Pastoral pummel. Listening to Heron Oblivion’s album feels like sitting in a lovely meadow in the shadow of a dam that’s gonna heave-ho’ any minute. Members of this new San Francisco combo have put in time in both raging and relatively tranquil psychedelic sound units—this is the premise and the synergy behind this very unique and special new album.
On the West Coast side, Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson were together in the mighty Comets on Fire, who spent a large chunk of the mid-2000s playing unbridled, blistering rock worldwide, fueled by a steady diet of amphetaminized Crazy Horse, High Rise, MC5, Chrome, and Fushitsusha. They were molten and melting down at all times—with twin-guitar blowtorch jams inflected with Noel’s careening electronic infusions, and songs and structures holding on to the wheel (barely) while destruction ensued. Noel did time afterwards with Sic Alps and Six Organs of Admittance, while Miller settled into a new level of interactions with Howlin’ Rain and Feral Ohms. Charlie Saufley resided at the psychedelic pop fringes with his band Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (kindred spirits to Comets to be sure.) He was joined in California by Meg Baird of Philadelphia’s Espers. The East Coast connection, Baird was an already-established leading light in the modern psych-folk canon both in Espers and as a solo artist (most recently releasing the gorgeous Don’t Weigh Down the Light LP on Drag City,) as well as original drummer for Philly’s post-hardcore degenerates Watery Love.
Ethan and Noel were loosely jamming in an improvisational unit called Wicked Mace at this point. Via osmosis, Charlie and Meg came floating in for weekly hangs that still resided in a somewhat free zone. “We just did pure improv’ for a few months under no pressure to ‘be anything’ or ‘be a band’”, says Miller, “I think Noel and I sort of pushed for the idea of Meg on drums, me on bass, and Noel and Charles on guitars just to mix it up a bit, get outside our usual