Although Philadelphia's Espers has been lumped into the ill-fitting "freak folk" category, the group is really not as odd as that label implies.

Although Philadelphia's Espers has been lumped into the ill-fitting "freak folk" category, the group is really not as odd as that label implies. Instead, its sound is large and inclusive, featuring a myriad of folk instruments. At times "II" could pass as positively medieval; song titles like "Mansfield and Cyclops" "Dead King" and "Moon Occults the Sun" evoke a definite renaissance fair feel. But this is not geek music. The songs blend familiar sounds to create complex layers, with flute, a string section, electric guitar, dulcimer and Meg Baird's soft yet haunting voice expertly swirled into the mix. "II" conjures a creepy but very real neo-psychedelia that is alternately paranoid, somber and reflective. Quite an achievement. -- Michael D. Ayers

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