Espers are people with extraordinary psychic abilities. They lived in peace among humans at one time. ?Or some bullshit, I don't know; I just picked this up on a website while doing research for this review. There is something psychic about Espers debut album, though. I think they looked through my CD collection and crafted an album based on my tastes. This is a wonderful combination of bands like Landing, Rachel's, and Dirty Three, blended together by the able hands of Greg Weeks. Espers is a collective of sorts and has its roots firmly planted in the psychedelic folk of the '60s.
Autumn is my favorite season. Yellow, red, and orange happen to be my favorite colors and when deciduous trees humor me by decorating themselves in them, it feels comfortable. On "Byss & Abyss," Weeks and company become minstrels for the season. Doubled vocals, one track male, the other female, float above the delicate and warm guitars. However, the flute makes this song stand out. It gives it an elfin fantasy feel to it that seems like it would be awful, but isn't. I want to be in New England in October when I listen to this, sitting in a heavily wooded area with only a bottle of wine and a blanket. To just lie there in the freshly fallen leaves would be brilliant. As night falls, whimsical chimes are layered over growling synthesizers, which begin to wail like the wind picking up its pace and forcing the last leaves from their summer homes. What a beautiful song.
In the dead of winter, stuck somewhere between Moscow and Minsk, snow is falling rapidly and only a quilt keeps us warm. On "Travel Mountains," there are so many elements to this song that personify so many different things, it?s hard to know where to begin. The delicate balance of Eastern European-tinged folk guitars and distorted electric guitars seems like it should never work. It does, though, and seems to signify one's attempt to battle loneliness and lunacy during a period of complete isolation. As a heavily reverbed chorus of female vocals comes in, the sirens of insanity beckon. The voices win out in the end, but not without a fierce battle. It's a morose and eerie piece of music, but pulled off flawlessly.
It's late February right now and beginning to transition from winter to spring. Trees are slowly beginning to wake up, and we even saw the first jonquils of the season glistening in all their yellow glory the other day. I love this time of year. "Riding" embodies this short period through acoustic guitar plucking and vibrant vocals. As everything comes back to life, the sense of rebirth is in the air. We all feel it. Even though New Year's happens in January, we don't quite feel it until March. It's time to get our feet wet and move on through a new year. For me, it?s the most hopeful time; I feel like all the inane goals I've set for myself are absolutely attainable. I swear it?s something in the air. Or maybe it?s in the water.
Tracks like "Hearts & Daggers" mix a lot of elements from the avante garde and noise genres with the essence of more traditional, English folk music. The flute playing on this entire album has a capricious quality to it, and I welcome it with open arms. Pairing this with violin screech-and-skronk, something often heard in free jazz, is not an easy thing to do. Espers pull it off, though. "Meadow" is like a more melancholy Landing, but with the added delight of strings. And the magnificent opener, "Flowery Noontide" is a fastidious, moaning opus. A violin and cello whine their way through the chorus, while the acid-laced flute brings on the first blooms of spring. This is chamber pop at its best.
The entire album is a gambit. In a genre laden with mediocre acts that all begin sounding the same, Espers have given us listeners something to talk about. I haven't heard a folk record as lush and beautiful as this in a long time. The ghosts of Nick Drake and John Fahey are smiling right now because Greg Weeks has raised the bar higher than it?s been in a long time. Espers self-titled debut is an exclamation mark at the end of a declaration stating psychedelic pop music isn't dead. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)