Freak Folk Faves! (Part 1)

Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms (1970)

This is an accidental masterpiece. A more perfect album made by a dental hygienist on LSD I’ve yet to encounter.

There is no question to why it flew under the radar upon its initial release. In the huge wake stirred by the sinking ship of flower power, anything not heavy enough to float sunk to the bottom. Parallelograms was simply another weird record in a weird year full of weird records.

And quiet modesty did not help sales, as bands like Led Fucking Zeppelin soared to self aggrandizing heights. Not quite a bedroom record, but certainly kept inside the house, this album was destined for obscurity. And this beguiling and magical recording sat on the shelf, seemingly forgotten.

However, genius echoes through time. Parallelograms is still in our cultural vocabulary due to its many moments of genius. There are moments of sappy sentimentality, sure, other times are fractured and abstract, some moments are even seductively enticing. But throughout multiple listens there is a quiet intensity to these yearning invocations of magic realism that draws you in to their mystery.

As with all hidden treasures, we are left with unanswerable questions: What more could Linda have told us? Was this album everything she had to say? Are we missing out on decades of music never written?

Alas, she chose to pursue a career as a dentist, returning so many years later with 2014s “The Soul Of All Natural Things” which unfortunately does not resonate with the profundity and often confounding uniqueness of its predecessor. 44 years is quite a gap to merge between albums, and needless to say, this is a different era.

The original still stands as a perfect journal entry from the avant garden front lines of the acid washed folk era. Parallelograms is the story of those shocking shaking times told by a quiet girl and her guitar.

Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day (1970)

Nature has a perennial need for a translator. An interloper between physical and spiritual realms. There is constantly a desire for one to communicate nature’s many small miracles into tangible art. Sometimes natural beauty demands itself to be heard so sternly that we have no choice but to sit up and pay attention.

Vashti chose to do her mystic translation in the form of nursery rhymes and cosmic lullabies. A cross between a pagan goddess and a pre-school teacher, her image can quickly escalate to mythic proportions. Rightly so, this album is perpetually beaming with light. Every rock, stream, and tree in this record bursts forth with life. You can practically smell it.

And where did she go after making this strangely beautiful ode to mother nature? Did she ride that mystic caravan into her own fairy tale cartoon of timeless fantasy? She was still quite young when she left the music industry to live in a covered wagon in the British countryside (yes, really), emerging again in the 21st century with two more solo albums, 2005s “Lookaftering” and 2014s “Heartleap” (allegedly her last). Also some collaborations with Devendra Banhart and Animal Collective, all of which are quite good.

There is perhaps more interest now than ever before in Vashti and her music.  And the freak folk revival has allowed her to bring new albums forth. But the sun shines on this record above all her others, kept fallow in the eternal field of natural wonder.

Elyse – Elyse (1969)

Elyse apparently lives here in Oregon (whatup Ashland!) Elyse if you’re reading this, please come play in Portland again. To anyone else who hasn’t heard this album: UGH, stop reading this and fucking listen to it! It’s really that good. Elyse hitting a sour note is still better than any of the auto-tuned industry schlock currently blazing up the charts, and I don’t care how old and cantankerous that makes me sound, it’s fucking true.

Elyse is the hippy grandmother of alt rock and I hang on every word of her raspy growl. She was grunge when Eddie Vedder was still a zygote. Just like grunge, behind the rasp is a heartbreakingly sweet sadness. “Painted Raven” is an 80 second song that can make me cry almost anytime I hear it. On “Mortuary Bound”, my inner goth cackles whenever I hear the Don Pardo-like TV announcer chiming in with his offer of death for everyone. Neil Young also plays on this album, making a brief squelchy guitar appearance on the beautiful “Houses”. What else can I say? Go buy this record.

Taylor Hill is a DJ, musician, and ghoul currently haunting several cities across the US. He hosts “The Based Goth Radio Show”, Thursdays 12-2pm Pacific, on Freeform Portland.