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Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering (2005)
Vashti Bunyan is the Queen Godmother of the softer side of FreakFolk and Psychedelic Folk in general, much like the Incredible String Band is the King Godfather of the more urgent, energetic kind. We all know this. You know this. I know this. The dog that I had to put down two weeks ago knew this.
After recording a number of singles starting in 1965 that were a direct consequence of the Folk Revival movement of the late '50s/early '60s, she wrote, arranged, prepared, recorded, and released to the world one of the sweetest, mellowest, colourful, engaging, memorable and (eventually) influential folk-agnate albums of all time, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1970 (which featured a number of notable folk musicians of the time, amongst them, tellingly, Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band). As is the case with plenty of masterpieces, particularly when they're a one-off, it didn't particularly make any waves in an already very saturated musical zeitgeist, and disappointed by that fact, Bunyan decided to quit her career as a musician, and retired to a rural commune (created by, again, members of the Incredible String Band).
She absolutely disappeared from the musical radar for over three decades.
It was at that time that a whole generation of up-and-coming freakfolkers from all over the world (notably Finland, England, France, Canada, and the Jew Ass Ey) unearthed her debut album and fell heads over heel for it. It influenced a wide array of musicians from Current 93, Max Richter, Adem, Glen Johnson, Miki Berenyi (from Lush), Feist, Saint Etienne, Karin Dreijer, Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, and Devendra Banhart etc etc etc etc who convinced her to come out of retirement and have a second go at a recording. Thankfully for future generations, they succeeded in their endeavour, and here is the result of 35 years of quiet introspection: A very subdued, intimate, delicate album of acoustic-guitar-driven music that seems like the soundtrack for pleasant, untroubled sleep, or a dreamy, lazy afternoon in a wild english garden.
Forgoing the more varied and colourful palette of her début, the album is deceivingly simple: Within the scaffold of its barebone timbric skeleton hides the fruits of someone who has had time to perfect their craft in isolation and without having to consider for one second that this craft would be registered, nevermind presented to a judging audience. There is a certain freedom in its restriction, and a wise calm in its discipline. What's more: There in it lives the heart of a now adult and experienced woman who has had an intense, if not public, life. Joined by many talents of the day, some of which I've mentioned above, she managed something so many bands have attempted and failed miserably to do during the past 15 years or so: To come back from a decades long silence with something more than worthwhile to say. The album is simple, touching, inviting, deep, and just lovely. Absolutely lovely. The cover art is a work by Vashti's daughter, the delightfully oneiric, idyllic, pastoral Whyn Lewis.
So, yeah. Hope you fucks like this.