Eagle Winged Palace (from left to right): Nathan Van Hala, Uncle Rhea, Cashew, Michelle Vidal, Mimi Michelle
We’ve covered folk and folk inspired m
usic on Radio KRUD before, but nothing quite like Eagle Winged Palace. They’re a band from California that are most accurately described in the words of Jeff Weiss, who said that they’re as “folk as [a] ghost story.” Their songs have a very antiquated feel, as if the band is telling forgotten tales from a long gone era with instruments that had been gathering dust until the group members pulled them out of musty old trunks and began playing.
Take the song “Timber” for example, the intro track to their recent album Where We’re Coming From; it is so thick with archaic song stylings that it acts as its own private time machine, bringing you on a three minute journey to the past as you listen to it. Vocalist/guitarist Cashew accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful wailing the three female vocalists, each occasionally having a short solo section, are simultaneously reminiscent of a group of Medieval chanters and a Baroque choir with their somber yet melodious and impassioned singing. It’s as if a chorus of ancient ghosts is singing “Timber” to an unseen listener as a warning, especially when you consider lyrics that evoke images of the song’s subject being a “Tightrope act on a wire / Teetering dangerously” with offers from the group of “Hide in our bed / Rest your weary head / It’ll be alright / Just don’t open your eyes.” It almost has the air of tragedy as told only by the chorus. That’s a reference for all you classical theater people out there.
And if all those elements weren’t enough to make “Timber” seem old timey, to use a term pioneered by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, then pay attention to the instruments. Aside from Cashew’s and Michelle Vidal’s acoustic guitars, you can also hear the antiquated sounds of a harpsichord gently tinkling throughout segments, occasionally accompanied by a softly played flute. Even something about the percussion has a madrigalesque quality to it.
And then just take a look at the music video for “Timber”:
Don’t the semi-ghostly images of the band members floating by give it an otherwordly quality that even further enhances the song’s sense of an era lost in the dusts of time? For some reason, I’m reminded of the mournful calls of centuries old ghosts from the old Dark Shadows series when I hear this song and see the accompanying music video.
I know I have spent a long time on just the first track, but that’s the idea! There is so much depth to just the first song, and yet there’s still nine more tracks on the album that I could go on forever talking about! But rather than do that, I’ll just pick out a couple highlights. “Movin’ on to Avalon” is a very catchy song with a slightly more contemporary vibe to it and a some spirited pep to boot. And as far as lyrics go, all of Eagle Winged Palace’s songs are interesting in that respect if you’re willing to take the time, really pay attention, and make a valiant effort at interpretation, but “Skeleton Crew” stands out in my mind. The lyrics make reference to a “Pirate King” with a lot of standard piratical references to “Spanish maps,” “thievery,” and “aging whiskey,” but I have a feeling that this particular pirate king is dead and commandeering a ghost ship and its literal skeleton crew, hence the title of the song. Also, “Skeleton Crew” makes interesting use of a xylophone and ambient sound effects. Good Halloween music for those looking for something a little unconventional.
In fact, all of Where We’re Coming From is pretty unconventional. Eagle Winged Palace has managed to craft a collection of unique folk songs using style that reaches as far back as the Medieval ages, that tells haunting stories through evocatively clever lyrics, and that makes use of an inimitable composition of choral singing and quaint instrumentation. This is an album definitely worth looking into for all those reasons and more… one of the other reasons being how randomly strange it is that Cashew’s singing voice sounds exactly like that of Wayne Coyne’s during short segments of “Spiral,” which makes it sound like you’re listening to the Flaming Lips every once in a while.
Streaming Only: “Timber,” “Movin’ on to Avalon,” and “Skeleton Crew”
[audio:https://radiokrud.com/krud/temp/01Timber.mp3,https://radiokrud.com/krud/temp/05MovinontoAvalon.mp3,https://radiokrud.com/krud/temp/08SkeletonCrew.mp3|titles=Timber,Movin’ on to Avalon,Skeleton Crew|artists=Eagle Winged Palace,Eagle Winged Palace,Eagle Winged Palace]
At the request of the band, only “Movin’ on to Avalon” is available for free download. “Timber” and “Skeleton Crew” are streaming only.