Barrett Elmore – “Woodlands” (Trail Records 2012, TR 012)

Barrett Elmore hail from Sweden. The band (Claes Mikael Svensson: drums, percussion, backing vocals; Max Karlström: bass, vocals, organ, harmonica, synthesizer; Mikaela Eriksson: vocals; and William Friman: guitar, piano, organ) are definitely influenced by early Pink Floyd (although I don’t hear much of Syd Barrett in their sound, more early post Barrett influence like the albums Saucerful of Secrets, More and Umma Gumma (my personal favourite PF period), with maybe just touches of the Syd era.

But hey, let’s not go pigeonholing Barrett Elmore into a Pink Floyd clone category, this band definitely has their own unique sound, whether it’s the brooding ambience of opening piece Entrance, or the spacy psych folk of The Creek or the goth-style Drowning (with its Breathe-like coda), or the twangy surf psych of Storm, or the majestic and hauntingly beautiful title track. Barrett Elmore takes a bunch of retro sounds and updates them to create beautiful, weird, melancholy, modern psychedelic music. There are two main lead vocalists in this band. When Mikaela Eriksson is singing the music takes on a dreamy, Cocteau Twins feel to it. Max Karlström on the other hand has a menacing, Peter Murphy-like sound to his voice, so those tracks take on more of a goth feel. But despite the numerous influences and sounds going on here, at its heart, this is still psychedelic music. With the instruments (and the vocals) run through trippy effects, strange sound effects (both sounds of nature and bizarre, scary sounds like cackling laughter) running through the mix, this is one freaky trip.

One of my favourite cuts on the album is the 12-minute closer, a so-called ‘bonus track’, an instrumental called Psilocybe Semilanceata. Starting with spacey synth and organ coming in under birdsong and heartbeat, you almost think this is going to be the most Floydian number on the album, but this piece takes off all over the place, creating a vast hallucinatory soundscape out of which emerge haunting folk guitars, raindrop-like piano melodies, wild cacophonous drums, trippy acid rock and other strange musical musings. Lovely stuff!

It’s nice to see Trail Records (known for their re-issues and compilations) releasing new original music as well. Woodlands by Barrett Elmore is a fine addition to their catalogue and an excellent addition to any psychedelic music lover’s collection.

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Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

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