Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh: s/t
The Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh record from Drag City has moments of overlapping with some kind of Narada Records "World Music for Relaxation" compilation, the Swedish vocals & reverbed acoustic guitar make this all pretty yoga-ready. Which is interesting because these are two weird, weird musicians. I know everyone is sick of being sick of the freak-folk/new weird america thingamabob, but these two are part of the psychedelic folk world that wasn't inspired by the fact that Devendra gets to have his photo taken with Hollywood starlets. These two make the music that is at the heart of constant reinvention process, the churn & pulley of culture as the present moment quotes both the distant past & the immediate future.
What they've made here is (& I say this having no idea what she's saying in her lyrics) is a beautiful lullaby record that hints toward a wider world of avant takes on the same music. The rhythms are stately, the melodies sincere without becoming cloying, this is the music that makes your memory conjure the tastes of memory.
All of that until the final song, "Kyklopes." After a record of harmonically & melodically rich folk music that keeps playing it straight, they cap it off with a 13-minute free song including clanging percussion & some kind of wind machine sound effect. Now, normally I go straight for the clanging percussion & wind machine first--you know, bring the weird! But after a calm & narrowly pitched record, it seems overly showy.
But as I listen to it more it makes more sense -- the final song fits with the sometimes outlandish intros to more familiarly styled folk songs. The record couches its traditionalism within a context of avant potentiality. In this way the record seems to almost find the history within the current trend of milking all the weirdness of the folk traditions.
While bands like Avarus & Pocahaunted may launch from folk idioms to their out places & create trancelike experiences of communality, the record experience is individuating. They abandon the communal connection of folk music, the simple way a melody transfers from one head to another. Which makes Espvall & Batoh's record both a lovely trip through some new takes on folk traditions & a kind of turning away from some of the modes of the current avant-folk scene that are quickly becoming idiomatic.