Espers 'The Weed Tree' LP
Espers’ self-titled first release appeared in 2004, heralding an era in which there was a perception of back-to-the-roots in the underground; kids making new music that spoke strongly of folk traditions and psychedelia, in the process setting themselves apart from latter-day sounds and approaches. Espers didn’t shy away from this image, projecting a collective air, almost like a rural outpost, out of time and place in the urban environs of Philadelphia. The staid harmonies of Meg Baird and Greg Weeks, the 6- and 12-string guitars and percussion of Brooke Sietinsons, the full-bodied arrangements rife with traditional and classical details and the regular intervention of acid-toned guitar leads formed, along with the mystic and melancholy cast to their songwriting, a galvanizing identity for them among other like-minded music players of the day.
The second Espers album, ‘The Weed Tree’, was released in 2005. It was a nearly inevitable endeavour for the group, made almost entirely of cover material but the traditional folk songs - ‘Rosemary Lane’ and ‘Black Is the Color’ - were paired with songs by Nico, Michael Hurley and even Blue Oyster Cult, making for an oblique run through eclectic aspects of the past that succeeded due to Espers’ thorough re-imagining of the material in their own image. The addition of current members Helen Espvall on cello and Otto Hauser on drums and percussion upped the alchemy of the band to its most potent, making music that drew from tradition but making it new at the same time.
Espers, existing in between places, were a part of a flow of ideation that has as much to do with revelations from the 70s or 60s - with all the decades of the last century, really - as it does with the current expressions in favour of selfhood and safety that are struggled over today. Their music has retained a mysterious, unknowable vitality that, in the name of their original intention, continues to express Espers’ individualism, optimism and deeply empathetic soul.
‘II’ and ‘III’ continued the journey through 2009, after which Espers quietly dispersed. Since then, ‘Espers’ and ‘The Weed Tree’ went out of print and have stayed away for some years now. New vinyl and CD editions will surely be welcomed by the members of the burgeoning listening community that continues to evolve in the spirit and image of the communities that preceded them. And the circle remains unbroken.
Catalogue number: DC736
Label: Drag City