Thursday, September 29, 2011

Earth @ What The Heck Fest?

I headed out to Anacortes, Wa. from the Rainbow Gathering this summer. I knew i was gonna be in Washington, where i had been longing to be for several years, so i thought to see what musicians were up to. I have been obsessed with Mt. Eerie for the past year and a half, so i thought i'd see what Phil and Friends were up to. Turns out that they were throwing the last What the Heck Fest? in misty, maritime Anacortes, Wa. It was only about 300 miles or so from Gifford Pinchot National Forest, so i figured i'd start there, and figure it out.

It was while volunteering at What the Heck Fest? that i got the notion to look into what other music festivals were happening, and put me on the path that has changed my life forever. All navigated by the North Stars of Earth, Mt. Eerie, Arington de Dionyso, and some other names i was familiar with.

Homeless in Olympia, Wa. Taking the busses through sheets of rain. Broke and hungry and begging in Anacortes. Walking around, reading tarot cards at street fairs, hanging out at public libraries... throughout all of this, i blasted Dylan Carlson's signature monolithic rock into my eardrums, listening to album after album, as i walked through the landscape that emanated the tunes. Logging roads, towering pine trees, blankets of ferns. Slugs and birds and berries. Fucking wild. Like un-civilized. Big, bigger than you and i.

Earth makes music to get lost in, to explore. Primordial world-builders, Dylan Carlson has been conjuring imaginary landscapes from dust, for people to get lost in and find themselves, for over 20 years. Evolving from mono-chromatic doom drone that sparked a genre and hordes of lackluster imitators, to spiritual spaghetti western soundtracks that could have scored the movie Dead Man, if Neil Young had been busy, at the 26 year mark, Earth sound tighter and more focused than ever before. Having come through the shadows of addiction and depression, the title of Earth's new album Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light is entirely appropriate. Earth make holy music, that is not afraid of the darkness.

The current line-up consists of long-time drummer Adrienne Davis, with Karl Blau on bass and Lori Goldston on cello, most infamous for her performance with Nirvana on the Mtv Unplugged performance. I can't honestly remember if Karl played bass on their set or not. I seem to remember the whole band being women, other than Dylan. This femininity is a refreshing contrast to the nominally bro-tastic world of drone/doom, allowed for a sensitivity and nuance and inspiration amongst all the players. Earth headlined the second, and my favorite, day of Heck Fest, playing at the Port Warehouse, which was a massive wooden building on the waterfront, with huge cargo doors open to the elements, spilling massive misty night-time air into the room, spilling cavernous guitars out to serenade the seals. 50 or so people huddled and shivered and listened to this legendary group, appreciatively silent and mesmerized. They played late at night, for a long long time. We were all sleepy and tranced out, and they played brilliantly! Like seeing yr favorite band in a friend's living room: intimate, nuanced, spellbinding. The communal aspect of the festival attendees mingled with the elemental air spilling off of Fidalgo Bay, was the perfect setting to see Earth live in, for the first time.

During the course of my homelessness, my drifting, my life has slowed down to a glacial pace. Things take time, when you don't have any money. When you have no place to go, anyplace is as good as anyplace else. As i was exploring the rusted-out decay of Washington for the first time, i repeatedly got lost in the many different incarnations of Dylan Carlson's vision, over the years. It is in this stillness, that Earth speaks, where they're coming from. This music is all about details. Listen to it loud, or forget about it. Because Earth 2 sounds shitty and ignorable through laptop speakers, but it will devour yr mind if you turn it up and let it dissolve you. This music is the soundtrack to my dissolution in the forest; getting lost amidst the stumps and the devil's club and the salmon berries. It is the soundtrack of being a stranger. Of watching, and being moved by the world around you; from the people in it to the clouds in the stratosphere to the lichen on the rocks.

