- Alistair Braidwood
Lost In music… Arran Arctic on Linda Perhacs’ Parallelograms
Last month saw the first post in a new regular column called Lost in Music. It is about those albums that have been forgotten about, or were never well known, but which have remained on someone’s playlist never the less. I wanted to know what they are and the story behind why an individual loves them. I kicked things off with One Dove’s Morning White Dove and I asked for anyone else’s examples that we could publish on Scots Whay Hae!
Taking me up on the offer, Arran Arctic, who you may have heard talking and playing on podcast 17, has taken up my offer to write about and recommend Linda Perhacs’ 1970 album Parallelograms, and I thank him for doing so. He is a gentleman who is always welcome round our way, and one with impeccable taste as Parallelograms is an astonishing recording. I’ve just finished listening to it while reading the latest Alan Warner novel The Deadman’s Pedal (which is set in the early 1970s) and the two work perfectly together.
If you are asking how such an article fits this website then you haven’t grasped what Scots Whay Hae! is about. Ultimately we want to make people’s lives better and more exciting by informing them of what is out there, and also why. Arran is one of the most interesting and experimental musicians in Scotland today, and any insight into what inspires him is always going to be worth reading about and listening to. Or to put it another way; ma house, ma rules.
The year is 1970, and by day, Linda Perhacs is a dental hygienist in Los Angeles, California. By night, however, Miss Perhacs and producer Leonard Rosenman are recording what will become one of the most sought after cult albums of the 20th century.
‘Parallelograms’ was mastered badly, barely promoted and released to little fanfare by the ill-fated Kapp Records (absorbed by MCA Records 2 years later). The LP was soon forgotten, and remains Perhacs’s only release to date.
Cross-dissolve to 2003 and original vinyl copies of ‘Parallelograms’ are selling for $200-$400. Spurred on by the word-of-mouth murmur, folk label Wild Places spend 2 years tracking the illusive Perhacs down before finally re-releasing her album in 2005. And the world went wild… sort of.
The 2005 re-issue was sourced from Perhacs’s personal collection of master recordings, and finally did the record justice. ‘Parallelograms’ is very much a folk record. What got people talking was Perhac’s weightless mezzo-soprano, backed by gently plucked guitars and deeply resounding flourishes of percussion. The album gives us so much more than that though.
There’s folk rock on ‘Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding’, Appalachian bluegrass on ‘Paper Mountain Man’ and psychedelic breakdowns on the title track. The overall sound is never less than beautiful, featuring occasional wisps of electronically treated xylophone and flute the boys as Ghost Box would sell their mothers to sample.
Another re-issue in 2008 by Sunbeam Records saw Perhacs step briefly back into public view but recline once again just as quickly. She’s not a social butterfly it would seem. But who cares when the one thing she’s given us is so close to being flawless. Many musicians work for decades before coming close to crystalising their sound, but Linda Perhacs did it right off the bat.
‘Parallelograms’ is like no other record I’ve heard and is well worth seeking out. Especially since it’s a damn sight easier to get ahold of a copy now!
If you don’t just want to hear me crack on about my old record collection then please send me your stories about lost albums that mean the world to you, but for some reason not to the world. You can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and then we all get to have cooler collections of music than anyone else.