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Espers II album cover
3.95 | 40 ratings | 5 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dead Queen (8:13)
2. Widow's Weed (6:51)
3. Cruel Storm (5:17)
4. Children Of Stone (8:54)
5. Mansfield And Cyclops (5:57)
6. Dead King (8:02)
7. Moon Occults The Sun (6:47)

Total time 50:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Greg Weeks / performer, vocals, producer
- Meg Baird / performer, vocals
- Brooke Sietinsons / performer
- Helena Espvall / performer
- Otto Hauser / performer
- Chris Smith / performer

- Laura Baird / flute
- Gary Olsen / performer
- Jesse Sparhawk / performer
- Lord Whimsey / performer
- Paul Sommerstein / performer
- Willie Lane / performer

6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, Fender Jazz Bass, cello, recorder, flute, sleigh bells, gongs, bells, '78 Les Paul Custom, Space Echo, Echoplex, Crumar Toccata, Crumar Performer, Univox Mini-Korg, dulcimer, Arp Odyssey, Omnichord, Doric transistorised organ, singing bowels, drum kit, doumbek, dholak, bongos, Crybaby, Blue Box, Big Muff (Russian), and Fuzzrite.

Releases information

Artwork: Brooke Sietinsons

CD Drag City ‎- DC310CD (2006, US)

LP Drag City ‎- DC310 (2006, US) Different track order

Digital album

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ESPERS II ratings distribution

(40 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(55%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

ESPERS II 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!!!

Second "real" album (not counting the cover album called the Weed Tree), the group took quite a while to finish up this album. By now, the group has become a sextet (including a drummer) and presented a fuller sound, but II is an unmistakeable worthy follow- up to the debut album, released three years ago. Released on a different label (Wichita), the album sports yet another superb paisley artwork (dark brown this time), housed in a digipack. Aside the irritating fashion of the 00's to give as little useful infos on the music and the group (an attitude dominating the whole Post Rock movement, but contaminating others as Wyrd Folk) thus maintaining a phoney mystery around the groups, II is a an excellent album and would be perfect one, if it had mentioned a full line- up and their instruments. All the more irritating is that we see their faces, are given their family names, but don't know the first names or who does what.

If Dead Queen could've fitted well with the first album, with Widow's Weed, the group jumps in full stride of their new possibilities, using drums (not done on their debut), but this is not really affecting their overall sound even if there are solid differences. While more electric (compared with their debut album), the music remains mainly acoustic, most tracks are ranging between 6 to 8 minutes, which always allows for enough time to expand on their ideas, but I must say that some tracks tends to overstay their welcome (the never-ending Children Of Stone, for example) partly because of the repetitive nature of the tracks. The enchantment of the debut album (due in great part to those delicate and delicious guitar arpeggios) is duplicated here, maybe a little too much despite the differences; and this could almost be a carbon copy of their debut. Again like the debut, the album glides smoothly on their delicate textures, with every songs being fairly even and uniform, none are sticking out of the sonic spectrum installed right from the first seconds of the album until its last breaths. Very slightly different is the closing Moon Occults the Sun (why didn't they call it Eclipse), where the mood seems to be on the rise for the last few minutes.

This second album is more successful than the debut, partly on the experience factor and slightly better songwriting, but unfortunately it sticks too close to its blueprint, and therefore losing in inspiration what it had gained on quality. Yet another superb album that must be heard by all progheads with folk/medieval sensibilities, but if I can suggest you to get only one of the two albums, it would save you some dough, for the other (the one you didn't choose first) will only taste and sound the same.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars This is pretty original stuff in case anyone is paying attention. When I reviewed their self-titled debut I said that if the core duo of psych-fuzzmeister Greg Weeks and folk-nymph Meg Baird could stay together, they would create something amazing at some point. Well they did stay together – sort of.

Espers II, according to Weeks, is actually a reincarnation of what was once Espers. Okay, whatever – seems a bit contrived to me. But there is some truth to the whole rebirth concept. What was officially a trio with several guest musicians in 2002 has become – well, a trio with several guest musicians in 2006. But it appears the separation between the two halves is gone. The sextet that performs on this album comes across as a single, contiguous unit. And the net result is another breathy and adventurous and intoxicating musical experience, only one that has an even richer breadth of sounds than the first album.

