The second album by Philadelphian freak folkies Fern Knight continues their debut's fascination with the weirder side of their Brit-Celt influences, but with a broader palette this time, and a more confident grasp on the textures that fire their fancy. Comparisons to the likes of Pentangle and the Incredible String Band are valid (not to mention the likes of King Crimson and early (Anthony Phillips-era) Genesis). But they are also lazy, in as much as they can only pinpoint the sound's uniqueness, while saying nothing for the sheer depth of expression and imagination that transforms almost every track into a lost opus of some deeply buried stream of folk sub-consciousness.
Dark orchestration and eerie eclecticism lap around the fringes of the best songs (which, perhaps surprisingly, could be any of them), while Margaret Wienk's vocals are definitely taking on a timbre all of their own, neither sweet and homely nor cracked and dislocating, but a bridge between the two, over which her lyrics, like your own senses, might tumble at any moment. The fact that balance is never truly lost is testament to the strength of the songs, but perhaps the greatest compliment to be paid to Music for Witches and Alchemists is that it doesn't sound like a modern release. Rather, it already feels like one of those timeless classics that are resurrected every so often by tiny specialist reissue labels, and pushed out into the daylight of a disbelieving world. The difference is, this time, we are still at the beginning of the story. And one hopes that the best is yet to come.