The Lickets: Her Name Came On Arrows
International Corporation / Gandhara

The Lickets: They Turned Our Desert Into Fire 
International Corporation / Gandhara

Issued concurrently, The Lickets' Her Name Came on Arrows and They Turned our Desert into Fire make the strongest case imaginaeable for the San Francisco trio's enchanting brand of psychedelic folk music. As they did on their previous outing Journey in Caldecott, shamans Lena Buell, Mitch Greer and Rachel Smith deploy a mini-orchestra of acoustic instruments—cello, flute, acoustic guitar, organ, sitar, harmonium, hand percussion, et al.—to call into being undulating vistas of luminous mantras and soundscapes. The Lickets' raga-like settings suggest a strong Indian influence, and traces of visionary ‘60s jazz artists like John and Alice Coltrane, the time-transcending drones of La Monte Young and his Theatre of Eternal Music, and ‘60s psychedelic rock surface too as parts of the trio's heady mix.

“Arrow of Expanding Light” initiates Her Name Came On Arrows with a hallucinogenic swirl of cello, dulcimer, acoustic string instruments, and percussion that feels like a peyote-fueled incantation—an apt beginning to the consciousness-expanding journey that follows. Double bass, cello, and violin collectively conjure a baroque drone landscape within “Circles In Parallel,” while “Constellation Umbrella” dives into a dream-pool of banjo, strings, and keyboards. The first disc also includes “In the Garden of the London Underground,” a gentle, vocal-based madrigal cloaked in a fog of reverb; “They Turned Our Desert Into Fire,” a waltz of melancholy mood and stately design; and “The Seven Pomegranate Seeds,” which caps the album with a lamentation for cello and acoustic guitar.

They Turned Our Desert Into Fire  differs from the other album in length (seventy-four minutes compared to the first's fifty) and in at times being slightly more ponderous and restrained, as demonstrated by “Butterfly Beach,” a meditative setting of seaside drift, and the seductively-brooding medieval folk setting “Clairvoyant Perception of the Unseen Unicorn.” Like a bucolic and peaceful trek through the countryside, “Ilyushin Il-76” is downright jaunty, while “Second Sight Procession,” untethered from any earthly mooring, glides like a shuttle through the upper spheres for a trippy thirteen minutes. Creaks and flutterings resound against a backdrop of acoustic strums and finger-picking in “Festival on the River of the Frozen Moon,” a beautiful, funereal dirge for cello and flute. Mention must be made, too, of “The Heron & the Hummingbird,” whose elegant, serpentine weave of cello and acoustic guitars casts an irresistibly hypnotic spell. The second disc also boasts one of the trio's most ear-catching pieces and undoubtedly its most epic to date: the twenty-one minute “Endless Migration.” Against a shimmering sea of sitar tones and string washes, flute and cello melodies intertwine in an ecstatic daze, suspending time in the process. When the piece moves into its second half, it burrows even deeper into its oceanic mass, becoming ever more awe-inspiring as it does so.

Transcendental and transporting, the material collected on these companion releases achieves a seldom-heard reconciliation between improv-inspired exploration and structural coherence that's difficult to achieve, even if The Lickets makes doing so appear rather effortless. With the material coming at the listener in wave upon remarkable wave, the discs provide an incredible two-hour listening experience, and the releases constitute a major accomplishment on the band's part.

October 2009