There is no shortage of live entertainment this Friday night, with performances by the Feelies, Junior Boys, Yeasayer and Guided By Voices. Unfortunately, the average ticket price for these events ranges from $20 to an exorbitant $30, not including the applicable $12 Ticketmaster surcharge.
So, it is pleasing to know that Philly’s most valuable ticket will sell for only $6, buying a night of ethereal jams at Frankford Avenue’s Highwire Gallery.
Performing will be Philadelphia mainstay Fursaxa, the longtime project of Tara Burke, former member of the Siltbreeze group UN. A de facto progenitor of the last decade’s adventurous folk movement, the music pioneered tasteful and ungaudy primitive song.
In addition to a slew of self-released CD-Rs, Fursaxa has recorded a string of records made available by the Acid Mothers Temple label, Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label, and most recently, ATP Recordings. She has also performed with Acid Mothers Temple’s Kawabata Makoto (an avid fan), Bardo Pond and Six Organs of Admittance.
Her early recordings were recorded on four track, underlining and complementing the simple and essential approach to her songwriting. More recent works have been accomplished in studio, which only add richness to her existing style, centered on layered vocal tracks.
Monotonous, two-note chord progressions (sometimes on fixed guitar, sometimes on organ) persist through four to eight-minute songs, serving as a musical mantra that is equally rewarding and engrossing.
Burke’s manner directly owes credit to the folk rock of 1960s Britain, most notably Fairport Convention and Pentangle. The restrained but melodically rich set of craft draws traditional Medieval Age structure through modern pop conventions itself.
While some of her lyrical prose is influenced by centuries old-literature, much of it is derived from entomology, which reflects the tone of the music; a deep connection to natural sounds. Her affection for the world of insects repeats in her words and her atmospheric looping mimics the calls of cicadas and crickets. Still, the best of Burke’s vocal ability comes out during non-lyrical hymns.
If the description of Fursaxa’s music encourages images of a divine freakout, it should.
Live performances are accompanied by the burnings of incense. Burke cites spiritual influences and “draws energy from crystals” for musical inspiration. Her concept of the natural and the supernatural appears to be interchangeable.
Fursaxa’s most recent release, Mycorrhizae Realm, is another wild trip, bolder than that of her past work. She recruited producer Greg Weeks, harpist Mary Lattimore and cellist Helena Espvall. The result of that collaboration comes out lush but typically restrained. The influence of free jazz legend Alice Coltrane is all over the record, wrought with cascading harp and freeform song design.
The layering and double channeling of Fursaxa’s soprano voice is delivered smoothly, not revealing where one cry ends and another begins. These ghostly vocals are tenacious and tireless, but never grow grating or stale.
We get the same celestial and enthralling aura weaved every time Burke lays it down, a trope that is guaranteed with any of her performances. Sharing the bill is fellow folk minimalist and frequent collaborator Sharron Kraus.
A native of Oxford, England, Kraus has made a fitting home in Fishtown, bringing with her authentic and inspired traditional folk. Woodwinds, strings, and any number of age-old instruments found at Renaissance fairs will be heard on her records. Her sparse acoustic guitar and sweet singing voice draws from Bert Jansch and other British singer/songwriters from the ’60s and ’70s.
There is still a hint of acknowledgment of contribution of the U.S., with strains of Bluegrass and American Primitive, likely a result of her surrounding contemporaries.
Like Fursaxa, Kraus has a prolific output from the past 10 years. Her catalog boasts a more sincere style of English folk, not often venturing into the long form noise rock of Burke. This is not to say that the music is not daring — it is anything but.
Unassuming, minor key pieces grow into deep, daunting epics. If anything, Kraus is heavy, coming down as hard as Led Zeppelin. Songs enter into dark, shattering behemoths that are jarring — even scary. Deep, pounding pulses from bass drums and lower register strings give way to Kraus’ beautifully creepy shrieks of urge.
This otherworldly double bill will be rounded out with performances by Baltimore’s Weyes Blood and Chicago’s Laughing Eye Weeping Eye, both bringing their share of weird to the table.
This one is “heads” only.
Who: Fursaxa and Sharron Kraus
What: Strange, timeless folk from Philly’s finest
Where: Highwire Gallery, 2040 Frankford Ave.
When: Friday, June 17, 8 p.m.EndFragment