Espers II
Drag City

Shrouded in space echo and dangling with sleigh bells, the opening riff of Espers' "Dead Queen," clearly and immediately, draws an eerie resemblance to the Eagles' "Hotel California." As unfortunate as this may seem, there's more to this Philly band than some played-out tune.

As Espers II continues to crawl through the desert with its trembling, wonderfully–sustained guitar leads and tenderly plucked dulcimer and hypnotic 12–string, it becomes increasingly obvious that Espers offer so much more than the easily recognized haunt of classic rock.

There's something about "Mansfield and Cyclops," with its tightly–wound, rapid–fire single note guitar shots opening up into breathy and loose starbursts of Big Muff drenched celebration, that recalls the daydream of Sonic Youth.

Here the beauty of Espers II exposes itself completely. It's a slow, hot, pulsing and wavering trip, marrying folksy psychedelia with rough–edged experimentalism and noise, filled with intelligent instrumentation. Vocals, shared by Greg Weeks and Meg Baird, are chanted and churned more than they are sung, while instruments are stroked and strummed more than they are played. Classic Martin acoustics are complimented by Crumar Toccata and Doric transistorized organs, while bells and gongs are paired with Tibetan singing bowls, Middle Eastern doumbek, and Indian dholak.

If, at first, Espers II resembles a simple rehashing of overplayed riffs, it soon reveals itself to be decorated with many subtle, finely–timed treats, demanding and rewarding repeated listens.