Normanoak has another piece of vinyl to share with the world, a true follow up to last year's A Double Gift of Tongues. This new album is called Estra, named after a powerful horned goddess whom Normanoak has been busy invoking recently in small performance spaces around the country. Everything was recorded in his bedroom in Bloomington, Indiana, on three different tape machines. The music on Estra shows more variety than any of his previous efforts. Chugging rock songs burn up into soft, dark dirges that feature a uniquely made-up language code. Screaming minute-long hardcore songs fade into freaky, fucked instrumentals. There is even a song which curses the current state government, and their excessive logging of Normanoak's home forests of Southern Indiana. Throughout these 14 pieces, Normanoak takes on many personalities, such as his alter-ego Poisonoak. Over time the listener can begin to notice the shifts in perspective that the singer makes. Normanoak is more than just another musician. His work is pure sorcery at its most successful.
Chris Barth re-emerges with A Double Gift Of Tongues to share once again Normanoak's mysterious fibrillation of heart and lung. Unbound from his share of duties with The Impossible Shapes, Barth chronicles a world "of acorns, blood, and sacrifice; of the holy hexagram of intertwined triangles; of the holy books writ in the sands of madness; Of the language behind language and the seeds of the unspeakable."
Barth's ability to chew up, unbuckle, and alternate between sanguine sanctity and life's whimsical playfulness has never shown itself in a purer light than throughout the 14 song landscape of this limited vinyl release. Fans of the inwardly mobile mysticism of Donovan or the soul damaged guitar skree of George Brigman's Jungle Rot in its most minimal state should book their ticket to A Double Gift Of Tongues immediately.
NormanOak is Chris Barth. Born A Black Diamond is NormanOak's debut — a wind chipped, folk meditation on the universe's creation, mycology, the Tree of Life and a bit of Aleister Crowley mysticism. It was recorded over the 2002-2003 winter while NormanOak's band the Impossible Shapes (in which he is the songwriter, lead vocalist, and plays guitar) were sequestered in the forest outside of Bloomington, Indiana, recording their fourth album We Like It Wild. Born A Black Diamond was recorded during the evening down-times onto cassette tapes in various hallways, bedrooms, and basements that were ceremoniously charged with magickal energy following each session. It is a self-recorded time capsule with only a little help from whoever happened to be supplying that night. As a fervent backpacker and wayward trail guide, NormanOak was able to employ a host of wild animal dealers and friends on these recordings to bring them to life, such as Eric "The Panther" on vocals and Andrew "The Black Bear" on drums, among others. Barth takes a similar free-spirited hippie wanderer approach on Born a Black Diamond that psychedelic forefathers like Donovan and Marc Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex took a few decades earlier, a time when NormanOak was pecking the trees. Though inside the strums and animal claws, there is a complexity, a sap that has flown from the leaves of Ya Ho Wa 13 and Robert Wyatt. He takes great pride in his use of the 4-track (which has been squashed over the past several years due to the ubiquity of digital recording), which may be enjoying a renaissance of sorts as like-minded artists like Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart and The Blithe Sons have been making champions of albums with its use in the past two years.