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Wooden Wand

Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg(Soft Abuse)

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Harem marks the first solo turn from James "Wooden Wand" Toth, and it turns out sunburned solitude suits him better than the unfortunately all-over-the-place psych he and backing act Vanishing Voice have liberally released (CDR-style) over the past couple of years. Here Toth treads a more certain path -- restrained, sometimes hypnotic psych-folk -- with the dazed, peculiar mien of a pilgrim who has just returned from a 40-day spiritual journey in the desert, malnourished and slightly insane. Particulars of devotion, random personal musings and remembrances, the importance of animal totems, and assorted inspirational malarkey swirl together and drip out in drawled, somehow meaningful puddles as Toth's guitars hem, haw and thrum. A baby-amusing record player shares space with an updated Book of Revelations screed on "Vengeance, Pt. 3." By contrast, he urges Don't let your time pass you by in eerie, double-tracked splendor on the chorus to "Eagle Claw," investing the you with a yodel so spooky, it suggests a close proximity to the afterlife. Harem's undertow is sneakily strong; even if you don't want to drink Toth's Kool-Aid, the pews in his church are inviting and element-worn enough that a return visit is inevitable.

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