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CD reviews

By Jon Pareles and Ben Ratliff  /  NY Times News Service

Hand-Painted Dream Photographs,by Moon Honey.

Hand-Painted Dream Photographs, Moon Honey, Self-released

Whirlwind virtuosity, extremes of delicacy and impact, melodies that leap all over the place, suite-like structures, cryptic lyrics based on literary conceits — all the hallmarks of progressive rock are robustly in place on Hand-Painted Dream Photographs, the first full-length album by Moon Honey, a musically hyperactive band from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It released a 2010 EP, Lemon Heart Opera, under a different band name, Twin Killers.

The guitarist Andrew Martin, the keyboardist Jeffrey Livingston and the drummer Jermaine Butler back the high, quivery vocals (and lyrics) of Jessica Ramsey in songs that segue amid folky-baroque intricacy; power-trio stomps; odd-meter excursions; and pealing, crystalline multiple-guitar constructions. Moon Honey’s repertory could plausibly be collaborations among Joanna Newsom, the Mars Volta and Grizzly Bear.

Each song is an odyssey, like The Two Fridas, which, in its six minutes, moves through pageant, barrage, rush, reconsideration, private reflection, desperate waltz and wailing affirmation, not to mention lyrics that tease at possibilities of meaning. Ramsey sings:

Deliriously

I walked across a rickety beam gray drone

clogged throat

couldn’t speak but you said you’d help me

up a ladder.

Salvador Dali described his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs,” and on the band’s lyrics page, Dali is one of the painters and poets who provide epigraphs — and perhaps imagined narrators — for every song, among them Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath, Edvard Munch and the self-taught Cayman Islands artist Gladwyn K. Bush. (Martin is from the Cayman Islands.) Yet if Ramsey is imagining artistic minds at work, she also hints at the ups and downs of romance throughout the album, which ends with a pair of songs called The Lovers (I and II). The latter concludes:

This game of hide and seek

was fun

I lost but I was found

I won one more time

promise you’ll hide inside my arms

this time.

Moon Honey often describes its music as “psychedelic,” but its songs aren’t the psychedelia of amorphous, open-ended jamming. They are fully composed from end to end, meticulously plotted voyages through chaotic states of mind. It’s strenuous music for both players and listeners; the tempestuous ride is its own reward.

— JON PARELES

Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms, Peter Walker, Delmore Recording Society

When John Fahey’s folkloric but futuristic, proto-neo, Mississippi Delta-to-the-Ganges acoustic guitar style was rediscovered in the 1990s, the second-wave enthusiasts scattered his ideas far and wide. But recognition for some of Fahey’s fellow travelers, including Peter Walker, came a bit later. Walker is still around; he retreated from recording for four decades, between Second Poem to Karmela, Or Gypsies Are Important, from 1968, and Echo of My Soul in 2008. He’d already studied Indian music at the beginning, and during his long interim went deep into Flamenco, learning from teachers in Andalusia. Perhaps more than his better-known peers, he was interested in doings outside of his own art, plunging into the antiwar movement and the study of traditional musical languages.

But the tapes for Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?, not released until now, suggest a different path: inward, gnarled and stubbornly personal. He performed some of it in 1970 at the Goose Lake International Music Festival — an event in Michigan that drew several hundred thousand — and recorded these tracks several months later; in the liner notes, he calls it his “requiem for the ’60s.”

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