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Espers Espers album cover
3.57 | 32 ratings | 4 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Flowery Noontide (4:10)
2. Meadow (4:11)
3. Riding (4:09)
4. Voices (3:44)
5. Hearts & Daggers (8:34)
6. Byss & Abyss (6:03)
7. Daughter (3:03)
8. Travel Mountains (6:30)

Total time 40:24

Line-up / Musicians

- Greg Weeks / guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, bass, violin, chimes, recorder, electronics, vocals
- Meg Baird / acoustic & electric guitars, dulcimer, electronics, vocals
- Brooke Sietinsons / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, finger cymbals, chimes, harmonica

- Tara Burke / vocals
- Laura Baird / flute
- Matthew Everett / viola
- Margie Wienk / cello
- Quentin Stoltzfust / tone generator

Releases information

CD Locust Music ‎- L 44 (2004, US)

LP Time-Lag Records ‎- Time-Lag 015 (2004, US)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ESPERS Espers ratings distribution

(32 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(59%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

ESPERS Espers reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Among the folk revival wave, called New Old Folk, Pagan Folk or Wyrd Folk, a good deal of the more fascinating groups come from the New World, but is definitely based on the Old World's traditions, even delving into the medieval. Although the roots of this revival dates back from the 90's (and some of Current 93's stranger albums), the movement has only gathered speed after the change of millennium, and along with the Faun Fables, Tower Recordings, Woven Hand (a spin-off of 16 HP), the Vetiver/Devander Banhardt/Joana Newsom galaxy, Six Degrees Of Admittance, and more, comes one of the most stunning group to grace the movement: Espers. This group is mostly the partnership of Meg Baird and Greg Weeks (both part of Tower Recordings), with Brooke Sietinsons as the third full member.

Right from the first guitar arpeggios ridden over a haunting flute, you just know you'll fall into this wonderful world of magic, mystery, angst, beauty, pagan fervour, enchantment and drumless dramatic ballads. If their music has a spooky allure, it will never be downright vicious like on Comus' First Utterance, Baird and Weeks remaining on the poetic but correctly correct side. Espers's music is almost entirely acoustic (if you except the fairly present electric guitars) and hardly percussive (aside chimes and hand cymbals), a very deep haunting dronal ambience music, with an almost gloomy feeling, coupled with Baird's enchanting voice, adding more angst as a result. Overall, it is relatively difficult to pick the tracks apart, because this is a very even album (no weak track) but it is also fairly uniform, because the tracks often sound much like the others. Yet this debut album is very fascinating, even hypnotizing and spell-binding, by its repetitive yet never boring climates where never a shout or even a hair is out of line, the exception being the end of Byss And Abyss Daughter, where the flute (played by Meg Baird's sister) leads the group into an organized chaos to conclude the track. Fans of early Genesis (Tresspass-era) will no doubt love the ambiences present here

Coming with a pastoral paisley khaki artwork, printed on textured waffled paper, fitting well the melancholic, bucolic and eerie ambiance of the album, this album is one of the more striking object of that year, even if it came in a jewel box. No doubt one of the Wyrd Folk movement's better album along with the similar PG Six and sometimes the superb Woven Hand, Espers' debut is a must hear for every proghead that has folk sensibilities

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Espers co-conspirators Greg Weeks and Meg Baird claim it was Krautrock that led them to the sound that is now packaged as something called 'Espers'. Well I'm not much of an authority on Krautrock, but I can say that this stuff seems a far cry from Popol Vuh or Floh de Cologne to me. Then again, those are about the only Krautrock bands I have in my collection, and these guys should know who their influences are, so never mind.

I will say that Espers rank right up there with a slew - well, a small slew; a trickle really. These guys rank up there with a small handful (much better.) of newer bands that seem to be having a blast reviving a spirit of adventurous exploration in their music with very few rules to bind them. Fairport Convention did that by creating a completely new blend of acoustic hippie pop with more traditional folk sounds on 'Liege & Lief' in 1969; Marillion merged metal and traditional art rock into a pompous sound and along with IQ pretty much created neo-progressive rock a generation later. And Graham Sutton came out of nowhere in the early nineties with Bark Psychosis to help give rise to an experimental sound that would become known as post rock. And Espers may go down in history as one of the innovating forces of a new brand of prog folk, one that blends drone music and sometimes wildly experimental sounds with very traditional-sounding folk trappings: acoustic guitar, finger cymbals, flute, autoharp, dulcimer, strings, and above all those angelic feminine voices. This album is a real treat for folk, experimental, and even psych fans alike.

Describing Espers' music is about as pointless as trying to explain Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or Idiot Flesh. I've you've ever tried to write a review for one of those albums you know what I mean.

But let's give it a shot.

I picked this up after seeing the band listed as a prog folk band, and both the look of the album artwork and the instrumentation listed on it gave me the impression this would be a newer version of late sixties-style languid folk. And the first track "Flowery Noontide" reinforces that impression. Mellow acoustic guitar, autoharp, hypnotic cello, Dennyisque vocals courtesy of Meg Baird. Yup, pretty much as advertised. And more of the same on "Meadow", although there's some suspicious tone generation going on at the end that seems to signal a shift in mood.

