Words by Grey Malkin
Hailing from Chicago, Constantine‘s debut album, 2015’s ‘Day of Light’, was a welcome reminder that acid and psychedelic folk was still being made with the creativeness, left field ambition and careful craft that first arose in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Indeed, Constantine recommends his music to ‘fans of Mark Fry, Trader Horne and Donovan‘. A formidable live act, the UK (and this writer) was able to witness the intricate and immersive power of a Constantine performance during their 2017 shows with Trappist Afterland and Alison O’Donnell, MOOF also had the pleasure of welcoming Constantine onto the stage at our 2nd birthday festivities last year in London. Nearly five years has passed since that bewitching first album, it is a delight to find sophomore effort ‘In Memory Of A Summer Day’ emerging from the sun’s haze and just when we need it most.
A brief prologue, ‘Upon Your Rise’, places us firmly into Constantine’s world, one of otherworldly and magical lands and songs that are virtual tapestries of ornate instrumentation and hushed splendour. ‘Morning/The Meandering Path’ is a case in point; woodwind, mellotron, crystalline guitar and duetted male/female vocals are instantly transportive to a gentler and more mystical era, one inhabited by The Incredible String Band and Dr Strangely Strange‘s exploratory and lysergic missives. Finely detailed and adorned, songs such as the hushed, sitar soaked ‘My Dear Alice’ and the truly lovely ‘Far, Far, Far Away’ (which, cloaked in the song’s melancholy and baroque folk stylings, reminds this listener of Dulcimer or Trees) are wyrd folk jewels, timeless in their conviction and strange beauty. ‘Matilda of the Meadow’s lush and haunting mellotron, harpsichord, xylophone and strings evokes the similar musical landscape of psych legend Paul Roland, and is a possible album highlight in its wistful yet hugely emotive chamber folk. ‘Along The Castle Wall’ is a flute and mandolin led medieval slice of rustic balladry and a master class in yearning, paisley patterned gorgeousness, whilst ‘Rivers’ is a darker, more shadowed creature, a descending guitar motif and whispered vocals that are suggestive of the ending of summer and the quickening dusk, with Constantine imploring the listener to ‘follow the river’s flow’. Meanwhile, ‘Afternoon/Memory of a Summer Day’ inhabits the spirits of Robin Williamson, Mike Heron, Licorice and Rose with added cosmic flavours courtesy of rising waves of analogue synths.
Finally, closer, ‘The Kingdom Must Fall’, is a bejewelled acoustic, fuzz guitar and mellotron tinged warning to some unnamed leader or king that their time is coming to a close. It is a suitably, meticulously crafted and evocative slice of acid folk that could easily be found on one of the afore mentioned reference points; the classic ‘The Dreaming with Alice’ by Mark Fry or Trader Horne’s ‘Morning Way’. A gentle epic, it consolidates the magic of Constantine into a perfectly distilled ten minutes.
Albums such as ‘In Memory Of A Summer Day’ do not come around often; Constantine albums perhaps less often still. Seek this out and treasure it, give this the release the love it deserves and which reflects the attention and love that has clearly been put into making this, a psych folk masterpiece.
‘In Memory Of A Summer Day’ was released in May 2020 on Guerssen Records
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