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Anahita, "Matricaria"

cover image Matricaria is a genus of plant well known for its powers of bio-remediation, the first to colonize lands that have been disturbed by human evil. And like the plants after which this album was named, veteran psych-folksters Tara Burke and Helena Espvall have littered this musical venture with seeds of great potential. I hope that in the future their efforts will be more cultivated and carefully pruned. Luckily, the places that needed weeding in this musical patch are passed over easily. What remains is wild in its beauty.



The album opens with backward vocals that glide over a childish playroom guitar ditty. At less than two minutes, as an opener, it seemed extraneous. Called “Matricarian Descent,” it truly is a low point on a disc that has many exalting moments. “Pirin Planina” more than makes up for the weak beginning, however, as thick swathes of cello, bowed by Helena Espvall (who has worked with the likes of Espers, Vashti Bunyan, and Pauline Oliveros), make for a solid foundation, giving structure to the languorous vocals. Casio drones add to the heady mix and when the flute joins in I feel the ripple of gooseflesh popping up across my skin.

“Myrrah” repeats the tactic of the first track, with more reversed sounding voices. At the beginning of it I hear the blurredly sung title melting, one of those rare occasions when I can understand what is being said. Kalimba like plucking is randomly placed over the top. This deviation was an unnecessary interlude for me, like an ornamental balustrade on a building already beautiful. Nevertheless, while going to sleep one night, I found my mind replaying these baleful melodies, wondering at their power to stick in my head when I find them so superfluous.

The nomadic desert percussion of Tara Burke, founder of Fursaxa, is showcased on “Moi Kissen.” Here, blended voices range between the cat like and guttural to the high pitched waver of a warbling Theremin. Brisk as the desert air, this is the kind of tribal bric-a-brac improvisation I think we’ll all be making and listening to in a powered down future; post-apocalyptic folk for a time when the angels of electricity are no longer functional. The danger in recording this type of intuitive music is that the brilliant moments appear before and after the not so brilliant, as happens on this song. 

Luckily there are polished gems to be found as well. “Velvet Shoon” is one of them. As the last track, it’s pleasant to taste, a good clean finish that cleanses the palette. Cello, banjo, and soft vocals are the central votives here. At the best moments their voices approach the devotional as if they are singing hymns to Anahita herself, the Iranian Goddess of water and fertility. In a broken Middle-Eastern landscape desperate for rain, this is the prayer song that delivers it.




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