It is this slowness, this gentility, that i was seeking when i hit the road, and what i hope to maintain, as i re-acclimate to society. It has been my goal to pay attention to life, to drink in the details and be moved. I love music so dearly, and was so fanatically driven to reproduce the sounds of my soul, that i had every motive to change and improve as a human, to invite Quality in, and live a Quality life. Living in my conceptions of reality, living in my head, rushing from one placebo to the next, quite assured that permanent mystical enlightenment lie over the next hill, under next dale. Living out doors, living without money, living without expectations, my life slowed down to near hallucinogenic attention, consumed by the passing moments.

Earth reminds us to slow down and pay attention. They advise us to get lost. They command us to open our eyes and ears, to never turn away; to stare unblinking into the void.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Elliott Brood - Mountain Meadows (Six Shooter Records, 2008)

Elliott Brood describe themselves as 'death country'. A 3 piece from Toronto, they breathe new life and dimensions into the standard guitar/banjo/drums line-up. These guys storm like heat lightning. They rage like violent water. They bluster and blow like whitecapped winds. Like wolves from the great white north, they emerge from the forests dressed in black, head to toe in screaming guitars.

I saw these guys open for Bill Callahan at Pickathon this year, and i was expecting another old-timey, footstompin', hoedown band. Yawn yawn, very nice, i will buy yr homemade cork coasters. Elliott Brood, however, were not so pleasant, or ignorable. Dripping with attitude, headman Mark Sasso swaggers and sways, possibly a knife in his boot; these guys are dangerous! Casey LaForet, on guitar, drools out the fuzziest, heaviest slab of acoustic that you've ever heard. Like Dinosaur Jr. or the Melvins, in the middle of the forest.
Its not all hell country out here, either. They write catchy, memorable songs, that you'd like to learn, to pass around the next campfire. Sweet, heartfelt acoustic ballads merge with murderous ballads that stomp like Black Sabbath. These guys have it all, for just about any music fan under the sky.
Mountain Meadows, their sophomore album, was released in 2008 on Six Shooter Records, and it was nominated for a Juno award. Continuing with the aesthetic of recording in various locations, that mythical 'room sound', the 13 songs work as a unified whole, but has an organic homemade quality, that will leave you feeling like you know these three young men, like you had been sitting on a bale of hale in the middle of the forest together. They've got a new record out, Days into Years, that just dropped. Check it out!

This is another post in the series showcasing highlights of this summer's music festivals. I hope to spotlight tremendous bands that deserve exposure, and to do a more detailed analysis of some of my personal stories, and cultural trends, in the near-ish future.

Heading out for Decibel Festival tomorrow or Thurs. Last one for a while, unless its not. Will do as much writing as i can, in the interim.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mario Gonzalez - SueisFine (Already Dead Tapes)

Been meaning to write this one up for a little while now, over-complicating, worrying too much, waiting for something to be more perfect and accomplishing NOTHING, like the idealistic procrastinator that i am.

Sueisfine was sent to me as one of three of the newest batch of Already Dead Tapes, out of Kalamazoo, Mi. and discussed previously in an article on Forget the Times. To be honest, the other two records, a new one by Forget the Times, as well as new releases by Lasso and The Philly Crawlers, but the other records were in .aiff format, and i'm living on borrowed time and borrowed internet, so i ended up getting to spend more time with this Mario Gonzalez record, instead.

A lot of times, i'll think, 'o, here's another tape release. that's nice.' or expect to hear another blast of white noise and bowed cymbals, maybe some warbly pop music. There's a standard of low production, and somewhat low expectations, in cassette culture. Its like, yr a cool dude, i'm gonna buy yr tape, whatever it is.

So i was quite stoked to throw this one on, and have my head pleasantly massaged by fuzzy glitchcore, breakbeats for the late night walk. Ominous, kinda fucked up, and downright sexy, like on [snuff record]. The production, the talent, and the creativity are impressively high, and totally different from the other acts i've heard on Already Dead so far. Made me wonder what was going on in Kalamazoo. I was listening to this the night that they had their record release party, and i was out stalking the streets of Portland, Or. Thinking how rad it is that all these folks are getting together, getting their own things going on, sharing with one another. That there is a sense of an archipelago forming, like minded individuals. That there is a common thread. To watch genres and boundaries dissolve, and the huge flourishing of creativity that is resulting, is astonishing.

