Go Climb a Tree
The sylvan sounds of Philadelphia’s Espers betray their city routes. On their sophomore effort simply titled II, songs creep like vines slowly climbing a trestle, melodies flow like a spring breeze blowing through the leaves and the listener is left intoxicated in a Rip Van Winkle-sleep-state by the forest’s spell. These aren’t your typical folk-singer types, simply content to pluck away at a guitar and flute while singing an ode to their favorite meadow. The six members of Espers each contribute many facets to the album, listing instruments played collectively as opposed to the typical “who played what” linear notes. Their communal approach to songwriting shies away from focusing on any individual, resulting in a tapestry full of darker moments that reveal the full range of their folk, progressive and psychedelic influences.Eerie ambient chimes usher in the melodic acoustic guitar line to opening track “Dead Queen,” which features subtle slow-moving bass and muted guitar leads rounding out the sound. The intertwined voices of Meg Baird and Brook Sietinsons carry the gentle olde-tyme melody. Cello, electric guitar, and keyboards add further layers, creating an eight-minute piece that builds vertically on the same repeating bars. This strategy is used to assemble many of the songs hereafter. Each develops and builds over time, never straying far from the initial melody or tempo. “Widow’s Weed” opens with a gnarled guitar sound reminiscent of David Gilmour’s experimentations on Pink Floyd’s prog-folk disc Umma Gumma, breaking for some vocals before ghostly cello squeals finish things off. Moments of “Cruel Storm,” the shortest track at 5:17, brings listeners back to In the Court of the Crimson King, an influence that permeates much of the album and especially in the voice of Greg Weeks.
Though Baird’s voice carries much of the album, she is also accompanied by Weeks to create some beautiful harmonies. Their vocals, joined by a lush assortment of instrumentation, create an album that is hauntingly enchanting and memorable.