Released in 2017 on Domino Records
“He says ‘And if its above me, I will kneel devoutly if it guides me. And if its below me, I’ll caress it tenderly. Are we thriving? We’re thriving”
From the very start of “Season High”, the music here evokes floating down a river through a tropical rainforest, with bird-like synth (or violin) chirps , nature field-recordings, and slow waves of autoharp and acoustic guitar strumming to accompany Avey’s intimate, prayer-like singing. To help with the lush, hallucinogenic orchestrations, Avey enlisted the amazing violist/arranger Eyvind Kang, who’s not only worked extensively with Sunn O))), Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs 3, and Sun City Girls, but actually played on “Bees” and some of the other songs on Feels that serve as spiritual predecessors to Eucalyptus. The wordless, ghostly vocals off in the distance are sung by Angel Deradoorian (whose recent The Exploding Flower Planet and Eternal Recurrence are two of my favorite releases in the past few years). “Melody Unfair”, follows the rhythm of deep breathing, with atmospheric sounds and guitar strumming fading in and out of silence with every inhale and exhale. As if the watery themes weren’t strong enough already, certain guitar or synth effects on this one strongly resemble dolphin calls. Side-A closer “Ms. Secret” picks up the pace a little, with a solid beat manifesting for the first time on the album (although still no drums in sight). If it weren’t for the countrified swells and slides of pedal steel from Susan Alcorn, this catchy track would almost fit with the sunny psych-pop Animal Collective’s been producing this past decade. The lyrics on this one describe staying up “til the sunrise” talking with a close friend.
Because of its consistent sonic palette and reverb-heavy production, Eucalyptus may veer towards monotony during first listen of its 15-song, 60-minute duration, but further listens reveal that there is so much depth to be explored within this watery psych-folk. Even on side B alone there is a sample-heavy sound-collage (“Lunch Out of Order pt. 1”), acoustic melancholia (“Lunch Out of Order pt. 2), bouncy pop (“Jackson 5”, another song that seems equally apt for an AnCo release), a droney underwater meditation (“Draw One for J”), and the eerie falsetto of the hazy “PJ”.
Avey Tare’s introspective, intimate lyrics play no minor part in the album’s evolving emotional narrative, a narrative that feels like the revelatory thought stream of someone on a profound LSD trip. Personal reminiscing mixes seamlessly with surreal and nature-oriented imagery, occasionally leading to spiritual realizations like that “getting pulled down can enlighten you” (“Coral Lords”) and “life is all kinds of meeting you there” (“Lunch Out of Order Pt. 2”).
Overall Eucalyptus is a beautiful and enveloping excursion of ambient psych-folk that conjures water and nature through a hallucinogenic lens with its lush instrumentation, reverbed atmosphere, lyrics, and field recordings.
Recommended tracks: Season High, In Pieces, When You Left Me, Melody Unfair