Sueisfine by Mario Gonzalez is a damn fine record. You should purchase it, in whatever format you most prefer. Its a dark electro late night urban jungle prowl. It is dangerous. It is sexy. It is fucked up. It is brilliant. It is inspiring. If you like things like Third Eye Foundation, or vintage Aphex Twin, you'll dig this. Seroma (xxx) gets my vote as my official Single of the Month (you didn't even know i had those, did you?), its spooked, grimy paranoia the soundtrack to feeling homeless in a new city, not knowing many people, where i was, or where i was going.
Soundtrack to dumpster diving.
'if i'm goin' down/its with my boots on.'

Expect more detailed reviews of the other records, as i get a chance.
I really love these folks and what they're doing, and highly encourage you to support them, and any and every rad ass scene going on somewhere.

Monday, September 19, 2011

For the heartsick

Here's one for the inevitable shadow of love: the faded romance, the regret, the longing. The sleepless nights. Here's one for moving on, here's one for lingering; for remembering, for dreaming, for talking to someone who's not there. When you fall in love with someone, it breaks you open to the world, its like living without skin. It can be almost hallucinogenic in its intensity.

This is an 11-track compilation i put together, featuring the various stages and nuances of seperation. Celebratory, lamenting, hopeful, bitter. I covered as wide as a swath, to give as many lonely souls out there as possible something to latch onto.

The inevitable northwest rainy season is beginning, and the rosy hue of summer is beginning to seem like a beautiful dream. At times, i wonder if the things i have seen and felt and learned were merely delusions, ecstatic states brought on by too much sun and dancing and vegetables. I don't think so. Ultimately, this mix is for someone who you still miss, there is a thread of hope that cannot be drowned in 6 months of rain, which is why i closed out with The Angels of Light, Untitled Love Song, from How i loved you. This mix really starts to cook on the second half; the mixture of Arvo Part's fragile Für Alina with the rustic despair of The Handsome Family's Passenger Pigeons is about the closest i can get to describing how i am feeling, sitting here typing at 4 am, in a new state, tremendously missing somebody but appreciating where i am at. My heart hurts, but i am also enjoying myself. These songs sound perfect in my earholes, i am appreciating the quiet, appreciating the rain, making mixes for lonely people in the night. Yr not alone.

Track Listing
1. Donald Woods & The Vel-Airs - Death of an Angel
2. The Vitones - The Storm (So Blue)
3. Lee Fields and the Expressions - My World is Empty Without You
4. Tom Waits - Who are you
5. David Sylvian - The Heart is Sure
6. Arvo Part - Fur Alina
7. Mirah & Ginger Takahashi - Pure
8. Joy Division - Atmosphere
9. David Bowie - Letter to Hermione
10. The Handsome Family - Passenger Pigeons
11. The Angels of Light - Untitled Love Song

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dock Boggs - Country Blues Complete Early Recordings (1927 - 1939)

Not much charge left on this computer.

Went to my first bluegrass festival, this weekend, at Pendarvis Farm in Southeast Portland, where i began my recent adventures, of the last month and a half. Hangin with the pickers, around campfires, picnic tables, and barns was totally inspiring and educational to me, passing around home-made food, instruments, stories, and traditional songs, late into the night, early into the morning. Playing with excellent musicians, and having music be a normal function of everyday life totally opened the floodgates for me, allowing me to understand music and its performance in a way i never have, that has totally lit the fire under my kettle.

