Heron Oblivion’s Spooky Debut

Rarely does such beauty and psychedelia come together so naturally as it does in Heron Oblivion‘s self-titled debut. The band’s facebook describes their sound as funeral folk, and it is precisely that. With Meg Baird’s folky and otherworldly vocals and Ethan Miller’s and Noel Von Harmonson’s fuzzed over psychelic guitar riffs, Heron Oblivion’s talents are as diverse and outlying as the band’s sound is.

While there is definitely a link to early to mid 2000s psych-rock, Heron Oblivion’s sound is much more pastoral than that of Comets on Fire, White Hills, or Howlin’ Rain. The San Francisco based quartet found a way to take the best parts of traditional folk and infuse them with a healthy dose of heavy psych. The album’s opening track. “Beneath Fields,” is a great example of this. Whether the song’s beauty comes from Baird’s distant and sort of spooky vocals or the noise-laced blues based riff, “Beneath Fields” promises an album that will arrest its listeners.

And Heron Oblivion does just that. The album collages bits of feedback over solid fuzzy riffs and stripped down drumming to create songs that are dark and haunting. With its heaviness and ethereal vocals, it’s a natural inclination to compare the album to Windhand’s Grief Infernal Flower. And there are strands that link the two.

That said, while Windhand’s efforts seem to stymie in the quagmire of their heaviness, Heron Oblivion’s songs seem to work toward something, to move, however slightly, toward another plane. “Rama,” the longest and center track, is a good example. The song is mainly a chain of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. This chain leads to a hushed bridge that explodes into one of the most blistering solos I’ve heard in a while. This ability for Heron Oblivion to lull their listeners into a sense of security before unleashing a sonic assault is what makes their debut so compelling.

The album ends on a much more hushed note than it began. Whereas Heron Oblivion‘s start was a flash boil, its end is a rolling simmer. The last two tracks of the album, “Seventeen Landscapes” and “Your Hollows,” do well to compact Heron Oblivion’s aesthetic into subtle soundscapes.

While the album ends in a much softer place, it doesn’t sacrifice any of its power. Even when muted, Heron Oblivion’s ability to store energy into taut but not rigidly arranged riffs is never far from their songs’ surface. One of those moments comes in the last minutes of the album when Baird’s voice elevates on one note, blurring the distinction between guitar line, feedback, and vocal melody.

If you’re a fan of Comets on Fire, White Hills, Acid Mothers Temple, Uzala, Expo 70, you’ll enjoy Heron Oblivion. If you’re a fan of Espers, Joanna Newsom, woods, you’ll enjoy Heron Oblivion. If you’re a fan of music, you’ll enjoy Heron Oblivion.

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