Psych-folk sextet Espers have long focused on creating music that is both beautiful and eerie. There’s a medieval, almost ritualistic feel to many of its songs as vocalist Meg Baird’s doe-eyed vocals weave around uneasy minor-key melodies .
With III , the band’s newly-released fourth full-length album and its third of original material, they’ve continued to combine elements of ancient Anglo-Saxon folk with free-jazz improvisation and modern rhythms. While predecessor II focused on dissonance and improvisation, and made use of a staggering 24 studio tracks, the new album focuses on space. “I don’t necessarily even mean fewer tracks, but just a larger and bigger sense of air and space,” Baird says.
As Baird and co-songwriter Greg Weeks prepared material for III , they tried to consciously create an album that would not sound like a repeat of the dark, dense II . They also tried to continue their ethos of an ensemble with a collective identity. “I tend to prefer a certain amount of willful abstraction [in my songwriting],” Baird explains. “We don’t like our songs to sound too personal. It just doesn’t fit at all into the collective ensemble mindset. We want them to sound like collective songs.”
Even the titles of the group’s albums—self titled, II , III —are meant to contribute some greater meaning to the band’s music. “Leaving things pretty open and generic in a way sort of speaks to ensemble thinking, just basic mystery,” Baird says. ■
Thurs., Dec. 3, 9pm. $10. With Azita + Doug Paisley. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684. johnnybrendas.com