As can be gleaned from the cover of her one and only record, Linda Perhacs was a stunning, beautiful love child. Anyone who spent the $200-400 necessary to obtain copies of the original vinyl could attest that the music she made was comparably stunning and beautiful, infused with all the trappings of being a late-sixties love child (in the best possible way).
Ace of Discs reissued her album after unsuccessful attempts to track her down, mastering from a poorly pressed vinyl copy. For whatever reason, the first issue on CD was completely unlistenable on headphones, although delightful in the open air. Since that first go-round, Perhacs has come out of her obscure Pacific Northwest woods with quarter-inch reels of the sessions, and now that Ace of Discs comes round again with a vindicating, expanded reissue, the tray card photo reveals: she’s still a babe.
Anyway you eye it, this is a magical, sublimely singular piece of gentle folk-psych that belongs with those lone album classics by folks like Skip Spence or Vashti Bunyan (or the countless other souls that only released one record before disappearing into history’s communal farms or funny-farm madness, like Elyse). It is a sound so personal and intimate that I can only hear it in the privacy of my own room. Although it’s been near-impossible to gain biographical information about her, the experience of hearing her music reveals so much about her soul and mindset at the time that I really don’t think I could share it with anyone else.
As mentioned above, she’s a love child in every sense, a young woman blossoming into her sensual world. Of the elements, every song culls its images from her forest environment, permeating down into her own physical core. “Chimacum Rain” is not only the forest’s silence and that sound of rain washing over her, but the palpable sexual presence of her lover, too. In almost every evocation of a tactile natural image, there is a mysterious man who physically embodies these characteristics, a tension courses through her body as she sings about these near-deities. And as she reaches the bridge with lines such as “I’m spacing out/ I’m seeing silences between leaves…I’m seeing silences that are his,” her voice begins to echo within itself, and her sung notes assuage open the aural synesthesia of the words. The diaphanous taste of lysergic acid creeps to the fore, and what was once a moderately played acoustic song about the forest expands into a hallucinatory clearing as her multi-tracked held tones meld with the infinite. As her voice dilates, so does the background, now all electrically-processed source sounds like xylophones and wind chimes, and all is enveloped by a low, distorted drone that would one day sound like Phill Niblock, created by– as the liner notes so baldly state it– “amplified shower hose for horn effects.”
It’s nothing compared to the album’s peak, “Parallelograms”. Perhaps you fantasize that Joni Mitchell teaches painting and pottery at your high school, or that Chan Marshall mumbles about the Apocalypse poets during English class, but Perhacs teaching geometry is tantrically hot for teacher. To just read the lyrics of “Quadrehederal/ Tetrahedral/ mono-cyclo-cyber-cilia” is to miss how she and producer Leonard Rosenman assuredly layer her heavenly-sung rounds in concentric circles over a cycling guitar-picked figure, a cumulative effect that reveals a dimension scarcely achieved anywhere else in the world of music. Closer to the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria or Tim Buckley’s cellular self-choir “Starsailor” than Melanie or Linda Ronstadt, Perhacs drops us into drifting clouds of reverberating bells, echoing flute, and ghostly effluence, her throat outside of time. That a dental assistant in Northern California could more effectively convey the psychedelic experience through the use of the technology of experimental effects, be it early Pink Floyd, Fifty-Foot Hose, or Buffy Saint-Marie’s electroacoustic Illuminations, is, in every clichéd use of the word, mind-blowing.
Other songs deal with girly things like brawny mountain men, dolphins, moonbeams and cattails, the pastel colors of dawn, and the recently-unearthed “If You Were My Man” reveals that she could’ve gone pop with a Karen Carpenter wispiness. Listening to her home demos and studio notes to Roseman though show that she was cognizant of the sound and vibration she wanted. The tape collage lobbed from “Hey Who Really Cares?” is competent– if in hindsight, passé– all disembodied, television voices and a telltale heart beat leading into its pastoral prettiness. Her most folky tunes stand up to the times too, but it’s the fact that Linda Perhacs’ entire cosmos (and whatever those times entailed) could inexplicably fit inside the confines of Parallelograms that remains the true testament to her beauty.
-Andy Beta, pitchfork.com