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Feathers

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After their debut EP, East Vermont freak folk and neo-hippie band Feathers have thankfully issued their full-length debut on CD — finally. Initially released on vinyl under their own steam, it is the second CD to come from Devendra Banhart and Andy "Vetiver" Cabic's Gnomesong imprint. The cover is the first thing to grab one's notice: it apes Current 93's Earth Covers Earth cover — and they did theirs as a faux tribute to the Incredible String Band's Hangman's Beautiful Daughter LP. (Come to think of it, Banhart's Cripple Crow did a similar things...hmmm). Ultimately, it's the music that counts and these eight musicians do create as a collective — song titles are credited only by first names and no instrument credits are given. Musically, one can hear everything form the original Tyrannosaurus Rex's cosmic flower power Brit folkiness to Donovan's dark gentleness to the more ambiguous stridency of ISB themselves, albeit in a far gentler manner. It's the heart of the matter itself: Feathers are the gentlest, most good-natured bunch to come out of the whole acid folk experience. While Banhart can reflect ecstatic experience, Jana Hunter under-the-skin tragedy, and Joanna Newsom the spiritual balancing of dark and light, Feathers puts it all on simmer; it's all quiet, poetic, dignified, and in its own way, moving. It's music that would have sounded dated 30 years ago and sounds like it's out of time and spatial dimensions now. There is a real kindness in this music that reflects something truly genuine. There are engagements with psychedelia here, such as on "Ibex Horn" with its big, deep hand drums, fuzzed-out electric guitar, chant-like chorus vocals (almost everything on Feathers is in a chorus-like vocal, though), and some unidentifiable high-pitched organ sound in the backdrop. There are also lullabies like "Past the Moon," which is childlike in its presentation, its lyric reflecting childhood as a sacred space. "Come Around," which ends the album, has a beautiful singalong chorus. It's difficult to discern if it's a love song or a child's rhyme. Anglo-Celtic tradition shows its face in many places here, most notably on "Silverleaves in the Air of Seedlings" (no kidding, that's the title!) with its magical chorus, but also in "Ulna," which seemingly begins as an interlude but becomes a beautiful Celtic-style ballad that sounds like it could have been done by Steeleye Span had they done a lot of LSD — and that's hardly a criticism. Ultimately, this isn't going to be for everybody; however, it takes discipline, a deeply lyrical sensibility, and patience to play music like this. Keeping oneself in balance with a group of people without showing off any one ego or gift is a difficulty — especially in Western culture. Feathers is a very enjoyable, kind, and loving recording that listeners with open minds will be able to appreciate whether or not it's their cup of tea. Neo-hippie image aside, the music presented with such care here is lovely, soothing, and seductively beguiling; taken in enough times, it becomes utterly magical.

Feathers, Feathers
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