Quilt are a psychedelic folk-rock group from Boston and Held in Splendour is their second album. Vocals, guitars and keyboards are shared by Anna Fox Rochinski and Shane Butler with John Andrews on drums. (Keven Lareau last reported on bass for shows).
In a large step from their first self titled album, Quilt seem to have quite spectacularly found their sixties psych folk mojo. Whether it be Woods’ multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere’s producer input or a natural evolution, the leap from their first album is immense.
Their is something in the songwriting that existed in the sixties and early seventies that Quilt have seemingly inherited. The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane The Mamas And The Papas they are not, but they have the essence of whatever was in the water back then. Skip Spence comes to mind but they seem closer to the English sound The Incredible String Band, early Fairport Convention or Pentangle and even Syd rather than their American heritage. Still, that’s not really it, I can hear something of Helium’s Mary Timony in there at times and she is also from Boston so maybe their really is acid in the water in that town. Sadly Mary Timony was drinking water from the future, she’d be way hipper now then she was back then when she made The Golden Dove, pre-empting this scene by years.
The opener Arctic Shark sung by Rochinski, might not have been so appealing in 2002 but now it sounds like something, New Weird America is the genre and it’s melodic, home made and breezy with some surreal lyrics “the clocks gentle laughter” from Saturday Bride and soft appealing harmonies from Rochinski and Butler together with tempo changes and joy.
Eye Of The Pearl is mainly Butler’s lead vocal with Rochinski singing harmonies (I presume that Andrew too is in on all this). The song is memorable with strong hooks.
Mary Mountain also has tempo changes, an electric sixties folk rock arpeggio, harmonies and thin slide – piano and effects see it settle into a psychedelic jam.
Tie Up The Tides, echoey guitar and Rochinski’s reminds me a little of Carole Van Dijk from Dutch nineties indie darlings, Bettie Serveert,
The Hollow is pure Pysch-Folk dancing around in a forest in colourful clothes playing the violin.
A Mirror gets a little more Garage, but keeps the male/female vocal idea to great effect. Just Dust is back to Mary Timony territory and The World Is Flat an instrumental interlude.
Tired And Buttered uptempo dual harmony lead vocals, megaphone vocal part, Farfisa and then that tempo change again – they have some tricks and they all seem to work.
Secondary Swan brings back the violin starts calm and finds itself in a frenzy in the middle with the Farfisa and now I’m getting some Velvet Underground if they were from The Cotswolds – Talking Trains was surely written at Cropredy?
I Sleep In Nature closes the record with another English sixties sounding psychedelic tune.
So is there an Psych folk revival scene and do they all own Vashti Bunyan albums? Is the New Weird America genre alive and well and living in New York and Boston? Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, The Decemberists also seem to fit into the genre easily and whatever happened to Philadelphia’s Espers? Whatever the case there’s some interesting and weird sounds coming out of the USA that you wouldn’t immediately recognize as American. It’s subtle and it’s soft, it’s mind expanding and imaginative even though it seems to have roots in the late sixties and early seventies. So if you’ve never heard of Dando Shaft or Curved Air then start digging, if you thought it all ended with Dando Shaft and Curved Air then you are in luck, everything comes back in the end.