Tap on Relatively Clean Rivers. Flash that archetypal Dayglo river-road landscape on the album cover, hint of the mid-1970s privately pressed Marin County-rooted psychedelic folk-rock contained therein. The record includes odd instrumental hollows, exudes a sweet blend of joy and melancholy: “weight off one’s mind,” as the band sings on “Hello Sunshine.”
To encounter it is to encounter a psychedelic beacon, the acid equivalent of the holy spirit, beaming a signal to fellow heads across time. What is it that we’re trying to tell one another, I hear myself asking, we who have had psychedelic experiences? Where did we find ourselves before, in the midst of, and after? The lyrical persona in “A Thousand Years” speaks as one frustrated by subjecthood and identity, disappointed to find itself left again with a face—but the voice persists in its attempt to communicate. It’s an Orphic persona: one who attempts to realize and comprehend the totality, one who bears news from the other side. The news seems to be that all that is Good is trying to win us to its side. Songs are credited to band member Phil Pearlman, a name that recalls past parables as well as poems from the beginnings of English literature. Pearlman’s two incarnations prior to Relatively Clean Rivers were called The Electronic Hole and The Beat of the Earth. After a conversion of sorts involving a bible on a beach, however, Pearlman changed his name to Seth Philip Gadahn. Quite a story there, for those who wish to look.