Review Summary: A story of redemption.
For those confused about the summary, this is indeed Perhacs' debut, but this story of redemption lies not in Perhacs herself. Released in 1970, Parallelograms
came out to nearly nonexistent critical reception. Undiscovered by contemporaries, it sat unsold and unheard until its first vinyl reissue in 1998. Many years later, after actually finding and contacting her, the label used tapes from her personal collection to make the most well-noticed release of a 2003 CD edition. Recognizing the talent and innovation others had failed to appreciate, The Wild Places label had brought life to an album through an unexpected reissue. These new releases ripped from a cassette in Linda's basement became the basis of this tale of redemption: a story that starts with me and you listening to this near-masterpiece and giving it the chance it deserved 48 years ago.
The album itself is a truly psychedelic take on folk music. A lot of groups around this time were experimenting with drugs; that's no secret, but there are certain differences in how this manifested in music. Most can agree that The Doors would not have been as groundbreaking a band had Jim Morrison never discovered peyote, and his lyrics would not have been the pinnacle in representation of the psychedelic experience. The Beatles or Grateful Dead fall in the same boat, using drugs to create genuine psychotropic music as well. Where Linda Perhacs’ music falls is in a different place. The mind-bending moments in her music are present on the album in a glorious haze, and the lyrics are "out there" to say the least. Opener "Chimacum Rain" has a refrain more hallucinogenic than most anything released by 1970 while the title track uses a self-induced trip into the infinite to try and communicate meaning through shapes.
There is, however, one minor difference in Perhacs and other contemporaries' approach to incorporating drugs in music. Rather than strictly allowing poetic and artistic vision of the moment to dominate all the songs, Linda seems to have revisited her writing in a sober state, polluting some of the moods with a more didactic tone instead of one filled with imagery. Examples like the lyrics of "Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding" saying, "It's Pavlov with barking and feathers and pearls," which in this case brings in a reference to science that only serves to cut through some of the acidic mist detracting from the mood and flow of the album. These moments are not found in excess and do not ruin her work, but they seem exceptionally unnecessary when considering the presence of some of the more traditional folk tracks.
While having a thick high drug out across the course of an entire album may suit some as a part of the album’s theme, I believe a slight breather can be refreshing, too. Perhacs includes these breaks in pieces that are more akin to traditional folk. While her narcotic pieces are quite good, the highlights of her album lie in earnest tracks like "Paper Mountain Man" or "Hey, Who Really Cares?", the songs where the drug induced psychedelia is more minimal. The former flashes a country influence that adds quite a bit of fun into the feel while the latter is a folksy ballad filled with more of a deeper emotion.
has plenty of infectious cuts that will really stick with you. Some of them, like the title track, will do this with welcome at first, but are capable of worming in deep enough to overstay their welcome. It is for this reason the album has grown off me somewhat since the initial enthusiasm that overtook me in the first handful of listens. On the other hand, Parallelograms
still stands as an outstanding example of psychedelic folk, an album I would strongly recommend even if it is just for the fascinating story of redemption that made it possible.