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By Henry Rollins
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By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“I had an inner sense that there were tones in the universe like you have light in the universe — it just goes out forever, there’s no stopping it,” she explains. Her session guitarist 30 years ago, Stephen Cohn, recalls working with her. “She was very intuitive, her music had this purity; she was just doing her own thing.” With Rosenman’s musical acumen and connections, Perhacs landed a recording contract and worked closely with the composer, and his electronics, in the studio. There, they realized her creations and infused them with proto-digital tones.
Late one night with — she assures me — only coffee in her system, Perhacs was driving home from the Rosenmans’ Pacific Palisades hideaway on the Ventura Freeway, when a vision of light danced before her in the darkness. Thinking she was losing her sanity, she pulled over and began to draw the incandescent shapes on scraps of paper. Taping together the sketches a week later, she realized she had witnessed ‘visual music,’ the color determining the pitches, all of it together transforming into “a three-dimensional sculpture.” She called the musical piece inspired by that vision “Parallelograms” and nervously presented it to the astonished composer, who expressed to her in no uncertain terms that this was “a true composition.” An amalgam of her multitracked vocals, a cycling, Celtic-tinged guitar figure and electronic effects, the four-minute “Parallelograms” remains one of the most mystifying and beautiful moments of the psychedelic era, on par with any outré work of the time.
Yet, when her debut album finally arrived in the mail, Perhacs was crushed to hear the result. “The pressing plant had crimped the beautiful sounds, taking off the highs and lows so it would fit in the AM radio vein.” Her voice breaks up even now at the memory of taking her album off her turntable and dumping it into the garbage can. “They destroyed it; it was wooden and dead.” Instead, she listened back to her practice tapes, thinking only of what could have been.
A divorce and other life changes followed, as Perhacs not only pursued her dental career but — in her words — “began to climb spiritually.” Throughout the years, unbeknownst to her, the album’s reputation also climbed, among psych and folk fans who traded the rare copies online for outrageous sums. One fan, Michael Piper, reissued Parallelograms on CD and tracked down the songwriter. Since her rediscovery with its first reissue in 1998, Perhacs has collaborated with her one-time Topanga neighbor and longtime fan, Devendra Banhart, singing harmony on his 2007 album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. She also has fans in the Swedish metal band Opeth, and her wistful piano-led plaint “If You Were My Man” appears in Daft Punk’s film, Electroma. Her lone recording has just been reissued by the British record label Sunbeam. She’s even returned to the studio.
But the renaissance is bittersweet, as Perhacs’ most ardent supporters, Rosenman and Piper, both passed away earlier this year. Sunbeam has stepped in to keep this little gem in print for future listeners. “I always wanted my music to have peace,” she says, gesturing to the hills around us.
Linda Perhacs | Parallelograms | Sunbeam Records
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