Tag Archives: Psychedelic Folk

On “Quiet Signs,” Jessica Pratt Writes Songs That Imagine the Sound of Dreaming

Jessica Pratt

Photos by Guillaume Belvez

Jessica Pratt agrees that her album title, Quiet Signs, perfectly summarizes her latest collection of feathery, melancholic folk songs. But the album’s “alone at the microphone” feel was purely accidental. “It was absolutely not intentional,” Pratt says from a rest area near Eugene, Oregon while on tour with Kurt Vile last December. “I was envisioning it as a fuller project… but in the end, I feel like the record is dominated by an atmosphere of silence.”

Continue reading

Hidden Gems: Dave Bixby, “Ode to Quetzalcoatl”

Hidden Gems

In our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

“Life used to be good, now look what I’ve done,” cries Dave Bixby, strumming his mournful acoustic guitar on “Drug Song,” the opening track on his 1969 debut album Ode to Quetzalcoatl. “I’ve ruined my temple with drugs.”
Continue reading

Lifetime Achievement: Sharron Kraus’s Mystical Psych-Folk

Sharron Kraus

When the American-born, English-raised musician Sharron Kraus was a child, she had a single fantasy: “Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a traveling musician?” While she’s hardly the only person to entertain dreams about life on the road, in Kraus’s case, her fantasy came true. Her ear for elegant, lyrical music that’s rooted in folk with a psychedelic edge has led to a nearly 20-year career of touring and country-hopping—with stops in Philadelphia, where she lived for a long period of time, and appearances at the irregular Terrastock gatherings and a variety of folk and underground music festivals throughout Europe. She honed her skill through collaboration, sitting in on folk sessions with other musicians, where the welcoming atmosphere helped to reinforce her confidence.

Continue reading

A Guide to the Visionary Psychedelia of Masaki Batoh

Masaki Batoh

Photo by Yvko Under

Folk music and psychedelic noise have been cross-pollinating since legends like John Fahey and Sandy Bull started experimenting with unconventional tunings and unique recording methods in the early ‘60s. In the last three decades, though, few musicians have mixed the genres together with the verve and vision of Japan’s Masaki Batoh, founder of the psychedelic collective Ghost.

Continue reading

Album of the Day: Piri, “Vocês Querem Mate?”

Have you listened to Os Mutantes as much as humanly possible? Is there no aspect of Gilberto Gil that remains unexplored? Are you able to sing every note on “Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis” and hum all the basslines AT THE SAME TIME?

Boy, are you in for a treat.

Behold, Vocês Querem Mate?—an obscure slab of 1970-vintage Brazilian psych-folk that packs an afternoon’s worth of delicate trippiness into 28 minutes. (It is two minutes longer and approximately 3,000 times sunnier than Slayer’s 1986 release, Reign in Blood.) Reissued by Far Out (they are really doing God’s work here), Vocês Querem Mate? is the brainchild of one Piry Reis, joined by fellow Brazilian flautists Paulinho Jobim and Danilo Caymmi, and brilliant percussionists Juquina and Wilson Das Neves.

On tracks like the deeply groovy “As Incríveis Peripécias De Danilo,” acoustic guitar, flute, bass, and percussion blur together into ecstatic bliss-out, with the timbre of Reis’s voice compelling you to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

And again, this is compact stuff; the ecstatic “Cupído Esculpido” clocks in at a downright epic 3:06, complete with a groove that could easily hold up for another hour or so. The title translates as “Carved Cupid” which seems, on the surface, odd, given the music’s impossibly cool swing and lilt (and even more absurd given the faintly ridiculous album cover).

But the first track is called “Reza Brava” which translate to “Pray Hard.” “Sombra Morta” translates to “Dead Shadow.” There’s an edge here, the same sort of subdermal melancholia that animated Love’s 1967 album, Forever Changes. But underneath the acoustic guitars, light drums, and vocals that even Johnny Mathis wouldn’t sneeze at, there could be something very dark indeed. Desfrute, mas cuidado. A morte está em toda parte.

