Monday, May 13, 2013

Folk Briefs, Part 5

Folkin' It Up

Comus: First Utterance (1971)
4.5 out of 5 stars

After hearing Comus, a whole lot of things started to make sense to me. Hexvessel clearly learned a lot from this psych-folk/prog-rock band, for one thing. But perhaps less obvious (until 2011 anyway) is the influence on a certain band who lifted the line "My arms, your hearse" from "Drip Drip." Unhinged male vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, flute, and lots of getting weird is what First Utterance is about. At least, if you think a song that methodically deconstructs itself and eventually turns into tribal howling is weird. It's also extremely engaging, dynamic, and in spite of its bizarreness, shockingly catchy. I can't stop listening.

Mike Scheidt: Stay Awake (2012)
2 out of 5 stars

I'm going to say something controversial: Yob is incredibly overrated. I've never found them terribly inspiring. Still, when I found out Yobster Mike Scheidt had an acoustic folk solo project, I had to check it out. (Vhöl certainly didn't hurt!) The completely affected John Lennon look he sports on the cover damn near turned me away, and I wish I would have listened to my gut. I don't have a lot of reference points for 60's folk, so I'm going to throw out Hexvessel (the duller parts) as comparison to this. It's mostly acoustic, with some distortion in the background. His vocals are some falsetto, and some sung in a normal voice that sounds a bit like Zakk Wylde's on Book of Shadows, but without the awesome redneck quality Wylde brings to bear. I feel about Stay Awake about how I feel about Yob's material: I think others do it a hell of a lot better. Also, I’m going to resist the urge to make a crack about the album title.

Hexvessel: Iron Marsh EP (2013)
4 out of 5 stars

Speaking of Hexvessel--again and again, as it happens--they have been a source of endless fascination for me. The new EP Iron Marsh continues their psych-folk journey based in acoustic guitar and clean singing, with drums, and throws in flute, violin, organ, and brass (why not?). It begins with a long, moody doom-like piece and ends on a metal tune masquerading as folk, but along the way it turns into folk-blues with female soul singing. The promo (but not the real EP) also included a radio edit of "Woman of Salem." I'm not sure what European radio is like, but it must be a hell of a lot better than it is here if it's paying any attention to this very worthy band.

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