Heron Oblivion’s pedigree precedes them. Featuring a line-up of musicians who’ve done time in Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance, and Sic Alps, they’re something of a psych-rock supergroup. Critical expectations run high for bands like this: there’s always the risk that the different players involved– while capable of making great music in their own right– won’t be able to gel, that the music won’t cohere into something magical when they all get into the studio together. Thankfully, on this self-titled album for Sub Pop – the band’s debut– Heron Oblivion steps up to the plate and delivers.
This is a band that truly understands dynamics. They’re able to seamlessly transition between slow, shimmering electric folk numbers (“Beneath the Fields”) to cosmic psych freakouts (like the intro to “Orior”). Even moments that at first seem out of place and jarring– like the tense, nervy, Surfer Rosa-style riff that drives “Faro”– eventually dissolve into the album’s intoxicating, heady brew. The dialectical push and pull between Meg Baird’s stately, ethereal vocals and the Comets on Fire veterans’ distorted flights into the cosmos is the fuel that drives this music.
“Seventeen Landscapes” is, for me, the cornerstone of the album, a 7-minute track that unfolds languidly like a drop of ink in a water glass. Here, Baird’s haunting voice reaches its zenith as it guides the music through masterful swells in dynamics, from acoustic-whisper-quiet to psychedelic-earthquake-loud.
Essential listening for devotees of Fairport Convention, shoegaze lovers, and people who own way too many crystals.