It was only last month that I was introduced to the joyful, strange sounds of cosmic folk nomads Lasher Keen, but I’ve spent the past number of weeks mesmerized by recollections of my concert experience and their newest album, Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy. With a duration of over ninety minutes, this is hardly your casual listening experience, yet I find visits with this album require neither determination nor patience. Indeed, I was shocked when I calculated the length, as after multiple listens it felt so much shorter and simpler to me. Perhaps this is one of the most telling facts of Lasher Keen’s music and presence: time and environment are displaced when listening to these captivating and otherworldly songs. If you are a fan of anything resembling psychedelic folk music, please read on. This may well be among the finest albums you’ll hear all year, and today is the day the band picks up the records to ship out.
While I was previously aware of Lasher Keen’s existence through their association with cult favorite label Pesanta Urfolk, I feel it’s fitting that this release has arrived in time to serve as my primary introduction to their music. I’ve recently lost interest in spending all day indoors and on the internet now that I live in such a beautiful region. Indeed, I’ve found my desire to be out and about is unparalleled, making the wanderlust and old world beauty conveyed in Lasher Keen’s music to be a perfect soundtrack for my state of mind. Don’t fear, I’ll still be here to write and share my commentary, but I’d much rather be out experiencing the world around me instead of reading about it on a computer screen. Similarly, Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy feels like a bunch of musicians embracing nature, not so much as a means of rebellion against our busy world as it is a form of celebration and reverence towards the world itself.
In discussing the actual songs, it’s worth mentioning that there are two decidedly separate portions to this album, each serving its own important function. The album’s first eight songs occupy approximately fifty minutes, leading up to two epics span approximately twenty-three minutes each. The format allows the listener to be lured in by the mischievous and fantastical imagery of shorter (yet no less gripping) songs before embarking on two lengthy excursions into other realms. Songs like “The Quest to Question” and “Trembling Dreams” (both highlights of Lasher Keen’s live performance last month) inspire curiosity and wonder, drawing the listener away from concerns of work and responsibility and towards timeless thoughts of one’s true purpose and meaning. Balancing the serious pondering against modernity is the joyful side of the album that encourages one to lose self-awareness and just enjoy existence, with songs like “Dancing Sounds” or “Waltz of the Jester’s Fool” that encourage merriment and imagination while still retaining a strangely psychedelic edge. It’s hard not to get lost somewhere between reverie and reflection while listening, as I find myself wishing to linger eternally in the bliss of Lasher Keen’s music. The interplay between an ever-shifting array of instruments and the versatility of Dylan Sheet’s voice or the breathy and focused delivery of lines from Bluebird Gaia verges on hypnotic at most times. If music could ever be described as seductive without being overtly sexual in nature, this would be the most fitting album to describe as such.
After nearly an hour of beauty, the album’s towering centerpiece approaches. I imagine as this is a double LP, these two final songs occupy their own separate record, but it’s pure speculation at this point. “Climbing the World Tree” is truly worthy of its own dedicated experience, as it meanders and flows as it’s own journey. From the gentle, almost playful introduction onward, there is a constant building of tension and energy. Steadily moving percussion guides the listener onward and upward as flutes and both singers’ voices dart back and forth, urging the listener to remain wholly focused and involved. The moments where the music dips and slows only allows it to swell back with increasingly vibrant beauty and vigor. Closing this album experience is the slightly more subdued “Psychotropic Cult Of The Oracular Sacrificial Severed Head,” a song that is as much a spectacle as its counterpart yet follows an entirely distinctive trajectory. Whereas “Climbing the World Tree’ is an ascension of sorts, this voyage inward explores the farthest recesses of the mind. It is primal and mighty, conjuring images of late nights and oral history around a fire. Open your imagination in whatever way you find most appropriate and listen with the lights out. This is a blissful escape, an existence away from the world we know and live in from day to day.