Turns out that's only the beginning. With "Riding" the Vox is out in full force, and despite Baird's acoustic guitar and Weeks' spacey vocals this is a considerably more psychedelic and hypnotic composition than the previous tracks. "Voices" is more of the same, with the drone of electronic fuzz tone toward the end building up to the crescendo that will come on the next track

By the time "Hearts & Daggers" rolls around Weeks' drone fetish is completely out of the bag. Despite the acoustic guitar and autoharp, this comes off sounding much more like a post-rock composition than anything resembling folk. The electronic fuzz drones on for more than eight minutes, and it is quite easy to get lost in the mood and forget you're listening to what is supposed to be a folk record. Good thing Dylan already broke the whole leap to electric mold a long time ago or this would be a lot more surprising than it is.

"Byss & Abyss" backs off a bit, but even here there is quite a bit of experimental tone generation toward the end just to keep the listener off-guard. And the band reinforces their modus operandi with the one-two combination of the acoustic and laid- back "Daughter" followed by a climactic drone and full-on psych affair with the "Travel Mountains" to end the album.

Not exactly what I expected for what was supposed to be a folk album, but Espers have delivered an excellent debut album and set themselves up to become a definitive prog band if they continue to develop their innovative sound in the future. Four stars for sure, and the capacity to deliver a masterpiece some day. Highly recommended.


Review by Negoba
4 stars Spooky, Ethereal, Freak Folk Indeed

Espers is one of a small group of newish bands playing various (mostly) acoustic instruments to create an independent music that has gone by all sorts of names, but my favorite is Freak Folk. The use of autoharp, flute, acoustic guitar, spritely voices and plenty of hippy trappings certainly have been gathered under a "folk" name before, but of course new and folk are a bit of an anachronism. Instead, this music is more of a soundtrack to a wiccan / pagan cultural movement that certainly tracks back through hippy times to centuries ago, but the sound is actually pretty fresh. This ain't no Peter, Paul, and Mary. Heck this ain't even Pentangle (a band that clearly was crossing true folk ideas with the sound of the British flower child sound of the time).

Whatever the name, this band certainly has their share of new ingredients to throw into their witchy stew. The most obvious is the use of dissonant harmony across the entire sound. The result is eerie and dark, and on this debut album, by the time we get to the big fuzz bass on the last song, "Travel Mountains," it actually feels like we're tunneling under the mountain, waiting for Gollum to grab us by the throat. And yet, Meg Baird's light vocals are almost angelic, creating a tension between light and dark that is extremely compelling. Greg Weeks relatively straightforward vocal tonality leaves us the impression of an innocent young man wandering into the enchanted woods, about to be beset and devoured by some ancient curvy spirits of the earth.

The instrumentation is quite interesting as well. Using both drones and slow rhythmic elements (strumming or arpeggios usually) the band is able to produce an airy, ethereal feel despite having the voices compressed so hard that it feels like the singers are whispering directly into your ear. Cellos, flutes, ebow guitar, 12-string, dulcimer are all credited along with "acid leads" (I assume the fuzz bass) and "tone generator" (which is some form of synthesizer). Though there are occasional noisy, free-form solo spots, never do the instruments truly draw attention to themselves in any way other than tonality.

Many of the emotional ideas aimed at by post-rockers are done, much better, here. The slow builds and dreamy soundscapes are similar. But the sense of variety is so much better on this disc. But like post-rock, the biggest downside is too much of the same emotion. While the world that Espers takes me to is rich in dark color, I'm not really allowed to explore different varieties of terrain. We remain deep in the forest at night. It's too dark, too long. A little ray of sun peeking through the trees, a little ebb and flow of the tension, or, frankly, a few up beat sections, all would have moved this from a 3-4 star album to a possible prog folk masterpiece.

As it is, this is really good and it's not as if there were a load of bands doing this before Espers got started. The other Wyrd, or Pagan, or Freak Folk bands sound decidedly different from Espers. To my knowledge, there still isn't another band that sounds quite like this. 4/5.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars Part of a substantial multi continental "wyrd folk" movement, where even "weird" has to be spelled subversively, ESPERS seems a throwback to the acid tinged psych of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their contemporary counterpart in Germany might be FAUN, and in fact they seem influenced by other German bands like HOELDERLIN and EMTIDI, as well as by JADE WARRIOR's fuzzy lead guitar phrasings.

ESPERS are shackled by a desire to foster a hypnotic state, because most of the tracks never escape the confines of the dirge. They are fairly competent at mood setting, but when that mood is exasperation, the goals may be left unmet. At regular intervals I really want them to break out and evolve, and the album is largely devoid of anything resembling a rich melody. Limited ideas are rewarded with excessive stage time, and some of the drawn out outros really make this album seem like a product of another time, in all the worst ways.

The best they can do with this largely acoustic sleepfest is found in "Riding", with impressive guitar leads, the electronic distortion of "Byss and Abyss", and especially the almost upbeat "Daughter". OK that's a stretch. Like a sports team with too many players cut from a similar cloth, this collection's components would thrive if plucked out and dropped into a compilation of tunes not of their ilk. But together they sport all the appeal of an unbroken horizontal line.

An esper is an individual with telepathic ability, but I suppose even espers can fail to get their message across. Either that or they don't have a lot to say.

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