Monday, July 17, 2006

Espers / II / Rating: 7.9

“For the most part, freak-folk tends to eschew any clear genre parameters, but its participants-- willing or not-- are still blissfully united in an eyes-closed, drifting-to-the-strums adoration of ancient British folk tradition, while routinely pilfering from late-1960s/early-1970s folk-rock heroes Fairport Convention, Vashti Bunyan, Shirley Collins, the Strawbs, Pentangle, Comus, the Incredible String Band, and more.”

Ah freak-folk, we meet again. As if I wasn’t weary of this beaten to death trend already, Espers offers yet another strain of this genre. If I had to rely upon just my ears though (and not the piles of posi press), there really isn’t much freak about this Philidelphia band at all.

In fact all 6 players are so much a unit that rather than a group of people taking turns driving a music vehicle in wild and interesting directions, they are a polite train of pleasant gloom chugging in a circular motion. I have always imagined freak-folk to be an impulsive homespun craft rather than music heavily focused on a formula, no less following one so precisely yet Espers’ pattern of organized extended tones, finger picking, strings, and vocal melodies never climax in an unpredictable fashion.

Allow me to introduce a new genre. Ladies and gents: I give you frigid-folk.

Long repetitive songs drenched in drone and wispy vocals could have quite easily taken me on a meditative journey, a ride to remember but instead their brand of bruised baroque spread over 6 to 8 minutes per track is a non adventure that led me to dozing off with my headphones on. After just a few songs my body did the just fallen asleep jolt and I quickly snapped back into awake but still bored mode; although admittedly more relaxed than when I first hit play.

On a plus, if you like the current trend of folk revival and round 12 of stoner rock then Espers’ II will be your two for the price of one 2006 score. Not sure if this warrants a Pitchfork 7.9 rating but I am certain for many it will.

I can’t give a record that made me doze off anything higher than a 6.5 but more than anything I wish journalists when talking about this genre would avoid name dropping the same bands over and over again. My Bloody Valentine is to new-gaze what Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Comus, and the Incredible String Band is to freak-folk. Comus? Come on now. The only reason people are name dropping this band at all is thanks to a recent-ish reissue that places like Forced Exposure convinced you hippy-sters was a must own record.