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Boomkat Product Review:
After the incredible 'Gipsy Freedom' album this year, much focus has been brought to Wooden Wand (aka James Toth) and his band The Vanishing Voice, and it's about time. Of all the freak-folk operatives they are by far among the most interesting and can easily put up a good spiritual fight when it comes to the outsider crown. 'Harem of the Sundrum...' is Toth's debut solo album, and takes a markedly different direction from that of his band of merry travellers. Where WW+VV go into the realms of total abstraction, drone and improvised obscurity, here Toth is startlingly alone - these recordings for the most part feature just voice and a guitar, dubbed to hissing old tape for that extra lo-fi charm. Toth cites Fleetwood Mac and Gene Clark among his many influences, but what I can liken this to best is the old American Primitive recordings; decaying folk and blues classics forgotten by time and left to degrade and decompose. Maybe the work of originator Robert Johnson is hidden somewhere amongst Toth's detritus - if you have been scrabbling amongst the recent flood of free-folk releases (Digitalis/Fonal/5RC etc) then I can safely confirm that 'Harem of the Sundrum...' is an essential addition to your collection.