Pressing play on Jesse Carsten’s latest album as Half Shadow, Dream Weather Its Electric Song, is like being transported to a beatnik poetry jam in a smoky cafe, or an improv drum circle in the clearing of some backwoods hippie commune. The opening track, “Walking Underneath,” begins with his naked voice emerging from the void, gradually accompanied by hand drums, bass, and subtle, slithery electric guitar. The song builds toward certain catharsis, and then is gone in a puff of smoke.
Recorded over a year in two separate rooms at Carsten’s Portland home, a meditation room and an unkempt art studio, the album feels as much like poetry as it does music, with the lyrics taking center stage. While the words have an undeniable hippie aesthetic throughout, Half Shadow isn’t talking about crystal energy or dreamcatchers, but rather a universal wisdom and appreciation that’s (more or less) based in concrete reality, even on a song with a name like “Telepathy is Real.”
Dream Weather Its Electric Song recalls the “freak-folk” sound from around a decade ago, that included bands like Akron/Family, Brightblack Morning Light, and Devendra Banhart. Carsten’s friend and peer Indira Valey is making music of a kindred spirit in Portland as well, having released Yemas earlier in the year – so for fans of the genre, I’d keep an eye on Portland.