A Philadelphian coming together of Brian Langan from the indie scene, doom rock guitarist RJ Gilligan (Frost) and acid folk musician Nam Wayne, their debut album offers up 21st century psychedelic folk rock but drawing deeply on such formative 60s UK roots as The Incredible String Band, Comus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Bert Jansch and Donovan’s Gift From A Flower To A Garden. Even the album cover is of the era, evoking perhaps Cream’s Disraeli Gears or Art’s Supernatural Fairy Tales.
Which basically means you get strummed acoustic guitars, medieval troubadour colours, flutes, trippy, pastoral lyrics, Middle Eastern hues and the other accoutrements of the genre, the album opening in sprightly folk baroque form with the bouzouki and mandolin-driven ‘Perhaps The Sorcerer’, Joanna Doberstein’s flute immediately prompting thoughts of Jethro Tull (‘Bouree’ especially) to be followed by the echoey vocals, fingerpicked guitar, tumbling chords and percussive snaps of ‘The Dandelion’ (“we are weeds, we are weeds and did you know you are the dandelion”) which had me envisioning a collaboration between the ISB and Sallyangie for a session on John Peel’s The Perfumed Garden with perhaps a guest contribution from Dr Strangely Strange.
There’s more plucked acoustic with the slow swaying mantra-like rhythm, chiming bouzouki and puttering percussion of the soul awakening ‘Falcon Ridge’ (“long have you yearned for sky and robe long have you slept on stone”) while the spooked metronomic melody line of the mystical tale of a confrontation between the ‘Babe And The Devil’ takes things more in an American backwoods bluesier direction on the folk compass. But then, underpinned by bass and percussion, along come those Eastern vibes for ‘King Laughter’, a tale of the misfortunes that befall those who suffer from the self-absorbed abuse of power (“Desolation took us all/This land, starved by the throne/On his head lay a crown of bones”) with its strong hints of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s second album, Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages. Jansch’s gossamer fingerpicking musical influence rears its head on the gently lilting, softly sung cost of desire-themed ‘Everyday Phoenix’ (“can’t a man take fire to his breast and his clothes not be burned?”), which, I guess, is as good a time as any to introduce a Nick Drake reference into the review.
The lowingly sung ‘Frozen Shell,’ which features a circling rumbling percussion pattern and Thomas Hughes on harpsichord, is another filtered through a Middle Eastern meets a Medieval prism to conjure some pagan evocation while, a hymn to nature, the pastoral fingerpicked ‘Learn The Name Of The Plants’ frolics in flower power pastures with lines like “for the questions with no answers, you can ask the summer grass” and the sage advice to “Know the nightshade from the blueberry/And live to see tomorrow”.
This is roughly the half way mark and by now you should have a good idea of what to expect from the remaining tracks, though I would particularly direct attention to the ISB-affections of ‘Alchemist Of Hazy Row’ with its violin, woodwind and Steven Digregorio on both oud and caval, also featuring on the psych-sway ‘Orange Magick’ alongside Sean Hur’s taishogoto (a Japanese harp) which is the longest track at just over four minutes, while another folk baroque excursion, the mystical creation of the universe storytelling of ‘The Weaver and the Traveller’ stirs Spyrogyra with Family’s ‘The Weaver’s Answer’.
Janka Perniss reprising her turn on mournful violin, the album ends with the dreamy miasma of ‘Diomyria’, another song couched on loneliness and sadness, but, having enumerated the great and the good of the English psych-folk explosion, I simply have to mention ‘She Walks Alone’, a warblingly sung number about a woman betrayed by a faithless lover and trapped between life and a dream which surely suggests that they had some early Bee Gees albums on the listening pile over the three years it took for the project to come to fruition.
A perfect recreation and distillation of the era’s myriad textures and influences but, infused with freshness and delicacy, never one that sounds as though it’s a musical history project to be preserved in amber. Here’s hoping it’s just the start of things to come.
Artists’ website: www.facebook.com/langanfrostwane
‘King Laughter’ – official video:
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