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Linda Perhacs returns for victory lap on ‘I’m A Harmony’

| Thursday, September 28, 2017

1506555429-0a6d37643927d1fCristina Interiano | The Observer

Talk about a late bloomer — sort of.

The brief origin story of psychedelic folk musician Linda Perhacs is actually something like an anti-capitalist moral play: After she released “Parallelograms,” one of the most holistically superb folk records of all time, to marginal commercial success in 1970, Perhacs’ producer lost interest in her talent and the musician returned to her career in dentistry — for over 40 years.

It was only after her debut was rediscovered and reissued in the late ‘90s and ‘00s that she returned to the studio to record and release “The Soul of All Natural Things” in 2014. Only the imagination can envision what the stifled, underfunded musician could have produced during the intervening 44 years.

The stylistic difference between “Parallelograms” and Perhacs’ recent output belies artistic development the world never saw in process. Just think about everything that has happened musically — aesthetically and technologically — in the meantime.

Fortunately, though, the rush to catch up has not overwhelmed Perhacs on her latest effort, “I’m A Harmony.” Rather, she navigates new ground gracefully over a diverse set of psychedelic tracks, assisted by an entourage of baroque pop and folk luminaries like Julia Holter and Devendra Banhart as well as unlikely bedfellows like electronic producer Mark Pritchard.

And while I’m partial to the solitary pastoral essence of her early output, Perhacs’ transition to full-band work fits her updated sound well. The record’s unprecedented lush compositions place her voice at the center of cathartic aural spaces where Perhacs reaches divinity, channeling the natural world around her into spiritual harmony. “Winds of the sky,” she asks the heavens on the record’s opening track, “why do you cry?”

If that sounds very New Age, that’s because it is. Whether or not Perhacs intends it, some ‘70s secular spirituality has spilled into “I’m A Harmony.” It might be jarring to the 21st-century listener at first, but it’s refreshing faced with the innumerable hippie-revival bands — sapped of all their flower power — that sprung out of the new millennium.

The aesthetic isn’t cheapened, either. While some stylistic choices seem exceedingly odd, Perhacs remains authentic throughout. It’s not the kitsch of New Age she relies on but an attitude of wonder toward the simplest things. That’s why nobody but Perhacs could conjure up lyrics like “I’m a harmony / and extrasensually / I’m singing this, to you / through your laptop” — the core refrain of the record’s eponymous track.

One gets the sense that, if Linda Perhacs were one’s grandmother, she’d prescribe healing crystals for existential anxieties and cracked cellphone screens alike.

But the innocent wonder that permeates the record makes it idyllic — like the warm hug of a handknit sweater. While there’s not much out there about Perhacs’ family life, one thinks of grandchildren when she intimately croons, “How amazing you’ve become / with one full circle around the sun / How amazing you’ve become.”

If any other artist were involved, three back-to-back tracks with the word “love” in the title would raise an immediate red flag. But it should be clear after a few listens, though, that “I’m A Harmony” is a well-crafted and rigorous record, and one should take its freewheeling zest for life at face value. Perhacs isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but to reinvent herself — to spin the wheel around her hips, dancing in celestial prairies.

That’s quite a hard attitude to have in 2017, yet the seasoned folk singer effortlessly embodies it. Perhaps that’s her record’s message: there’s no harm in relearning the spirit of wonderment.

 

Artist: Linda Perhacs

Album: “I’m A Harmony”

Label: Omnivore

Favorite Track: “Winds of the Sky,” “I’m A Harmony”

If you like: healing crystals, the Age of Aquarius

Shamrocks: 3.5 / 5

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