Espers - Ii
After two solid releases (2004's Espers and 2005's cover collection The Weed Tree), Philly's worldly-folk act Espers set course for a beefier, more well-rounded sound on II. Adding members has certainly done that, and when you consider the group's maturity and already-defined prowess for penning intricate and invasive folk songs, it's not hard to see why II is Esper`s pinnacle in their short but sweet existence.
As the album progresses, you get a feeling of themes and provocations oozing through their gloomy folk. They really waste no time on this front; opener "Dead Queen" spreads it's wings over 8 minutes of wonderfully expressive strings, subdued guitar passages and beautiful female vocals courtesy of Meg Baird. Indeed, it's her soaring, passionate voice that gives II a warm embracing of soul. From track to track, various instrumental interludes and songs-within-songs rise up from the ethereal atmosphere created. Only slightly disjointed is the flow over the 2nd half of the record, but to notice such things is an example of this reviewer`s picky nature.
Few complaints when dealing with II. You won't want to listen to any of the songs alone, as the album is really one long progressing movement that fluctuates and rebounds off of it's own twists and turns. It's sort of like riding a see-saw as a child, with the other seat taken by a much bigger and much stronger kid; you're just along for the ride. Expressively beautiful without being pretentious or too focused on what I find to be a stale style of music (which is to say, they inject enough into their folk leanings to almost demand such a tag to be left off of them), II shows Espers to be a force of creative energy and unbridled folk spirit, impressively fusing genres and sound-scapes into what eventually feels like an all-too-short journey.
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