His eleventh studio album (and also his third collaborative effort with Richard Swift behind the mixing desk), Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Flame continues in the same vein as the previous two Damien Jurado / Swift productions but delves even deeper into the darkly psychedelic territory set out on 2010’s St. Bartlett and 2012’s Maraqopa. Here Swift’s musical influence is even more evident than before and boy does it work well.
The album’s opener ‘Magic Number’ plunges straight into the deep end, with its reverberating vocals and distant string arrangements sounding like they’re echoing from deep inside some murky forest, while the bass plots out a smooth groove against the steady 60s-esque drum beat. That same rhythm combination continues through ‘Silver Timothy’, but the rest of the instrumentation here gives the song a distinctly Latin feel, with the clave rhythm continuing throughout and swirling synths mingling with electric guitars in a throwback to the heyday of Latin psychedelia.
‘Metallic Cloud’ provides a breather and some of the album’s softer moments with the vocal melody pushed to the fore and Swift’s piano accompaniment and arrangement closely echoing his own early solo work. However this only provides a brief glimpse above the canopy before returning underneath with tracks like ‘Jericho Road’ and ‘Silver Donna’. Like the first two tracks, the rhythm section provides the glue that binds these songs together, and it reaches its climax on ‘Silver Donna’, the most upbeat and heavily psychedelic track on offer. Here the chanting, clapping and drifting falsetto vocals give the song a surreal quality, and conjure up images of primal ritual almost like some chaotic scene from Apocalypse Now.
‘Silver Malcolm’ is the best track on the record and when it arrives it’s like finally taking control of a terrible nightmare and suddenly finding that you’re drifting above the clouds. Echoing organs and Jurado’s smooth vocal melody soar aloft the soft rhythmical strokes of the guitar and that pulsating bass that’s been holding the album together all the while. ‘Silver Katherine’ continues in this vein but in a more stripped down fashion, pared back to guitar, bass, strings and rumbling timpani, with gorgeous harmonies that are reminiscent of the best Fleet Foxes tracks.
If there’s a fault with the album it’s that it doesn’t end with the solo guitar and vocals of ‘Silver Joy’. It’s the perfect track to drift off to sleep to and when ‘Suns In Our Mind’ comes in it just feels out of place. Featuring some of Swift’s quirkier production idiosyncrasies, it just doesn’t sit well with the album as a whole. Thankfully it’s only two minutes long but even at that it really is a shame to sully such an otherwise righteous album.