Even though the liner notes only identify the players by their last names and pictures, it doesn’t take much effort to discover the cellist here is Helena Espvall, who has also appeared on duet releases with Meg Baird, and has performed live with Espers and with Weeks’ solo side project. This album includes drums (unlike the debut where the tempo was kept thanks mostly to finger cymbals and dulcimer) and although their presence is barely felt, Devendra Banhart drummer Otto Hauser adds to a growing sense of a new musical twist from Espers that blends early folk-inspired psych with the complexity and patience of post-rock. A Silver Mt. Zion came close to this but with a harder, often angry edge; and Ozric Tentacles dabbled here as well although steeped deeply in the psych side of the equation. With Espers there is a sense of balance that yields a net result of getting the listener inside of themselves, while in the end leaving you feeling pretty good about life and the world around you in a realistic but not fatalistic way. A true talent.

“Children Of Stone” is the trippiest and longest track here, an unhurried wander through mild fuzz guitar and a variety of eclectic and mostly uncredited instruments like the doumbek, dholak, chimes, and dulcimer; and the more mundane but still folksy 6-string acoustic guitars and soft snare drums.

On the more psych end of the spectrum, “Mansfield and Cyclops” features both drums and fuzz prominently, as well as a very striking and eerie picked sound that I believe is an autoharp. With an instrument like that you have two ways to go: folksy, or pretentious. These guys manage to avoid sounding pretentious, so they must be the real deal.

I really can’t say enough about this album. The compositions are all remarkably unhurried, rich in acoustic sounds, percussion and loose, meandering tempos. Meg Baird has a voice that seems to both channel Sandy Denny and extend the capabilities of more mainstream vocalists like Shawn Colvin.

Best track? Hard to say, but the drawn-out and spacey “Dead King” is a top pick with lots of hard-to-identify percussion, Baird’s lazy vocals, and a tempo that doesn’t put you to sleep but sure gets you feeling laid back in a hurry. “Widow's Weed” is another top offering with some exquisite acoustic guitar and a very Mt Zion-like dissonant cello/violin combination.

An outstanding follow-up to the band’s 2002 debut, Espers II shows growth and progression in both the range of sounds and complexity of the arrangements. What hasn’t changed are the things that work: Baird and Weeks’ complementary folk vs. psych styles, Baird’s luscious vocals, and the liberal sprinkling of exotic and inspiring instrumentation. A seriously excellent album, and very highly recommended.


Review by JLocke
4 stars As soon as I heard the first few moments of this album's opening track, ''Dead Queen'', I knew I was in for a treat. My, how impressed I am with this ghostly, haunting masterpiece. Such beauty is achieved, yet through very unconventional means. Sometimes they sound like Barret-era Floyd's craziest moments, other times, they sound like something completely original, but they always, always manage to engage me with every turn they take.

The acoustic guitar work is the first thing that jumped out at me. Not only is the skill impressive, but the overall production gives it a very 'dark' tone that could give you chills. The singing of Meg Baird is celtic and haunting, yet lovely and melodious. The songs have a very studio-heavy, layered sound, yet that shouldn't be an issue for you. Yes, it isn't the type of 'folk' music that can be 100% reproduced live without some heavy electronics at work, but the result is fantastic, regardless of what genre you may think Espers 'actually' are a part of. Many instrument tracks overlap each other to create a deep pool of musical intricacy for the more observant listener to uncover over the course of repeated listens. It's a treasure-trove of ideas that give the album considerable replay value. You'll be coming back to this one a few times more if you liked it even a little bit.

All of the song structures seem to be calm and well-thought out. Never do the players feel as if they have to rush or throw in over- complicated flourishes in order for the music to be enjoyable. It's this self-confident approach to their songwriting that impresses me most, I think. They seem to know exactly what this style of music calls for, and they are clearly more concerned with mood, atmosphere and melody than they are complexity or flourish.

The eclectic mixture of instruments and the uses for each of them over the course if the record help give each song its own identity in a situation where lesser songwriters may have ended up recreating the same track seven times. Yes, it's not the most diverse album you'll come across, but it is an album you'll likely come back to if you want no-nonsense, beautiful modern acoustic- electric music. It's simultaneously relaxing and disturbing, comforting and haunting. It's progressive and forward-thinking, without a doubt, and yet many conventional Prog Rock lovers may not like it if no other no reason than for its apparent simplicity. Minimalism and simplicity are two very different things in music, and I would certainly categorize this band as displaying the former.

