Despite my constant search for new music, there are times where I’ll buy an album simply because it’s being released on a great label. Names like Merge, Sacred Bones, and Dischord are a seal of quality and will rarely do you wrong. Such was the case when I decided to get Heron Oblivion’s debut album on Sub-Pop (another trustworthy entity) after only hearing a couple of songs on YouTube. I didn’t know where the band was from, how long they’d been together, or how many albums they’d released. The combination of the Sub-Pop name and the hints of early 2000s Comets On Fire psychedelic space rock were enough to sell me on them.
Needless to say, after listening to the entire album and taking deep satisfaction in my decision to blindly buy the album, I read up on the band and discovered that my first Comets On Fire appraisal was spot on. In fact, Comets On Fire guitarist Ethan Miller and drummer Noel Von Harmonson are half of the brain-trust that is Heron Oblivion. Singer Meg Baird has a similar pysch-rock track record with her past work in the band Espers, and guitarist Charlie Saufley played in the stoner rock outfit Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound. I thought Heron Oblivion was just some upstart band inspired by early 2000s psych rock – it turns out that this is an early 2000s psych rock super group.
The seven song, 44-minute LP swirls by in a intoxicating haze, one gauzy, mystical song after another. Baird’s placid voice brings a calm to the grandiloquent guitar swells present on Comets On Fire albums. Instead, Miller and Saufley’s guitars bounce off each other like bubbles in the wind, aimlessly floating out across the pastoral sprawl.
But the album isn’t all serene slumber. Tracks like “Oriar” and “Faro” pick up the pace with distorted guitars squealing out otherworldly riffs. On slower songs Baird’s vocals are haunting and serene, but on the heavier tracks her calm melodies will quickly dive into off-key tongues that, in combination with the dissonant guitars, are reminiscent of Kim Gordon’s legendary rants (think Dirty).
Heron Oblivion may be this collection of musicians first effort together, but these space travelers have made similar journeys before. Fortunately, they still have uncharted galaxies left to explore.