—Joe Gross

Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth on Songwriting and Side Hustling

Wooden Wand

James Jackson Toth’s career has been one of constant restlessness. At age 18, he began making Jandek-influenced psych-folk tunes and eerie noise recordings under the name Golden Calves. Then came his Wooden Wand moniker, and collaborative work with The Vanishing Voice, a staple of the “New Weird America” scene along with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, and Akron/Family.

Frustrated by the constraints of that freak-folk style, Wooden Wand’s subsequent recordings took a more traditional alt-country approach, albeit one that has continuously evolved using subtle experimentation. Myriad collaborators and backing bands have helped Wooden Wand vary his sound from badass outlaw country music, to softly haunting folk ballads, to semi-improvised Crazy Horse jams.

While this restlessness has long fed Toth’s extraordinary prolificacy, Clipper Ship arrives after the longest break ever between Wooden Wand studio albums: exactly three years to the day since 2014’s Farmer’s Corner. “It feels increasingly senseless to continue to release albums in the traditional way, given both technological and cultural changes as well as the general mood of the country,” says Toth. “I began feeling guilty about adding to the glut, especially at a time when most people are rightfully far more concerned about losing their health care than they are about hearing a new batch of Wooden Wand tunes. Promoting such a thing seemed very suddenly vain, oblivious, disrespectful, and unnecessary. That said, I am an artist—that’s my function in the world—so I reasoned that as long as my contributions remained positive, they might continue to serve as some kind of balm or respite from the madness.”

Continue reading

The Active Listener’s Compilations Showcase Psych From Around the World

The Active Listener

In late 2011, New Zealander Nathan Ford started his music blog the Active Listener during some down time from his longtime job at a record store. As he explains it, “An hour after having the initial thought to start a blog, I’d set up the platform, come up with the name, and written my first post. All on a wet, quiet afternoon.”

From there, the Active Listener grew into a project featuring Ford and, over time, other writers reviewing releases by modern psychedelic, progressive, and acid folk acts—as well as, starting with its first anniversary, a Bandcamp site featuring an open-ended series of samplers with songs from the bands they reviewed. Along with further single-artist collections and themed releases, including a tribute to Love’s famed Forever Changes, Active Listener grew to become a busy and wide-ranging resource for bands and listeners all over the world.

Ford recently decided to wind down regular posting on his blog and Bandcamp site, celebrating with some final reviews and a last sampler to conclude 2016. But both sites remain live, for anyone to explore and listen to.

We talked with Ford about his work and goals, his decision to refocus, and what the future might hold.

Continue reading

Bobby Brown’s “Prayers of a One-Man Band” is a Cracked Pop Masterpiece

Bobby Brown

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” So says Hunter S. Thompson, memorably summing up the demise of the spirit of the ‘60s in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What Thompson couldn’t have known in the early ‘70s, though, was the way that broken wave of hippie aesthetics would distribute its flotsam and jetsam to unexpected places and times. Enter Bobby Brown (not formerly of New Edition, not Mr. Whitney Houston), an erstwhile utopian California mystic whose complete discography, three records recorded in Hawaii in the ‘70s and ‘80s, is both a perfect snapshot of the dimming sunlight of the hippie era’s psychedelic folk influence on pop and a deeply personal expression; his albums were mostly self-released. Austin Leonard Jones, fellow folk oddity and spiritual seeker, launched his new imprint Del Rio Records and Tapes, partly with the goal of seeing Brown’s cracked pop masterpiece, Prayers of a One Man Band, back in print.

Brown himself is a reclusive figure, living in a house he inherited from his father in Reno, Nevada (that breaking hippie wave washed that far), and we weren’t able to reach him directly for this writing. But, fortunately, Jones was forthcoming as to how he found Prayers in the first place and his quest to see it re-released, tracking down a figure that even the most informed obscurantist musical obsessives had assumed was unreachable.

Continue reading