All in the Golden Afternoon is the project of the duo Rachel Staggs (Experimental Aircraft) and Carlos Jackson (Polyphonic Spree). They began recording together in 2005 and released their debut album, Magic Lighthouse on the Infinite Sea, in 2011. Five years later, Staggs and Jackson have released their second LP, The Fog is Filled with Spirits. It is twelve tracks of blissed out, psychedelic dream-pop and brings the listener on a tripped out journey filled with depth and emotion.
The Fog is Filled with Spirits begins with “Magic Eyes” and is a perfect opener for setting the feel for the rest of the album. Staggs’ voice cascades over sparkling synths, lightly strummed guitars, subtle bass, and humming drones. “Magic Eyes” quickly fades and “The Fear and the Flame” begins with syncopated, percussion like synths. Here, Staggs paints a picture of characters interacting with each other in a hazy dreamlike moment.
Floating through the mountains
Forest beneath my feet
I thought I saw you in the window
Your face was empty
Consumed with the loss
You wanted to reach down
Staggs and Jackson really seem to be channeling early psychedelic music like The 13th Floor Elevators with influences like Slowdive and Mazzy Star thrown into the mix. “Place de la Bastille” creates this atmosphere that really makes one want to throw on some go-go boots and dance in a room full of black and fluorescent lights. It is stripped down with fuzzed out bass and minimal guitars. Staggs sings, “I don’t need your love, I don’t need your love, I’ve locked the door and lost the key.” Under the fuzzed out layers of free-love, there is a seriousness to All in the Golden Afternoon if one is able and willing to listen. This album is not a glossy, sugary attempt at nostalgia but, rather, a deft sculpting of a deeper sort.
Fog continues with “The Long Goodbye” which is the first long track on the album, clocking in at seven minutes. The track is ethereal, with Staggs’ vocals sitting back in the mix among walls of sound as stripped down percussion provides barebones structure. This is like a gorgeous drone piece but with far more structure. “Oh My Love” and “Hôtel de Ville” are two tracks that provide brief bursts of bliss-pop perfection. “Oh My Love” begins with a sitar like feel that has Staggs’ dreamy vocals sitting over it. They echo, ring, and enchant. “Hôtel de Ville” begins with a low rumble. It pounds in the speakers over floating vocals. “Ghost of Moravia” is an instrumental track that begins with the melody being strummed on guitar which is eventually joined by fuzzed out bass and acoustic guitar. Percussion eventually joins as a wall of sound erupts.
The sound of a sitar makes another appearance on “Road to Faroe Island” as Staggs’ dreamlike vocals ironically sing “I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep tonight.” The fuzzed out guitars become a conversation partner with the sitar which plays the melody amid rumblings of percussion. “With Your Eyes” ushers the listener into the latter half of the album with blissed out guitar strumming slowly. Staggs’ vocals are clear and present here, peering outside the fuzzed out fog they have been hidden in much of the album. Also, this is another song on the album that is longer than most of the others with a running time of 5:18. It has an ambient quality with Jackson and Staggs playing with multiple textures, tones and sonics here as they create a lush, cascading landscape. At about three minutes in, guitars erupt in a wall of fuzz which, at the end of the track, shut off like someone pulled the plug, abrupt and brilliant.
“Bordeaux Let Me Go” begins with a light hum then becomes this gorgeous pop track with all the fabulousness of glittering guitars. Flashes of fuzzed textures burst into the mix every once and a while with synth and organ making appearances to interrupt the all too common structure of the song. Staggs sings “ah’s” throughout the track to give it this far away feel. “Off the U-Bahn” begins in a very different way than prior tracks. This track is quite electronic in nature, with clicking percussion and a robotic vocal. Like an angel, Staggs’ vocal appears among the synthetic landscape to give it a human feel here and there. “The Fog is Filled with Spirits” is the title track and finale of the album. Staggs’ sings,
I’ll climb these hills for decades
And never see them all
A thousand hilltop houses
Dot the lush green terroir
The fog is filled with spirits
Searching for dry land
The track is spacious, lush, ambient, and surreal. Drones swirl around the vocals like the “fog” from the title. Vocals float along the ethereal swirls to usher the listener to the end of the journey. A grand finale it is indeed.
Rachel Staggs and Carlos Jackson have crafted an ethereal, psychedelic, blissed out jewel. The Fog is Filled with Spirits is a swirling journey filled with psyched out bliss, ambience, and a hint of electronica. This album is worth your time and hard-earned cash.