ESPERS II (Drag City)
On their second long player, American ensemble Espers weave a dense, dark, gothic indie-folk that sounds a little like Spiritualized jamming with Fit & Limo. Their long songs dont go anywhere much, but theyre mesmerising whilst theyre not getting there, all eerie sawing strings and defiantly slow-motion melodies. Theres little here that couldnt have happened 35 years ago, but equally the way the instruments combine and intertwine suggests something borne of cumulative experience.
With its shards of piercing distortion and mantric repetition, the ghost of Godspeed You Black Emperor! hangs heavy over Dead Queen . Dead King melts together dark, droning synths and nails-on-blackboard strings to create a creepy, sinister aura of foreboding, and Children Of Stone is (or perhaps are) lost among chilly, tangled minor key thickets, taunted by piercing synth whistles. Moon Occults The Suns sawing, buzzing strings and keening vocals posit it as a long-lost Roy Wood outtake from the first Electric Light Orchestra album, until the arrival of some gloriously tactile Frippian guitar work, overlaid with ringing, suspended distortion. Mansfield And Cyclops is arguably the albums most intricate moment, drawing on the widest palette of shades, and theres an almost Floydian flashback during Widows Weed when a percussive explosion parts an ocean of cawing stringed instruments.
Theres no respite from IIs rigorous aesthetic, and elegant as its hooded processional undoubtedly is it doesnt say much about anything of relevance to the here and now. Even so, theres something almost punk about its defiant refusal to compromise, even as its songs stretch luxuriantly out towards the far side of eight minutes. Its a courageous and interesting record.