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Album Review

The continuing career of Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice could almost be described as that of enjoyably amused willfulness — they seem all too readily to be lumped into the neo-psych/folk collective ramalama of the early 21st century, but then they start an album like Gipsy Freedom with a song consisting of nothing but low-key free jazz sax and female singing and all of a sudden the spirit of Patty Waters reincarnated proves a better touchstone than Syd Barrett. With the sax being provided by guest Daniel Carter, the five piece band takes the title of this album seriously — in fact it could arguably be a perfect phrase for their career of multitudinous releases, labels, and incarnations. Two lengthy explorations provide near bookends for the album: "Didn't It Rain" is part steady pluck-and-drone, part scrabbling collapse, while the twice as long "Dead End Days With Caesar" has a great stoned-poetry rap which Iggy Pop probably would love to use sometime if the reunited Stooges ever did a show of nothing but "We Will Fall." In contrast are two tracks under two minutes, including "Don't Love the Liar," which might be as close as Wooden Wand get to a garage/punk number — at least, in an alternate universe, and with a suddenly shrill start to the chorus. The various explorations throughout reach a level of exultance that show the group is much more than just a bunch of folks thinking the height of improvisation is a drum circle: "Hey Pig He Stole My Sound," with its collage of melodies and clattering beats culminating in a final minute of fierce, insistent rhythm, while the skeletal death folk of "Dread Effigy" has all sorts of drone, feedback, and more lurking in the mix which evolves into a richer, wordless singalong by the end of the song.


Formed: New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

In addition to running the Polyamory label with Tovah O'Rourke, James Toth was the leader of New York-based avant-garde/freak folk ensemble Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice. Taking the first part of that name as his own -- and occasionally billing himself as "Wooden Wand Jehovah" -- Toth gathered at one point or another O'Rourke (who also comprised Dead Machines with her husband, Wolf Eyes' John Olson), Satya Sai, G. Lucas Crane, Steven the Harvester, and Heidi Diehl. There were others, too -- the...
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Gipsy Freedom, Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice
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