Click to hear: “No Land”
You wouldn’t expect the next big thing from Maine to be a band like Herbcraft, but here they are. They recently signed to the vinyl-only imprint of the renowned California label Woodsist, home to bands like Woods, Real Estate, Kurt Vile, Ducktails, and others you may or may not have to Google, depending what sort of online music press you subscribe to. In some circles, Herbcraft has made it just by being on the label. Woodsist is prone to releasing music steeped long and deep in loose-leaf nostalgia, and Herbcraft is no exception.
Recorded in an 18th century barn in Barrington, New Hampshire, The Astral Body Electric is an atmospheric, psychedelic trip. “We set up and recorded from about 11 a.m. until sunset one day,” said Matt Lajoie, the center of the Herbcraft pinwheel, “and the album is mostly first takes that we then overdubbed vocals and some percussion tracks on top of.” The songs loop and intensify from drone to unhinged abandon. There is a Tantric quality to the patterns that, if you listen closely enough, might just guide your mind into oneness with the universe. Call this niche “meditation rock.”
Lajoie has led the band through many incarnations and lineups. “The first two LPs were written, recorded and mastered by myself in my former bedroom at 33 Congress St.,” he told me. “The songs we recorded for The Astral Body Electric were birthed from heavy collaboration and group improvisation, gradually developing into their final forms via lots of jamming, with various people adding new colors to the palette.”
For this, their third official release, Lajoie employed former Cursillistas collaborator Dawn Aquarius to play organ, added Nick Barker on percussion and synth, Corinna Marshall on some wild flute, bass and backing vocals, and got auxiliary help from Doug Neveu (Mmoss) and Aaron Neveu (Woods). “During a recording break, we were working with Aaron on ‘Full Circle (Eternally)’ and Doug came out to the barn and picked up my guitar, started improvising some perfect leads,” Lajoie recalled. “He ran back to the house to roll tape, and was somehow able to engineer the recording and play lead guitar on it at the same time, with the recording console in a completely different building. It was unreal.”
In the interest of keeping all things analog, the album was recorded directly to tape by Doug Tuttle of Mmoss. The record was mastered by Matt “MV” Valentine of MV/EE using his “Spectrasound” technique.
The songs flow so well into one another that unless you’re watching the grooves you may not notice when one ends and the other begins. “Vinyl is, of course, the ideal medium for hearing this or any other album, so if possible I recommend listeners grab a copy and put it on the hi-fi,” said Lajoie. “Get comfy at home, dim the lights, center the EQ, turn the ‘loudness’ switch off and turn up the volume.”
— Anders Nielsen