It took more than forty years for Linda Perhacs to become found after being lost, and she was only in the public spotlight briefly, dimly, before. And that’s a shame, since her Parallelograms album, released in 1970, succeeded in introducing Joni Mitchell to (6aR,9R)-N,N-diethyl-7-methyl-4,6,6a,7,8,9-hexahydroindolo-[4,3-fg]quinoline-9-carboxamide, resulting in (according to the sticker on my old CD copy at least) “Acid Folk.” The more I listened to Parallelograms, the most its lyrical sophistication and sweet singing sunk in under my skin, acting as DMSO for the odder bits, the distortion and the multi-layered backing vocals swelling Perhacs into her own choir (or perhaps, her own crowd, commenting on other bits of herself).
Perhacs plays the Fremont Abbey Arts Center on Saturday, March 22, and how appropriate that she’d come to a converted church. Her aesthetic, while never explicitly Christian (and the better for that), embraces the spirit world and brings a spiritual concern to the world. Her new album The Soul Of All Natural Things continues her Parallelograms concerns and throws in plenty of new echo (digital, this time, probably), but this time she’s got retro-neo-psych-folk folks on her side, ranging from Julia Holter, to Fernando Perdomo, to Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel.
I hesitated at the threshold of The Soul Of All Natural Things, just as I did at the threshold of Parallelograms. I’m glad I went in past the vestibule, two for two. In my days of constant crisis, I used to seek, semi-consciously, for an album to save me, because to me in my endless hours of hurt, frustration, and directionlessness, I needed saving. I no longer think I need to be pulled up from the abyss. But the Earth itself is another matter.
And while Perhacs can’t alone save the Earth, she can send a message. Neither of her albums contains explicit political references (and all the better for that). But she’d like us to think seriously about we treat each other and about where we’re going. The sensuality of the echoes and judicious distortion, bolstered, this time around, with such things as Spanish guitar and stabs at funk (she’s been sampled by The Notorious B.I.G., but she certainly doesn’t share his values), goes to her point.
She dropped out of music and made a decent living in dentistry. But she’s back, intricate and rich as ever, in time for us to need her.