Returning to the site where my adventures began allowed me to take stock of a lot of things that have happened, and i have been psyching myself up and preparing to write about all the festivals and travels and bands and revelations that have occurred this summer. In the meantime, i give you some bleak bluegrass music. I'm a total beginner when it comes to bluegrass, a total infant; basically, i like the grateful dead and jerry garcia's solo stuff, a little bill monroe, a little ralph stanley sometimes. This album is the early recordings of Dock Boggs, who was a fantastic banjo player, totally gritty and real. He's best known for his inclusion on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. I love a good murder ballad...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Concert Review, as Magickal Ritual

I was running late but i was in the flow. Feeling unhurried, soaking up the sights and sounds of Portland, Or. on a summer's night. I lived around here, years ago, and i had to leave, inadvertently. It was one of my life's big regrets, as i was digging the Northwest and wanted to check it out more thoroughly, but i still had some more learning to do. Now the universe had come full circle and deposited me back in Portland, and i rode the MAX in quiet reverie to see Neurosis play with Grails.

Music Fest Northwest has been going on all week, and earlier in the day i had been sitting outside of Pioneer Square, reading tarot cards and listening to Eluvium and Typhoon, a great Portland band, color the creamy hazy late afternoon. I met up with a new friend, walked around and had a fabulous dinner of baguettes and spinach salad, courtesy of Food Stamps, and watched as a hallucinogenic hunter's moon rose in the aquamarine sky. It was definitely a night for ritual, ritual was happening all over.

I could hear Explosions in the Sky playing at Pioneer Square as i calmly rushed to the Roseland Theater. I was late, and missed Akimbo and YOB, about which i was momentarily bummed, even contemplated turning around. I was down to my last 20 bucks on earth, just enough to get in the show. There was one ticket left, at the Will Call, and it was obvious that i was in the right place at the right time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Sight Below - It All Falls Apart

This is the first, in a series of posts, where i will talk about some of the inspiring music and performances i've come across, working music festivals in the northwest this summer.

The Sight Below is the techno-ambient-shoegaze manifestation of Seattle-based musickian Rafael Anton Dirisarri. As The Sight Below, he incorporates elements of minimal house, a la Wolfgang Voigt, with warm ambient washes, strongly reminiscent of Christian Fennesz or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's Love is a Stream that i wrote about recently. Where Fennesz and Ledesma give the sensation of being sun-dazed, heat-stroke, and loveworn, Irisarri has more of a late night quality; quiet, pensive, heartful. The steady propulsive beats prevent this from being an amniotic, dark-ambient affair. More like driving to the beach, in the middle of the night, to stare at the moon on the water. The music on It All Falls Apart has a similar enormity to Final and Deaf Center, that i have already posted about, but this is like the human reaction to such grandeur. Maybe its his home, in the Northwest, or maybe its just where i'm at, recently, but i get a real sense of people native to this place, of having immense respect for the elements, for the world around them. There is a sense of kneeling down to things larger than one's self, of humility and intense appreciation.

Seeing The Sight Below inaugurate the Ghostly International label showcase was probably the highlight of the weekend for me. I was working for the Decibel Festival, handing out flyers for the after-hours party with Claude Von Stroke, DJ Z Trip, and Four Tet, as a way to earn my ticket to Decibel, later this month. It was a lot of work, 2 8 hour days, and i was not really attending the festival as a festival-goer. I was there to work, to help this music happen, with whatever skills i have at my disposal. During this summer, i've done everything from building stages to tossing bales of hay to washing dishes, all for the sake of helping this music go off, helping other people have the transformative experiences i've had, finally finding out what it feels like to have meaningful work, to apply my energies to things that i believe in, similar to what i do here at this blogspot. Its all for the love, its all for the respect, its all about giving back.

