US - Pennsylvania - Full Moon 120 - 07/11/06
Over the last years there's been quite a wave of neo-psychedelic folk music appearing. Espers are one of those bands; a Philadelphia trio now turned sextet, with their second album, II (their first for the Drag City label).
The band was formed 4 years ago by singer/songwriter Greg Weeks, the elf-like voice of Meg Baird, and multi-instrumentalist (?) Brooke Sietinsons. The other three members are Espvall, Smith, and Hauser (Espers seem to be a 'last names band'). Their self-titled debut came two years ago. Last year brought The Weed Tree EP, holding covers of songs by Nico, The Durutti Column, and Blue Öyster Cult! Yes. That's right. Anyway, II is out, with more of their hauntingly beautiful music, tagged as 'chamber rock' and 'baroque pop'. They're quite obviously influenced by late 60s/early 70s British and US folk and psychedelic/acid music. The Incredible String Band and It's a Beautiful Day are mentioned. Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny are also names shimmering through the music of Espers. "Dead King" could in fact I've been a song written by Denny, backed by a mixed team of Pink Floyd and Fairport Convention ca 1970-71. But first, the indeed baroque "Dead Queen" opens, with Meg Baird's voice being totally spellbinding. Espers' songs stretch from 6 to 8+ minutes, they sort of glide away, floating lightly in the air. You almost feel the strong smell of incense.
"Children of Stone" brings a doubled vocal-path between Baird and Weeks, and yet again I sense some Meddle-era Floyd-ish reminiscence. Could be Weeks' way of singing, or the spacey, uh, organ thing. II is a lazy day in the shadows, deep into a meditative-friendly forest, far away and safe from the scorching sun. Or, it could be the perfect score for a village feast in the melancholy version of Tolkien's Shire.
As the liner notes state: "This album is to be played as loud as possible, as quiet as possible, and thank you very much." Enjoy. This is the real chill-out music.
Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen