Original Issue: 1985 Belle Antique (BELLE 8502 )
Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5
from Tinymixtapes :
The tumultuous history of Kay Hoffman's 1977 progressive folk opus Floret Silva is perhaps widely known among aficionados of underground psych folk and Italian prog, but it does indeed bear mentioning for the uninitiated, at least for the purposes of this review. Hoffman was an Italian composer who endeavored to set parts of the legendary Carmina Burana basically a Thirteenth Century Northern European manuscript containing a series of mostly anonymous religious and spiritual poetry to music.
Assisted by the Italian progressive rock band Pierrot Lunaire (and most notably the vocals of singer Jacqueline Darby), Hoffman composed and produced Floret Silva, an ambitious recording that combined elements of psych folk, psychedelic rock, and Italian prog with overtones of Medieval choral music.
Due to a number of factors, including deadlines not met, and possibly the passage of the Seventies psych folk zeitgeist into the void, Floret Silva was not released in 1978 as was Hoffman's original intention. Instead it was released in 1985 on a small Japanese label, Belle Antique, where it received precious little in the way of international exposure.
Finally, three decades later, Floret Silva has been issued in remastered and impeccably packaged form on Robot Records. Now that psych folk and wyrd folk artists such as Jan Dukes de Grey have begun to achieve renewed popularity among the indie rock/free folk scene, the record is finally being reissued to greater fanfare that Hoffman could have perhaps imagined.
Sounding at times like the precursor to the music of Dead Can Dance, Floret Silva contains eerie passages of instrumental rock and medieval folk, and has the somewhat unusual distinction of featuring lyrics sung entirely in Latin, courtesy of the aforementioned Jacqueline Darby. Although the record is heavily informed by progressive rock and even a healthy dose of jazz at times, it falls firmly within the purview of what is commonly known as psych (or acid) folk.
Replete with flutes, harpsichord, strings, and melancholic acoustic guitar, Floret Silva is a druggy synthesis of traditional music, medieval chants and somewhat dated-sounding Seventies musical ornamentation. But despite Hoffman's tendency to push the limits of the genre via her experimental and highly unorthodox arrangements (Hoffman's métier was composition in a minimalist style), the album's pastoral pieces sound entirely as suitable for romps around the maypole as those of, say, Clive's Original Band. On most of these tracks, particularly on the vocal pieces, there is a palpable and frequently unsettling Wicker Man vibe at work here.
Unlike the more definitive progenitors of the psych-folk genre Fairport Convention, Comus, Incredible String Band et al. Kay Hoffman's album is unfortunately marred by both its late emergence into the scene and its Seventies musical affectations. The production values on Floret Silva would not have been sorely out of place on one of Creed Taylor's CTI records.
The muffled drums, noodly, acid-laced guitar leads, and reverb-drenched Fender Rhodes accompaniment right out of a Chuck Mangione album have the overall effect of dulling Hoffman's medieval atmosphere, rendering it distractingly anachronistic. But all criticism aside, Floret Silva is a strange and intriguing release that gives the listener a welcome insight into a different, more electric, aspect of the genre. And truth be told, it's at times a hauntingly beautiful album that will leave certain passages resonating with the listener for considerable length of time.