» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Fern Knight
Music For Witches and Alchemists

Rating: 8.6/10 ?

December 18, 2006
In some sordid Apple way, a heavy handed iTunes led me to Fern Knight; through a digital twist of fate the Mountain Goats' "This Year" was shuffled up against Music For Witches and Alchemists' opening track, "Song For Ireland." I think I actually dropped what I was doing. Sure, there could have been a starker contrast - any cut from the Melvins or Slayer would have made the tables seem turned that much faster - but the lush and animated details of Fern Knight were a beautiful shock against even John Darnielle's acoustic raking. And so there I was, ripped between two worlds, and within a matter of moments I was drained of the bitter bile and post-love trauma infused through Darnielle's songs and filled with a billion shimmering grains of fairy dust. I felt the inclination to pull the hood of a burlap cloak over my head and steal away into the forest, where no doubt pixies and druids would await me.

Fern Knight apparently hail from Philadelphia, but their sound is strictly one of the British Isles; the lushness of the Scottish highlands, the minstrel-y pluckings of ye olde English, and a wee bit of Irish spunk. If Leprechauns were to rock out, it would most certainly be to Fern Knight. Having fantasized that the music was the work of a singular woman, whom I could woo with limericks and promises of lustful embraces on the forest floor of Myspace, I was a bit disappointed to find out that there is a working collective of musicians behind the sweeping arrangements of Music For Witches and Alchemists. But where my libido weeps my ears rejoice, as the contributions from other musicians are what lead to Fern Knight's sprightly wall of sound. Think Mono with accordions, mandolins, harps, saws, triangles and various bowed instruments, then add the most soothing, plaintive female vocals ala Vashti Bunyan and you'll be on track. Do not, however, get the idea that Fern Knight are homely and content to rest on tradition - guitar squalls and noise are interspersed with the softly woven village sounds, but only when utterly appropriate. Shakespeare would no doubt be equally enthralled and appalled.

Word is that Margaret Wienk has babysitting references on her resume, and I can only imagine how the little angelic faces of her clients slipped softly into a warm slumber under her shushing voice. Music For Witches and Alchemists is an album that I wouldn't hesitate to play for a three year old, but Fern Knight is far from childish or simple. Childlike? Perhaps, in its lightness of spirit. But simple, most certainly not. The band crafts a swirling ode to the psychadelia of decades ago but is not satisfied with the road already traveled. Fans of Devendra Banhart will find solace in Music For Witches and Alchemists, as will followers of Neutral Milk Hotel, Sigur Rós and Joanna Newsom, and pretty much anyone looking for music that is as fit for the coffeehouse as it is the opium den and, dare I say, between the sheets.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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