Ptarmigan - s/t. 1974 Canada

Ptarmigan - s/t. 1974 Columbia

CD reissues: 1999 Groovedigger (CD-R); 2005 Lion (USA)

Packaging: Original is a single sleeve with a black border, and is definitely not common. My introduction to the album came in the early 1990s via a bootleg LP which doesn't have the border. And I still own this copy (gasp!). Hopefully one day I'll get the original. The first CD on the scene was actually a CD-R release by the band under the name Nordstrom/Dias. It came with a very informative booklet on computer paper. Six years later, Lion reproduced this as a CD with a more professional looking booklet, and even added more information to it. And that's the CD version I own.

Notes: Ptarmigan's sole album starts with the impression that this will be a typical acoustic guitar / vocal fronted folk album. But all bets are off starting with 'The Island', an extraordinary composition with haunting recorders (alto, tenor, and bass), thrashing acoustic guitars, otherworldly percussion, scattered drums, spastic acoustic/electric bass, and some mystical dual harmonic male vocals. At once you hear the serenity of Popol Vuh, the weirdness of Might of Coincidence, combined with something perhaps completely unknown. As the album delves deeper into the recesses of its own world, it becomes clear we are hearing something of the brilliant. Each composition is distinct, but uniquely Ptarmigan. Perhaps it's because of the isolated locale of the band as they resided on Vancouver Island (a remote wilderness area across the channel from the city).

I don't think Columbia wanted any part of this, but the influence of one Paul Horn managed to get the recording released on the major imprint a full year after being mixed in 1973. And it sold all of about 12 copies, hence its rarity today. OK, maybe 25...

Do not miss this gem if you get a chance. Truly one of a kind, though within the context of the familiar.

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