Warming up to the new breed of “freak folk” takes practice. Spearheaded by the likes of Will Oldham and Houston-born Devendra Banhart, the movement—made up of young acoustic artists—is inward-focused, solipsistic, and unabashedly psychedelic; you’d have to go back to old Donovan records to find a historical antecedent. (Played “Hurdy Gurdy Man” lately?) Arlington’s Jana Hunter, championed by Banhart and signed to his label, represents the weaknesses and strengths of the genre. Her 2005 debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, found Hunter, true to her anonymous upbringing as the fifth of nine children, ducking behind her music. But now, on There’s No Home (Gnomonsong), she asserts herself, delivering hypnotic works with one-word titles (“Babies,” “Vultures,” “Sleep”). Initially her haunted warbling, with its trippy flourishes, seems mannered almost to the point of parody. But as her songs emerge, so does a certain atmosphere: Hunter’s world, fuzzy and amorphous, seems to unfold within a cotton ball. There’s a vague edginess to it all, but prevailing is a fluid tranquillity where disembodied guitars, violins, and spectral harmonies drift alongside Hunter’s melodic creations.
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