Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tasseomancy: Ulalume

The term “psychedelic” gets slapped on almost any music that paints some vision of altered human consciousness. But makers and listeners of music have been tripping since the dawn of time—and it’s that primordial, proto-psychedelic otherworldliness that Tasseomancy evokes on its second full-length, Ulalume. The group’s core members, sisters Sari and Romy Lightman, also spend time providing occasional backup vocals for the synth-pop outfit Austra, but Ulalume couldn’t be farther from the future; as if fueled by opium, occultism, and sheer awe in the face of unknowable forces, the album’s sparse, pale folk forms a ghostly afterimage.


Songs like “Anubis” and “Ashkelon” do more than merely reference antiquity; they coax it sweetly into captivity using the Lightmans’ cooed incantations and the lush, looped organ and alternately plucked and pounded guitars of multi-instrumentalists Taylor Kirk and Simon Trottier (of the folk outfit Timber Timbre). Even when the harrowing, distorted heaviness of “Night” drags the album toward a noisy abyss, it’s balanced by “Up You Go, Little Smoke” and “Diana,” slightly more conventional wisps of acoustic folk that offer glimpses into the Lightmans’ talisman-stocked, bedsheet-haunted dreamworld. There are traces of Joanna Newsom’s eerie chirp and Marissa Nadler’s feathery darkness to Tasseomancy, but Ulalume stakes out its own resonant, trance-inducing wavelength of the collective unconscious.

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