It’s inevitable; with autumn comes melancholy. As cold winds and rain spells take over the northern hemisphere people like me usually look for a piece of sad bastard music to watch and see the leaves turn red and gold by. Luckily there is enough of that to goes around nowadays, so between all those different shades of grey I chose the psychedelic folk of Heron Oblivion to be my annual soundtrack for autumn-gazing.
The San Francisco based Heron Oblivion features members who all hold essential positions in the New Weird America scene. Though the lion’s share of the band consists of musicians from connoisseur acts like Comets on Fire (bassist Noel Von Harmonson and guitarist Ethan Miller) and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (guitarist Charlie Saufley) much is centered around Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy / Kurt Vile collaborator Meg Baird. The supergroup connects on their predilection for 70’s American heartland rock and British folk-rock. Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and indeed Fairport Convention cannot be unheard throughout this 40 minutes spanning debut which was released this spring but truly comes to life during early October twilights.
On 7 tracks with an above average length the groups slowly climbs on the shoulders of the aforementioned greats and delivers sounds that varies between the extremes of complex psychedelic-rock jams and harmonical baroque-pop. The album starts off with a perfect example of this combination. ‘Beneath Field’s’ dreamy guitar loop that is breached by a lone guitar which hereafter slowly is illuminated by Baird’s birdlike vocals. Halfway through a double guitar solo, that strongly reminds of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, cuts in hard and brings some relief. The quiet to loud outline is turned around in the following ‘Oriar’ making both tracks blueprints for what’s to come.
Although Heron Oblivion keeps shifting between American heartland music and the mystical Sandy Denny-like voice of Baird, each track is build up in a unique manner. On delicate ‘Seventeen Landscapes’ and the sharped edged ‘Your Hollows’ the approach is dark with Baird hovering around above the guitars. The more open ‘Sudden Lament’ is bittersweet because of its commanding Spaghetti Western-like rhythm whilst the also open ‘Faro’ again brings the creeps that comes along with a threadlike semi-false riff and Baird’s spooky singing. The album’s true highpoint comes with the 10-minute sprawling ‘Rama’ which slowly ammasses from lullaby singing, which on a sidenote made me think of Low, to a ferocious fuzz toned guitar solo.
As you’ve might have guessed by now Heron Oblivion’s music doesn’t jump off the page when it comes to originality. It will therefore work best for those who (still) have warm feelings for 70’s rock. Nevertheless it must be said that all ingredients used by the band do create an interesting colorful patchwork. Heron Oblivion gives the season the mystical veil it needs, it’s dense from the beginning to the end yet also drifts away at just the right moments.
Label: Sub Pop Records, 2016
Beneath Fields (7:30)
Sudden Lament (3:50)
Seventeen Landscapes (7:13)
Your Hollows (6:13)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 281016