BitchTapes: Lady Minstrels

Mel Mundell
View profile »

Remember free/freak folk? That sometimes disparate brew of 60s British folk revival and psychedelic romanticism? Once bountiful in the 2000s (Animal Collective, Joanna Newsome, Devendra Barhart), after a little digging I found the nature-metaphor-evoking genre still very much alive. Guess what else New Weird America shares with 1960s counterculture? Feminism! This BitchTapes is devoted to the free folk females of the 2000s, the neo folkies that inspired them and their recent recordings. I hope you enjoy!


1. Vashti Bunyan – Window Over the Bay

Although largely overlooked in the 60s and 70s when her music came out, Just Another Diamond Day was re-released in the US by the fine folks at Dichristina in 2000, pretty much the second New Weird America began. 

2. Sibylle Baier – Colour Green

Leaving a music and acting career to raise her children, Baier recorded Colour Green in her German home on a reel-to-reel in the early 70s. Her son sent a copy to Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis and Colour Green was released on Orange Twin in 2005. 

3. Anne Briggs – Sandman's Song

After hearing herself recorded, British-born Briggs disliked the sound of her own voice so much that she ceased to play publicly. Her influence has shaped the folk community since.

4. Samara Lubelski – Have You Seen the Colors

High minstrel of free folk, Lubelski wove threads of the previous three artists to create the pastoral and strange Parallel Suns. The record came out on Social Registry in '07 in the heart of the American neo-psych community: Brooklyn, NY.

5. Rings – Allright Peace

Rings released their debut album Black Habit on Animal Collective's label Paw Tracks in '08 described by the band as: “circular patchworked tranced feminist compositions.”  Listen closely for woodland creatures.

6. Fursaxa – Ode to Goliards

Is the home-recorded work of Philadelphia-based Tara Burke who since 2002 has released 16 records. Mycorrhizae Realm came out on All Tomorrow's Parties in 2010. 

7. Faun Fables – Hollow in the Home

Spokane, WA raised Dawn McCarthy composes conceptual soundtracks for her theatrical performances. Light of a Vaster Dark is her latest concept album, in it she interprets weather. This song is a storm.

8. Islaja – Kristallipallosilmät

Berlin-based Finnish artist Merja Kokkonen has paused her sound-collage folk work for her most recent 2010 electronic music release: Keraaminen Pää (also great). 

9. Pocahaunted – Threshold

After Not Not Fun Records owner Amanda Brown dreamt she started this 2-piece avant jam band, her and Bethany Cosentino did just that; issuing nearly 25 releases in their first 3 years in true Sun City Girls fashion. Hooky dissonance? Yes!

10. Josephine Foster – Second Sight

From her 2008 release: A Coming Gladness, you can count on Foster to soften the edges of hard days and feelings.  (Any of her 9 releases will do).

11. Spires That in the Sunset Rise – Pouring Mind

Quintessential New Weird Americana, Spires are a challenging listen but their latest record Cursed the Traced Bird is worth the effort. This female four-piece create experimental psych jams that are, get ready, wank free!

12. Tara Jane O'Neil – Beast, Go Along

Making music and visual art for almost 20 years, TJO and Grouper grace us with their homebase here in Portland, OR. This song appeared on her 2009 K Records release A Ways Away.

13. Grouper – A Light Change

A synesthete would surely see a grayscale listening to Grouper, and with a careful eye, pastel.


Thanks for listening! Tell us about your favorite folk…

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

6 Comments Have Been Posted

"Remember" freak folk?!? When

"Remember" freak folk?!? When did it ever disappear?

I meant: remember when it

I meant: remember when it first became really popular in the early 2000s, but I can see how that was unclear.
Agreed, it is still a thriving genre as the long list of recent releases shows!

But Animal Collective, Joanna

But Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, and Devendra Banhart are all still going strong?

You're right, I meant this a

You're right, I meant this a reminder for folks that freak folk is still alive and well!

This is AWESOME!! Thank you

This is AWESOME!! Thank you thank you thank you. Gosh, Sibylle Baier's voice is just so beautiful.

Player not loading

Anyone else having trouble with this? Normally I would go to, but the mix isn't available there for some reason. Bitch, could you fix this or add the mix to 8tracks? I'd love to hear it!!

Add new comment