Lesser Birds of Paradise

Space Between

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Got an insufferable know-it-all of a rock-snob friend? Invite him over with the promise of a recently unearthed bootleg of a previously unknown Elephant 6 album from 1998, then watch as he listens for the first time to the Lesser Birds of Paradise's Space Between. "Of course, that's Julian Koster on the musical saw," he'll say during the ghostly opener "My Refrain," and on stark solo acoustic performances like "Take the Leaves," he'll claim to detect Jeff Mangum's hand in the lyrics. Finally, he'll say that this is clearly a solo album by some obscure member of Elf Power or Of Montreal that Will Cullen Hart of Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel's Scott Spillane overdubbed with their own inimitable blend of horns, banjos, unidentifiable drones and lo-fi tape effects to create this minor masterpiece of neo-psychedelia. Of course, he'll never speak to you again after you reveal the true creators of the Lesser Birds of Paradise's Space Between, but that's a small price to pay, and he could be forgiven for the mistake: this is truly the Elephant 6 album that never was. Singer/songwriter Mark Janka is the clear focus, much as Mangum was in Neutral Milk Hotel, while multi-instrumentalist and producer Tim Joyce takes the Hart/Spillane role of embellishing the basic guitar and voice tracks with a wide variety of sonic fripperies (pump organ, ukulele, etc.) that turn Space Between into a hazy, psychedelic blur. Meanwhile, non sequitur song titles like "Claire Danes, If You Ever Get a Nose Job, I Swear to Jesus I'll Hang Myself" and "So the Bear Wipes His Ass with the Rabbit" (the punch line of every seventh-grader's favorite joke) balance Janka's relatively somber and personal lyrics. Never simply weird for its own sake, Space Between is a small psych-folk gem.

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