June 27, 2006

This record moves me mightily. Lots of bands in todays acid-folk revival cultivate a shaggy, improvisational haze, and that can be fun, and delirious, and occasionally revelatory. But theres nothing unkempt about the Philadelphia sextet Espers on this, their exquisite sophomore outting. (Ok, there was a nifty EP in there as well, with BOC and Durutti Column covers). Espers II packs gorgeous songs, artful arrangements, and strong, bittersweet melodies that recall ace British folk-rock combos like Fairport Convention and the Pentangle without ever coming off as retro or twee. Its a music, simultaneously, of transport and taste. On Dead Queen, guitarist-producer-wizard Greg Weeks adds droning, cosmic wah-wah to a plaintive madrigal, while Dead King threads Meg Bairds angelic voice through a beauteous gloom of flutes, cellos, and analog synths that sound like evil goblin bagpipes. The title of the closing tune, Moon Occults the Sun, reflects the basic polarity that defines occult sensibility, a balance of elements that charges the whole album with yin/yang enchantment: darkness and light, the wistful and the heavy, ye olde and ye cutting edge.