Release Date: May 16, 2006
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Folk
Where Espers' self-titled debut album was drenched in sunshine melodies, traditional folk influences, and psychedelic acid-folk sounds ranging from Fairport Convention and Donovan to Six Organs of Admittance and Super Furry Animals, and their creepy, apocalyptic EP -- who else would cover the Durutti Column, Nico, Michael Hurley, and the Blue Öyster Cult on the same record as a reverent version of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" -- neither of these offerings truly prepare the listener for II. This Philly quintet fronted by Greg Weeks, Meg Baird, and Brooke Sietinsons have gone over the edge this time while retaining just a modicum of restraint to hold all the pieces together. The proof is in the kool-aid so to speak.
If Espers' 2004 debut proved a happy marriage of psych-folk and indie, this follow-up introduces its medieval prog progeny. The fiddly-dee ambience has been eclipsed by paranoid freak-outs. Where an acoustic guitar twinkles, its electric counterpart gets frazzled. The predictable warm afterglow of Dead Queen is matched by the slippery squeaks, bleeps and Wicker Man weirdness of Dead King.
II, the new album by Espers, displays an ostensibly humble and soft-spoken group, delving deeper into a painterly studio technique and considerate, evocative arrangements. It is both romantic and impressionistic, as a blurred and softened emotional violence sweeps throughout the album. The palette of sound is culled from only the finest in analog fetishism, denoted even in the liners is the country of origin of a certain distortion pedal, wearing its meticulous craftsmanship on its sleeve.