[PSYCH FOLK] At its best, Sidereal Time, the fourth album from Portland duo the Harvey Girls, recalls Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in its disheveled folk experimentalism. "Picher, Nowata" and "Superman Keeps Slipping," two of the album's highlights, create a trail of tambourines, trumpets and reverb-drenched samples like brightly colored streamers. During the record's duller moments—of which there are plenty—this playful inclination fades, making it difficult for the LP to live up to its own promise.
The brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Melissa Rodenbeek and Hiram Lucke, the Harvey Girls offer a prime example of both the benefits and pitfalls inherent to self-production. When Sidereal Time enters such lushly overdubbed territory as "Sun Dogs," it sounds like an album living in its own aesthetic world. When this momentum fails, the results are, without exception, soporific.
"Between the Stars," for instance, opens with the theoretically interesting conceit of a pop song recorded in the half-flat affect of a religious congregation going through the Sunday hymnal. The idea, however, scuppers its curious promise thanks to a clunky chorus that insistently repeats, "There is a darkness between the light/ Holding your absence."
Such "sounds good on paper" experiments—both lyrical and compositional—trouble the album in its less emphatic moods. It sounds as if Rodenbeek and Lucke occasionally became more interested in the tricks afforded them by their recording gear than in the songs the gear was supposed to record. Sidereal Time bears the marks of an album recorded without the motivating pressure of deadlines, something that, in this case, would have provided a much-needed creative counterweight.
SEE IT: The Harvey Girls play Record Room, 8 NW Killingsworth St., on Saturday, Oct. 13. 8 pm. $3-$5 sliding scale. 21+.