The Upshot: One of the strongest debut albums in recent memory, it’s like Neil Young & Crazy Horse if the Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman joined to kick Young’s ass.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
All of us in the business of musical obsessions have our dream mashups, whether it be members of certain bands working together or a genre clash you’ve always thought made sense. Heron Oblivion, the debut LP by the band of the same name, offers up a blend of elements you didn’t realize you always wanted.
Vanguard cut “Beneath Fields” tells the story: a folkie melody that sounds like a Fairport Convention outtake floats across sedate wah-wah licks, before drummer Meg Baird (Espers) adds an ethereal vocal on top. Befores the mist threatens to obscure all, guitarists Charlie Saufley (Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound) and Noel Von Harmonson (Comets On Fire, Sic Alps) burst free of their shackles and engage in hand-to-hand combat, skronk claws and feedback fangs bared. Bassist Ethan Miller (also Comets on Fire) unflappably holds it all together. It’s like Neil Young & Crazy Horse if the Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman joined to kick Young’s ass.
To say the rest of the record follows suit isn’t inaccurate, but sells it short at the same time: at no point does the album become formulaic. “Oriar” and “Sudden Lament” also put folk rock tunes through pickups on the edge of burnout, with Baird’s lovely soprano gently filling what little space is left. “Rama” and “Seventeen Landscapes” push the dynamics to the extremes, with low-key first halves barely above a whisper, followed by explosions of amplifier hell as Saufley and Von Harmonson try to kill everything in sight. It’s an approach that should get old, but never does – a testament to Baird’s smoky appeal, the guitarists’ eager imagination and the strength of the songs. All of it makes Heron Oblivion one of the strongest debut albums in recent memory.
DOWNLOAD: “Seventeen Landscapes,” “Oriar,” “Beneath Fields”