III is actually the fourth album from this folk troupe from Philadelphia. Now officially a five-piece, the band has undergone a bit of a shake up and their sound hasn't escaped this. Stating that their aim was to 'record as little as possible', they have done just that. The result is a far cry from the dark, heavy layered sound of their previous album, II.
What they have achieved with III is a much lighter airy sound, but fans of their previous work will be pleased to know that rather than a disappointment, the new sound of III almost comes as a relief. This more accessible album, owes much of its ethereal beauty to the vocals of Meg Baird, who, judging by her solo album (Dear Companion, 2007) also had much to do with the lighter tone of Espers new album. It still combines that acoustic folk picking and strumming with electric key boards with heavy influences of Fairport Convention and Fleetwood Mac but this time they produce a retro chilled out sound, rather than the intense sound of II.
The psychedelic aspect is still there thanks to the ethereal vocals and the haunting Theremin, but it is much more subtle than their previous offerings. The darkness that we have come to expect from the band has not been totally abandoned either, The Road Of Golden Dust reminds us of the lyrically dark songs we have previously seen from Espers, with mentions of death sung in a beautifully soft duet. But from there on in, the tone is much lighter with the likes of Another Moon Song illustrating their new sound perfectly.
With the distinctive vocals and the more sparse instrumentation, it could be argued that III lacks some of the depth provided by the heavily layered, darker sound of their previous work. However, that said, the album is clearly a triumph and exactly what the band set out to achieve; a blissful, chilled out meander through their psychedelic folk world.