With Bending the Golden Hour, the third album from Memphis, Tennessee’s Aquarian Blood, husband and wife team J.B. Horrell (Ex-Cult) and Laurel Horrell (formerly of the Nots) continue the gorgeously stripped-down and atmospheric direction set on their critically acclaimed previous effort A Love That Leads to War. While Aquarian Blood has roots as a chaotic punk rock six-piece, the band shifted gears after two raucous cassette-only releases on ZAP Cassettes, a pair of seven-inches, and 2017’s Last Nite in Paradise, released on Goner Records. After drummer Bill Curry broke his arm, the Horrells redefined Aquarian Blood, reemerging in early 2018 as the more intimate, mostly acoustic balladeers behind the staccato, fever dream sound of A Love That Leads to War.
Like its immediate predecessor, Bending the Golden Hour was recorded at the Horrells’ Midtown Memphis home. The band turned over 43 tracks to Goner co-owner Zac Ives, who handpicked 17 songs for the album. The final result is shimmering and hopeful; as beautiful and sparse as a Rockwell Kent snowscape.
Bending the Golden Hour begins ominously with “Channeling,” which sounds like an outtake from Paul Giovanni’s soundtrack to 1973’s pagan nightmare The Wicker Man. Then the band upshifts for “Time in the Rain,” a sweet duet set to a rigid snare beat. From there, Aquarian Blood zigs to country and zags to psychedelic folk, brooding on one song and soothing listeners with the next. And while the music, feel, and experience is different, Aquarian Blood naturally brings to mind some legendary musical partnerships: Richard and Linda Thompson, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris; not to mention similarly-bent-but-beautiful luminaries like Roy Harper, Pentangle circa 1967 -1973, and Jackson C. Frank.
There’s a big middle ground, like folk-psych, or weirder country music,” he says, reeling off names like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett as stepping stones between the genres of punk and folk.