With last year's Old Fog, serial collaborator (credits include Jackie-O Motherfucker, Stephen O'Malley, and others) Alexander Tucker wet his feet in a corner of the psychedelic folk spring that many of his peers have ignored: the blood-red moon, pre-Enlightenment end. Old Fog injected a healthy dose of cultish (in multiple senses), prog-indebted early-'70s folk rock a la Comus and The Trees into the hairy-fairy-meets-American-Primitive rubric. This wasn't Pat Grubler's pre-Raphaelite reimagining of the medieval — this was an all out embrace of the mystical and elemental that sounded almost as old as the earth itself, even when electric guitars were shredding all over the place. And while Old Fog didn't always make for a compelling listen — songs rambled or never took off as often as they succeeded — it channeled some heavy sounds and emotions that only a serious artist would take on.
Given the vein of ritualistic Brit folk from which Tucker draws, it's no surprise that his second album tackles another genre that prefers pre-Renaissance — metal. Now Tucker's electric guitars are more Sabbath than Hawkwind, dealing in down-tuned, intestine-melting throb instead of acidic scrawl. The album's general sonic would also make a headbanger smile: each instrument rings sharp, definite, and loud, giving these songs a larger-than-life sound. Lo-fi CD-R label jams these ain't.
Even at his most abstract, Tucker crafts cinematic music. "Broken Dome" begins with ghostly, electronically-altered wordless vocals reminiscent of the last track on David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name and loops these sounds to create the song's foundation. Sawing acoustic string drones, flittering avant-jazz reeds, and black metal buzz chime in gradually, like cells in a minimalist piece, a full-bodied work of musical architecture emerging from an unlikely set of raw materials. The song behaves like a more rhythmically constant Mark Hollis piece. That comparison holds up again in "Spout of Light," whose interwoven clarinet and piano wouldn't sound out of place in Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. As life-affirming as such well-wrought music can be, though, Tucker's words are those of a man asphyxiating: "Each limb wrapped around me/ Air drained of light," he sings in "Rotten Shade." In Furrowed Brow, the ground always cries out for blood, the forest longs for a soul to keep, and Tucker's finally turned those horrifying yearnings into sweet music.