From Herbcrafts MySpace
  • Photo: Bryan Bruchman [video projection by id-M-Theft-Able]
  • From Herbcraft's MySpace
The Astral Body Electric

Over the course of six songs, Maine's Herbcraft builds up an atmosphere of beauty and menace on their third full-length.

I couldn't say why I find minor-key music so relaxing, but The Astral Body Electric is a case in point, since there's nothing especially uplifting going on here, but the whispers and chants that ride atop Nicholas Barker's rolling, tabla-inspired rhythms have the quality of lullabies, mantras, or incantations (the title also brings Ray Bradbury's anthology I Sing the Body Electric* to mind).

* Along with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Bradbury's episode of The Twilight Zone, etc.

Illustration by Nebular
  • Corgi Books
  • Freaktastic cover illustration by Nebular

If the quartet takes a subtle approach to vocals, percussion, keys, and bass, the flanged-out guitar playing aims for the stratosphere. In that sense, it provides an anchor for Matt Lajoie's flights of fancy as he carves out the most fantastical shapes. I already wrote about the flute-embellished stunner "No Land" here, which remains the highlight of this fine set. It's also the only selection where you can clearly make out the lyrics ("We work so hard, we been working so hard...").

This movie tripped me out as a kid.
  • Fantastic Voyage (1966) / 20th Century Fox
  • This movie tripped me out as a kid.

My only complaint: the record seems short, though it's a respectable 42 minutes long. Except for "The Body Electric" (3:08) and "Impermanence" (1:59)—the latter plays like the Incredible String Band by way of Pink Floyd—the other tracks may be generous in length, especially the 12-minute "A Knock at the Door in Your Mind," except more of them would've been ideal. Either that or they could've lengthened the other numbers, but I'd imagine they do that when they play live.

Unlike Tame Impala or the Black Angels who construct their psych-rock around a pop framework, Herbcraft show greater interest in conjuring up a mood or a feel than crafting conventional songs (not that there isn't a time and place for defined melodies and decipherable lyrics). In that sense, they recall Loop, the Lumerians, and the Psychic Ills, which makes The Astral Body Electric a better bet for bedrooms and headphones than radio airwaves and automobile ads.

The Astral Body Electric is out now (orig release date: Mar 5). Stream it at SPIN.