The Incredible String Band

I Looked Up

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I Looked Up points fairly directly at the arguably self-indulgent side of the Incredible String Band (ISB) that had surfaced since the collective began congregating around Scientology in 1968. This incarnation of the ISB centered around the core unit of Mike Heron (guitar/harpsichord/violin/piano/organ/vocal), Robin Williamson (guitar/violin/flute/gimbri), and their respective girlfriends Rose Simpson (violin/bass/vocals), and Christina Licorice McKechnie (vocals). While not a complete loss, I Looked Up is less focused than their previous efforts -- particularly Williamson's miscellaneous "Pictures in a Mirror" and "When You Find Out Who You Are," which clock in at over ten-and-a-half minutes. These are contrasted by Heron's comparatively more succinct and less eclectic "Black Jack Davy," "This Moment," and "Fair as You." "The Letter" is a spry uptempo number, recalling Daevid Allan's quirky style of songwriting and also benefits from the addition of Fairport Convention skins man Dave Mattacks. Never failing the ISB is the band's amazing multi-instrument musicality. They couple that with seemingly organic adaptations of folk from both sides of the Atlantic. The celebratory Appalachian influenced "Black Jack Davy" is contrasted by the somewhat staid English balladry of "Fair as You." Likewise, the meandering epic "Pictures in a Mirror" -- recounting a tale of Lord Randall -- incorporates a gothic story line with an extended minstrel-esque quality and sonic attention to detail. This is in contrast to the buoyant and empowering "When You Find Out Who You Are" -- which is no doubt a reference into their Scientological lifestyles. Incidentally, when the ISB performed to a considerably less than enthusiastic reception at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, "When You Find Out Who..." was one of the two tracks played from this album. The other was the aptly prophetic "This Moment."

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