Natural Psychedelic Progression
Equal parts challenging and mesmerizing, Eternal Tapestry’s latest release on Thrill Jockey is like a psychedelic voyage above the lush greenery of the Mt. Hood National Forest. With songs that are titled after the various species of vegetation native to the national park, Wild Strawberries is decidedly indebted to the atmosphere of its recording location. Meandering guitar riffs drift atop the nearly-constant organ lines that pulse away with the occasionally dream-like vocal line – this release is just about as ambient as psychedelia can get, eschewing traditional song structures and pushing the limits of what can be considered psych “rock”.
The terms “challenging” and “difficult” are not meant to imply that Wild Strawberries is a chore to listen to, but instead that there is such a wealth of ideas spread over its nearly hour-and-a-half running length that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by its sheer mass. Even the members of Eternal Tapestry admit that the cabin’s setting as a recording studio sometimes lent to a little excess – the band recorded around 36 hours of music during the sessions. “I think the nature of being at the cabin, it brings out the best and the worst,” said guitarist Nick Bindemon in an interview with Noisey. “It let us completely let down our guards and do whatever we want all the time.”
One thing is for sure, the cabin led the quartet to skew away from the “rock” elements of their sound and towards experimental textures to the point that this could almost be considered psychedelic post-rock. That the second half of the record completely forgoes rock and roll drumming, instead sticking strictly to traditional percussion instruments is telling of the departure-from-rock Eternal Tapestry make on Wild Strawberries.
Considering this is a double album that consists of just eight tracks, it is easy to understand that many of the songs stretch well past the 10-minute mark. Despite the extended length of the songs, most of them do not have a great deal of dynamic shifts, instead sticking to a couple of mesmerizing figures which are repeated over and over. The best of these lengthy tracks is the 16-minute “Enchanter’s Nightshade.” The third song on Wild Strawberries, it has some of the album’s only live drumming, which serves as the laid-back guide to a classic-psych-inspired keyboard line that occasionally gains the momentum to rise to the top of the mix and a wah-effected guitar riff that runs through the track in a quiet, yet calculating manner.
Not all of the tracks on Wild Strawberries are of epic proportions – the album kicks off with one of its most traditionally-structured songs, “Mountain Primrose.” One of the few songs to feature vocals throughout, “Mountain Primrose” has electronica- influenced rhythm backing and heavily-reverberated vocals that sound a lot like an even-more-bizarre Panda Bear. In fact, there are quite a few moments throughout “Mountain Primrose” that make it sound like someone stretched and pulled the edges of Animal Collective’s “My Girls” until it became a completely different, much less pop-oriented song.
While this release will probably not be in anyone’s heavy everyday rotation and none of these songs are a threat to get stuck in one’s head, Wild Strawberries is still a strong, genre-pushing release for Eternal Tapestry. The album may end up serving as a transitional release for the band as they further develop and refine their sound into ever more experimental territory.