A very nice surprise for me, since I hadn't heard a single note from this band before ordering the album. I decided to trust my fellow collaborators in this case, and I'm very happy that I did. I think I may have found a new favorite. No, it's not 'epic' or anything like that, but nor is it boring or bland. It's just Espers. It's slow-moving, melodic mood music, I suppose. But with a progressive twist. The compositions are clever and layered, and the delivery is just dynamite. I implore you to at least give this band a chance the next time you feel like buying yet another album from a more well-known artist. Take a chance. Like me, you may end up very pleased with you decision.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Pennsylvania-based Prog Folk band led by Greg Weeks and singer Meg Baird release their second album. With II the trio is "officially" expanded to a sextet.

1. "Dead Queen" (8:13) eerie space notes drop like water droplets before a "Stairway to Heaven"-like guitar enters at the end of the first minute. Multiple voices singing in amazing harmony weave enter at 1:35. The verses are very slow and methodic like one of MEDIÆVAL BÆBES' slower, more delicate songs. Violin and fuzzy electric guitar duet in the instrumental section, left and right channels, respectively, before recorder-like stringed instrument instrument joins in the left (and continues playing harmonics beneath the next vocal verse and successive instrumental section). A whole mess of odd instruments (see "Instrumentation" list) join in to create quite an unusual sonic landscape through to the ending fadeout. (13.5/15)

2. "Widow's Weed" (6:51) raw electric guitar dominating the acoustic instruments at work in the wings, this is dark music rises and falls over three minutes before "settling" down to a slower, more spacious soundscape in which Meg sings in a dreamy-downer voice. (13/15)

3. "Cruel Storm (5:17) a bluesy base with acoustic instruments, electric bass and electric guitar, precedes the entrance of the amazing voice of Meg Baird. This sounds like a song from 1970-71--from the likes of GAY WOODS or Maddy Prior from The Woods Band, BARBARA GASKIN (Spirogyra), or even Judy Dyble, Jacqui McShee, or Sandy Denny. A simple song but astonishingly beautiful. (9.5/10)

4. "Children Of Stone" (8:54) opens with a more traditional folk rock instrument palette, including drums and bass, before male-and female chorus of voices enter in a gorgeous wave of woven harmonies. Flute and picked guitars create a bit of "I Talk to the Wind" sound/feel in the third minute and carry it forward beneath the next verse of vocal weave. AT 3:05, after the end of the second verse, an eerie old synth screams single notes portamento-style until 4:10 when the next vocal verse begins. In the sixth minute a couple voices take the lead while a very low synth portamento note counterposes, singing in a foreign language. Other instruments--including beautiful solo vocalise threads--join in and build a fairly thick soundscape--though all and every instrument and voice somehow remain distinct and distinguished. Very cool, beautiful, and memorable song. (18.5/20)

5. "Mansfield And Cyclops" (5:57) another gorgeous song that sounds like it came from 1971 with another incredible vocal from Meg. The difference between this and "Cruel Storm" is that the instruments' contributions are significantly more enriching and noteworthy: drums, multiple guitars, and other stringed instruments. This feels like it could come from a TIRILL MOHN album. (10/10)

6. "Dead King" (8:02) guitars, hand percussives, strings, and flute open this one before Meg enters and sings an English-style folk ballad. There is an odd "organ" and "synthesizer" as well as some background vocal help. This one drags a bit and is more interesting from the instrumental perspective than the vocal or lyrical presentation--especially as it moves into the middle when creepy, eerie, even scary sound embellishments take over. (13/15)

7. "Moon Occults The Sun" (6:47) opens simply, weaving several traditional folk instruments together, before cello and drums enter and move the music into a more forward direction. Around the one-minute mark a male vocal enters in the lead department (with some far background support from Meg). The active drums and cello make for some interesting bridges between the verses until the three-minute mark when another strange fuzz-embellishment to an electric guitar teams up with a different sustain-prone guitar to give us a very interesting, beautiful weave. This goes on for a full two minutes (of prog bliss) while the band jams beneath. Cool! Things calm back down for the final minute and the final vocal verses. (13.75/15)

Total time 50:01

A-/five stars; a veritable modern masterpiece of refreshing Prog Folk; definitely an essential addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Tripped-out psychedelic folk lives still, and Espers' second album offers a real treat. Three musicians manage to sound like they are 27, with each key member of the group pulling some multiinstrumentalist duties as they shift between electric and acoustic instruments organically. Combining the psychedelic attitude of the genre's foundations with intricate song structures reminiscent of prog and post-rock, with fine production values bringing out the dirtiest electric guitar fuzz and the cleanest acoustic strumming you'll ever hear in combination. Clearly not afraid to use the possibilities of the studio environment to the maximum extent, Espers take you on an unforgettable journey here.

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