Salamander / Salamander

Bent Hemlock

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Bent Hemlock was intended to emphasize psychedelic folk more than the band's past releases, which gave more attention to improvised music. Although much of the groundwork is laid by acoustic guitars, the psychedelic elements come into play with a fairly wide range of instrumentation, including wah-wahing electric guitar, chord organ, violin, and cello. Even given that psych-folk tends to drift off more than the average rock genre, however, this batch of dark folky songs tends to meander more than it should. There's a downer vibe to much of this stuff, albeit more placid than most drone-flavored gloomy postmodern rock is, as if some of the traits of acoustic adventures like John Fahey and Bert Jansch have been absorbed into a more rock-oriented band context. Singers Sean Connaughty and Erik Wivinus are limited in expressiveness; "Hail" almost sounds like a more tuneful, normal spin on the stream-of-consciousness drek of Jandek, as hard as that might to be imagine. The high, haunting singing of guest vocalist Madeline Westby suits the material much better, making the one song on which she appears, the British mystical folk-rock-flavored opening track, "Galleon," a highlight. "The River Song" also takes more cues from pretty British ballad folk than the rest of the material, so much so that it seems like the album gets hijacked into a more dissonant, structureless direction after the first two cuts.

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