PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Folklore: The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman

D.M. Edwards

Folklore’s debut is a lovely opaque work that should appear on all serious Best of 2008 lists.


Folklore

The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman

Contributors: Jimmy Hughes, Heather McIntosh, Scott Spillane, Amy Dykes, John Croxton, Bren Mead, Andrew Rieger, Ian Rickert, Che-Na Stephens, Aaron Jollay, Raoul De La Cruz, Nick Canada, Pete Erchick, John Fernandes
Label: bumbleBEAR
US Release Date: 2008-01-18
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman is a tale told from several perspectives broadly in the tradition of Kurusawa’s Rashomon, Sudden Sway’s To You With Regard and Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost. This device conveys mystery and posits the notion that we all make our own reality within the grand illusion of life. Folklore may be hard pushed to match the impressionist allure of these songs.

The album runs just a few seconds over 30 minutes, has a circular quality with some lines and tunes repeating, yet two important factors make it a rich and rewarding piece of work. The primary one is the use of many different vocalists to allow the characters from each song to have their own voices. This contrast is vital since Folklore’s music occupies a deeply pleasing, but fairly narrow range of prettiness, mischief, and melancholy. It is also important that the storytelling does not dictate the rhythms or flow of the music. With a useful paper insert to expand on the tale, The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman reminds me of perhaps the greatest concept album you have never heard: The Alchemist by 1970s British group Home. Their record had beautifully illustrated panels in a gatefold sleeve to reveal much of the narrative detail, leaving the music free to wander up gloriously muddy paths.

Even with the inserted notes, the ghost of Bobby Fischer might be unable to decipher all the clues and angles in the varied perceptions of Beaverman. I have listened to this record more than 20 times without working it out. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I have found the dazzling, anguished music so entrancing that I ceased caring about plot! There are some great tunes here, pitched somewhere between Appliance, Sun Kil Moon, and a stark, yet hummable, North European folk tradition.

To start things off, “Enter the Ghost” rises to a pitch and pace as ethereal as if New Order’s “Ceremony” was being played backwards by gypsy casino waitresses. The unreliable narrative then commences with John Croxton (of Wee Turtles) as “The Kid” recounting an Ouija board encounter with H.W. Beaverman’s ghost. “The Father” is more urgent, as Andrew Rieger (from Elfpower) contends that Beaverman is a prankster previously responsible for several deaths. This track has skuzzy guitar, frantic percussion, and a lonesome horn to lift the album towards the kind of swaying, awkward ecstasy associated with Neutral Milk Hotel. That’s fitting, as later on, Scott Spillane of NMH makes an appearance as “H.W. Beaverman” talking in a diner.

“The Drowning at Lake Bonaparte” is a suitably violent instrumental interlude. Then, the murderous nuances of this record seep out with “The Bartender” sung by Amy Dykes (from I Am the World Trade Center). Beneath the song’s lilting, haunting veneer lies a double-homicide drowning. “The Vet” sung by Bren Mead (from Masters of the Hemisphere) is a brisk, teasing song, partly about hoaxes and conspiracies. Within a fleet-footed alt-pop atmosphere, the idea is introduced that the legend of Beaverman could provide a useful smokescreen for unexplained tragedies and the foul acts of others.

Folklore is a project led by Jimmy Hughes (of Elf Power). Hughes' guitar playing is perfect for all the mood changes on this record. After “Bill & James”, a lovely, sparse song loaded with threat and regret, he takes a vocal turn as “The Pharmacist” to raise a different kind of altered perception. He sings of the death of his wife and the appearance of a ghost while confessing: “And I, mix my business with pleasure”.

The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman is a totally satisfying blend of imagination, truth, myth, personal history, bullshit, nostalgia, experiment and philosophy. Regardless of whether Beaverman is a malevolent presence with inhuman powers, a convenient enigma, a misunderstood accident, or something else entirely, this is a delightful record. It’s a mistake to pick out individuals on such a team effort, but John Fernandes’ violin, Nick Canada’s euphonium, Aaron Jollay’s cornet and Raoul De La Cruz’s trumpet stand out in evoking a wondrous sense of violence, death and loss.

Heather McIntosh (of The Instruments and Circulatory System) delivers the album’s peak as “The Ghost” against a gorgeous backdrop, including her own cello. Hearing this delicate stirring piece reminds me of the film Rivers and Tides, and, in particular, the section where a wooden structure painstakingly created by artist Andrew Goldsworthy is lifted by rising water and stays intact for a minute or two, even as it floats away to inevitable destruction.

Please ignore the rumor that Folklore has a new album, Carpenter’s Falls, coming out shortly, and be sure to hear The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.