The Skygreen Leopards|The Blithe Sons

One Thousand Bird Ceremony|Arm of the Starfish

San Francisco's Jewelled Antler collective is a loose assortment of prolific groups that set down their recorders whenever and wherever they damn well please (park, apartment, abandoned war bunker, beach, etc.), crafting mysteriously psychedelic free-folk that roams through the pines like gypsies and at times moans 'n' howls like tantric monks who happen to own one humongous bong -- I mean, gong.

Two of the collective's latest releases are the Skygreen Leopards' One Thousand Bird Ceremony and the Blithe Sons' Arm of the Starfish. The Leopards are the pop tunesmiths of the bunch, and peak moments of their 15-track collection of ghostly, electrified folk evoke hazy recollections of near-dawn campfire jams by the ocean. Nick Drake is there, and he's brought along his pals, cosmic elf-pickers the Incredible String Band, the mellow-moaning Godz, and -- what the hell? -- is that the Monkees' Micky Dolenz emerging from the thicket? But fear not, because the Leopards never, ever retread previously discovered soundscapes; they actually find new caves to explore underneath lands that were originally settled 30 years ago.

The Blithe Sons, meanwhile, are authentic inner-space travelers who build walls of feedback that quake like barely cooled pudding. Unlike the classic synth-drenched freaks of yore (Floyd, Spacemen 3, etc.), though, the Sons employ gratuitous, and gratuitously distorted, environmental noises, which better not make you think of quaintly chirping crickets, surf gently breaking, or a cassette of whale sounds. Over five eerie folk mantras, they transform waves and wind into an ominous roar that's liable to loosen the speaker cones from your cabinets. What would one call this racquet? Sandalgazing? I don't fucking know. Call it nature turned up to 11. It is massive, and it sounds wicked sweet.

 
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