The Butterfly Ate The Pearl
Modern psych-folk can be a dangerous thing these days. It’s easy to go from mind-bending to disastrously corny in a heartbeat, but Andria Degens does a good job of walking the middle ground on this release. And though I don’t find her lyrics particularly strong, her voice, instrumentation, production, and sequencing make for an exceptional album.
The Butterfly Ate the Pearl features guests from indie roots-rock acts like Bonnie Prince Billy and Vetiver, but this is clearly Degens’s album. She writes, co-produces, and contributes a dozen instruments. And, throughout, there’s no denying that the album has a singular feel and vision that seems to come straight from her personality.
The album is most impressive taken as a whole, songs flowing into and out of each other and carrying the mood throughout, sounding at times like a mind-blown Loreena McKennitt, or maybe a less dire Dead Can Dance. “Diamond River Run” is a true standout, with pulsing drone synths and shimmery guitars supporting a slinky and evocative melody. “Elevation of a Dream” is a sleepy, hazy, summery gem. “Another World” is the perfect centerpiece, a gorgeously arching soundscape which she soars over, so beautifully that it doesn’t matter what she’s singing about.
While the dominant sonic combinations on the album – the Celtic, the Eastern and the ambient – have been mainstays of psych-folk for 45 years, Degens manages to sound unique, fresh and inventive. It’s been five years since her last record; let’s hope she doesn’t need so long to recover from this one.
— Dan Greenwood