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P. G. Six - Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites CD (album) cover


P. G. Six


Prog Folk

3.98 | 4 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Upstate NY's Pat Gubler's first solo venture away from the oddball Tower Recordings collective with other TR member Tim Barnes, Parlour Tricks is an incredibly influential album, even if it didn't raise many eyebrows upon the time of its release. Gubler's musical kingdom is between 60's UK folkies like Bert Jansch (and Renbourn as well) and later 70's Anthony Phillips (Genesis' first guitarist) and his Private Parts & Pieces collections, but also fraying with more modern artiste like Loreena McKennitt (can't count Joana Newsom, since she's more recent than Gubler), but also Roy Montgomery's unstructured, minimalist guitar work. Throw in a tad of Nick Drake (not just Gubler's vocals, but Drake's desperately beautiful soundscapes) and you might start to get an idea of their sound. Recorded on the ultra small Amish Records label and graced with a "fantasy prog" artwork, this debut album MUST be heard to be believed.

Right from the first notes of rare and almost forgotten instruments like the kemance or shakuhashi, the short opening intro of the bookending Letter To Lilly St Cyr lets you know you're in a very special musical realm. Between the folk eeriness of String Driven Thing and the acidness of Incredible String Band, this track is THE perfect intro to the rest of the album with its strange woodwinds. Leading to a semi Tull-esque When I Was A Young Man, Gubler's vocals are sounding like a mix of Nick Drake and Bert Jansch, and later, the two-part Divine Invasion, with the acoustic guitar-led first two verses being sung up rapidly then the electric wailings (possibly recorded backwards) are slowly engulfing the acoustic arpeggios. Amazing stuff.

A tense guitar underlined by some woodwind drones in Unteleported Man is definitely terminally hooking the proghead, especially once the flute and harp come to the fore with its Far East connotations then ending in a long psychedelic drone outro. One of the album's best moment, really!! The lengthy but slow-developing Quiet Fan For SK is meandering a bit too endlessly before finally hitting its full stride around the five minute-mark, but once there its eerie beauty will send chills down your spine and curdle your blood. Shepherd follows suit of Young Man and Invasion, with searing but slow guitar wailings, while the Ann Briggs cover of Go Your Way where Gubler is alone singing with his harp in tow (and at times dubbing himself with a flute), until Barnes hurries things up with some percussions. Fallen Leaves follows the same musical soundscape as its predecessor with the harp in the foreground and having some eerie drones throughout.

Although rooted in 60's folk-rock tradition and connected unashamedly to the ancient traditional structures, P.G.Six has something modern and incredibly forward thinking on show here. Gubler's gentle and eerie melodies, sparse singing, sober songwriting, and innovative instrumentation are making Parlor Tricks so successful and a stunningly solemn album. Gubler, using guitars (both acoustic and electric, harps, a diverse array of keyboards and various other even rarer instruments, creates a loosely-knit and unhurried musical gloss, while his TR cohort Tim Barnes adds some sometimes much-needed percussion to give more depth. The closing section of the St Cyr letter is a fitting album outro to one hell of a Wyrd Folk album. Gubler's explorations into early 60's folk and mid-60's folk rock, updated and refreshed by a modern post rock feel and a sometimes lo-fi attitude makes this debut album an extremely important landmark in today's progressive folk (or folk prog), obviously heard by groups like Espers or Long Live Death in their inspirations. Although I wouldn't call this mind-blowing, Parlor Tricks is at least quiet, pensive, reflective, passionate and lazy listenings will yield modest but enduring aural treasures. Much recommended as his its follow-up Well Of Memory, both being anthemic Wyrd folk albums of the new millennium along with Espers' two albums.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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