Last year I bought Eternal Tapestry’s album Wild Strawberries completely on a whim. Well, honestly I think Thrill Jockey Records forced me to. You see, they send me emails and entice me with “preorders” and “limited edition” things. These limited editions I speak of are only available if you buy the record a couple months before it comes out, and aren’t available anywhere else but Thrill Jockey’s website. If you don’t preorder then once the album is released to the regular record buying public you instantly feel regret for not slapping down that cold hard cash early on. So you end up jumping online and go to Discogs and pay $20, $30, or more extra for that “limited edition” that you should’ve just bought two months ago in the first place. You feel like a real heel to family and friends for spending the extra money. People you don’t know that pass you on the street are whispering to other strangers about you. Those jokes about Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders you hear on The Daily Show are really, secretly, about you.
Okay, so the you I’m referring to is really me. I can’t take the thought of missing out on cool, limited edition swag. So last year when the email came from Thrill Jockey about the new Eternal Tapestry double LP that itch needed to be scratched. Granted, I wasn’t that familiar with Eternal Tapestry so I checked out A World Out Of Time and Dawn In 2 Dimensions and realized it was a no-brainer. I gave Thrill Jockey my card digits and that was that. Upon that new double LPs arrival which was called Wild Strawberries(no relation to the Ingmar Bergman film, sadly), I was a bit perplexed. I mean, it sounded okay. But the band seemed to have left the guitar noodling tendencies and space rock vibe at the door, so to speak. It seemed the long songs did remain, but were based more around keys and repeating motifs. We’re talking 15, 16 minutes songs(3 of the album’s 8 tracks break the 15 minute mark). It’s hard to differentiate where one long song turned into another. I didn’t dislike the album, but I was having a hard time finding my place with it. I couldn’t quite find my “in” with it. I could see the “Enter” sign over the door, but I had no key to unlock it. I contacted the band and asked them if they’d be interested in talking to me about the album for the Jhub site and whoever it was I talked to said sure. So I sent them questions and heard nothing back for three weeks. I reached out to them and made sure they got the questions. The band member I talked to earlier had said yes they had gotten the questions and apologized for the delay. They’d get right on it. Well, that was many, many months ago and still nothing. I’m going to assume I won’t be hearing back from the boys in Eternal Tapestry. It’s okay, though. You see, I’ve unlocked the door without any guidance other than the needle on my tonearm and my sometimes very red ears.
You see, while many bands claim psychedelia as their calling card, I believe they’re only pretending. Far out colors, heavy drug references, trippy echoes and cavernous reverb are only ornaments to hang on the already exploding mind of the true psychedelic warriors. So many artists are paint-by-numbers, fill-in-the-blank psych rockers. Real deal psychedelia erases the lines and proceed to dump paint wherever they see fit. Eternal Tapestry have made a record of true mind-expanding, bottomless abandon, psychedelic rock and roll. Wild Strawberries makes me feel like I downed a bottle of Nyquil. I don’t fall asleep, though. The music puts me in a trance, as if I’m sitting idle on a train that is moving through a succession of tunnels very slowly.
“Mountain Primrose” is the engine of this train slowly puttering along as over the grainy, distorted loudspeaker destinations are spoken. You can’t hear where the destinations are, but you don’t mind because, well, it’s not about the destination, man. It’s all about the journey. “Wild Strawberries” basks in saturated organ brilliance. We make our way through the first succession of tunnels. Most psychedelia seems enamored with colors, as Pink Floyd’s early liquid light projections would have you believe. But “Wild Strawberries” doesn’t concern itself with bright colors. It’s a dimly lit affair. It’s a shadow show, with various black, gray, and white elements flashing over you. The train scene changes from dimmed color to black and white as you enter the slow motion tunnels. The train slows to a crawl till you reach “Enchanter’s Nightshade”.
“Enchanter’s Nightshade” is 16 minutes of a slow crawl garage blues jam. I can only imagine the haze in the room as Eternal Tapestry recorded this one. To us it seems like epic noodling. You can just see the drummer nearly falling asleep as he keeps a steady lope of a beat going, occasionally throwing a fill in to wake himself up. This would be pretentious if it weren’t done so earnestly. Once the organ comes in things get a little dreamier. There’s a mix of early Jefferson Airplane and even The Doors. It’s like “Light My Fire” at half speed; or Link Wray’s “Rumble” through a filter of downers and a rag soaked in ether.
“Woodland Anemone” is startlingly different than everything before it. It’s a nearly 2-minute keyboard piece that sounds like Terry Riley shot into outer space. There’s a heavy dose of drone-y organ throughout Wild Strawberries, but the spacey synth sounds on “Woodland Anemone” are few and far between. It’s a nice little palette cleanser.
“Maidenhare Spleenwort” brings back the Doors-y vibe. It’s like “The End” mated with the soundtrack to Phase IV. If you have to have verse/chorus/verse ditties then you better turn around now, my friend. If the long, drawn out atmospherics don’t get you, the contact high sure hell will(anybody got any chips? I’ve got the munchies, man.)
So if you haven’t figured it out yet, this record is a monster. It’s nearly 80 minutes of slow walks through magical forests, trippy train rides, and eating mushrooms off the forest floor. There’s no narrative really(at least not one you can discern from heavy smoke burning your eyes and lungs.) The song titles sound like a cross between Arthurian legend and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. However you feel about that is your thing, man. I think it shows some fortitude on the part of Eternal Tapestry. I get tired of all these space-themed titles and warrior and damsel-themed albums. Wild Strawberries is very much its own universe, and not one you’ve visited recently. “Lace Fern”, “Pale-Green Sedge”, and “White Adder’s Tongue” never let up on the lost-inside-my-own-psyche vibe, with “White Adder Tongue” ending as if this album’s own universe was folding into itself, consuming its world like a snake swallowing it’s own tail.
Maybe these guys will read this someday. Maybe they’ll get around to answering those questions. Maybe they’re just too damn high to remember. I know what I’ll do, I’ll leave the questions right here. Just as I sent them over a year ago(March 2nd, to be exact.) Answer whenever you feel like it, guys. Really digging the record. Nice job.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the band? How did you guys come together? You’re based in Portland, Oregon, right?
I have one more question.