chasny's been exploring since the beginning. It's dedicated to Process Theologian Catherine Keller, which doesn't surprise me in the least. She's the kind of thinker we could use more of during these uncertain times. Yet another gemstone in the Six Organs psych folk crown.

Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara 60 Strings (VHF) CD - Jesse Sparhawk plays 38 string lever harp. Eric Carbonara plays 22 string upright Chaturangui guitar. Together they weave a delicate spell of meandering raga that stretches out across two epic duets that maintain a constant, evolving balance of plucked straight from the aether harmonies across 35 minutes of vibrant string meditations landing somewhere between new American psych folk and a more Eastern tinged Popol Vuh. 60 Strings is another minimal beauty from VHF that manages to stand out from the psych folk heap, and I hope merely the first of many fruitful collaborations from this promising new duo.

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