An aural adventure

By BOB GULLA  |  April 18, 2006

Bridget St. John [London | New York City]
One of the on-paper highlights of this year’s Terrastock is the emergence of mysterious Brit-folk chanteuse Bridget St. John. A contemporary of Nick Drake and John Martyn, St. John has been rather reclusive and stingy with her public showings. In her day, the deep-voiced singer-songwriter earned favorable comparisons to Nico, and one of her acclaimed recordings, Ask Me No Questions, was the very first album on John Peel and Clive Selwood’s Dandelion label. Collectors would do well to pick up the brilliant Songs For the Gentle Man, a gorgeous work from ’71 recently reissued on the Cherry Red imprint.

Kemialliset Ystävät + Avarus [Finland]
I loved this website description of Kemialliset Ystävät, so I’m giving it to you wholesale. “Like a lot of the lately lauded ‘free folk’ ensembles, Finland’s Kemialliset Ystävät embraces vagueness as a virtue, sketching out hypnotic, hazy hymns with the same sleepy grace of the farm animals they sometimes sample. But despite the meditative meandering melodies, theirs is not a tired sound, nor do they let their shadowy atmospherics lapse into pure abstraction. For, as is writ on certain bumper stickers, not all who wander are lost.” Since 1995, Jan Anderzen, KY’s king, who moonlights in the Fonal Records scene with Avarus and others, has been “orchestrating his team of flutists, pluckers, percussionists, and general mystics to conjure whispering symphonies of creaking earth and crying skies with a fragile ambience that sounds as ancient as it does effortless. Of course, part of their antiquity has to do with the muffled and misshaped menagerie of instruments they favor, like guitars rotted with rust, frost-frozen old organs, and a percussive section reminiscent of someone rummaging through a musty, dusty attic.” Both of these bands are making their first ever USA appearance.

Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine
Few figures in the history of popular music are as deserving of the epithet “cult hero” as Thomas D. Rapp. His muse has been invoked in hushed tones whenever advocates of underground folk-rock are gathered. He earned his reputation with the late ’60s studio group the Pearls Before Swine. In a six-year period (1967-1972), Rapp made nine groundbreaking albums with hefty doses of mysticism and philosophy; later work was more transparently mainstream. Rapp retired from music in 1975 and has since become a successful lawyer. He gets coaxed out of retirement periodically, and at Terrastock 2006 will be performing Pearls Before Swine material with members of Ghost, Damon & Naomi, and Providence’s Black Forest/Black Sea.

SONIC FLOYD? Bardo Pond bring drones and distortionBardo Pond [Philadelphia]
Of the many bands appearing at Terrastock, Bardo Pond, formed back in ’89, might be the best known to American indie audiences. They descend directly from the post-Pink Floyd/Hawkwind/Spacemen 3 space-rock movement and their drug-dizzied explorations are laden with drones, power chords, distortion, and various other cataracts of noise. Think Sonic Youth had they reconstructed Pink Floyd rather than the Stooges. Then add a little of Gotham’s No Wave/Downtown free-jazz and you’ve got a mind-blowing amalgam of psychic sound and fury, an amalgam often referred to in hipster circles as resulting in one of the best live experiences in rock.

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