As such, i was going to be working during the whole Ghostly International showcase, and i had resigned myself to not seeing any music, but it worked out that i got to just hang out and dance to the whole Sight Below set. I brought out the new Sufi vibes, spinning and whirling and moving like a tai chi wizard, throwing handfuls of glitter to the ether, to all the others attending. Blessingsblessingsblessings, to all those attending, blessingsblessingsblessings, on all those reading. Irisarri's live set was not really what i was expecting, didn't really know what to expect, to be honest with you, but was thinking it'd be more of a guitar drone set, and it turned out to be a minimal throw-down; taut, pillowy beats overlaid with oceanic washes of ambience, all against the enormous backdrop of swirling technicolor visuals, that he makes himself. The showcase took place in the Sky Church, at the Experience Music Project, a stunning venue, with killer sound. The room was not too packed, and those that cared to could dance to their hearts content. There were also plenty of families passing through, checking shit out, toddlers with industrial ear protection, riding on their parents shoulders, and i couldn't help but wonder what those memories would be like, for them, and how these children, growing up in this culture, are going to turn out. Irisarri started out the set with a bowed guitar, going into a laptop, to be processed and munged, and smoothly segued into a clean, crisp house set. It was like getting to see Gas or Fennesz, or perhaps both, at 3 o' clock in the afternoon on a Saturday. This dude is definitely up-and-coming, he's only got two full lengths out, so far, both on Ghostly International, as far as i'm aware, and a handful of singles and remixes, to his credit. Relatively new, relatively obscure, he possesses an immense talent, that is still accessible enough to be seen at intimate venues, for reasonable prices.

I am excited to listen to Rafael Anton Irisarri's work more, to bring it down into my life, to let it work its soothing magick. He also does sweet work under his own name, as well, which is more organic, less processed, seemingly more hands-on. Gonna be checking that shit out, as well. Going to all these festivals, this summer, was like a taste test, where i got a sense of the music that i'd be listening to, for this coming year, and i hope to use this space to spread the word, to spread some recollections, the pros and cons of these various events, and events to come. Been thinking about taking this 'journalism' thing up a notch, and i'm finding a happy middle ground between straight journalism and diatribe, learning how to write, learning how to listen to music. Learning how to live as a human on this planet, and these soundtracks have been my guides and mentors all along the way.

Lots more to come...

The Sight Below

It All Falls Apart
Band Camp

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting back. Getting organized. Getting situated.

Just returning from this weekend's urban jungle adventure in Seattle, for the Bumbershoot Festival. Just arrived in Portland, and am working out the logistics of getting situated out here, finding a place to live, making a bit of money. Figuring out how to get indoors, before the weather turns. Expect to see posts featuring a shit ton of amazing music, during my summer working with the music festivals: lots of great chunes, more autobiography, more divulging, reminiscing, wondering. Keep yr peepers peeled...
In the meantime, check this tune. You've probably heard it. You need to hear it again. I first heard this played late-nite at the helsing junction sleepover, and we rocked it in the Medicine for the People van, leaving Portland, heading north on the I-5 to Seattle.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Electric Band Marzipan

Electric Band Marzipan

i was recently contacted by electric band marzipan, with an email entitled 'want to help a chill indie/trip hop group out?', which of course i did. I have been rocking a lot of old tricky, portishead, massive attack recently, so i was sort of expecting soulful female vocals, vibes maybe, maybe some dubstep flourishes or something. This turned out to not be the case. I would not describe this music as 'trip hop' (sorry guys), but they did mention Dilla/Stones Throw Records as influences, and i think this music wears the 'instrumental hip hop' hoodie pretty comfortably.

What this sounds like is a stroll through the collective unconscious of anyone born 1970 and beyond. It is warm and fuzzy, and utterly surreal. Rather than being a smooth, sexy hip hop mix, instead this is like a straight up BEAT TAPE, from someone with a prime record collection and possible psychic disturbances. Disco, funk, african music, old television shows, it all pops and hisses wonderfully. The tracks tend to be a minute to a minute and a half, and the mixes, the cuts, the segues, are weird and wonderful. Unusual combinations, that create new musical pathways in yr brain, but they are always MUSICAL, LISTENABLE, in a new and interesting and creative way that i find really inspiring. What Electric Band Marzipan know, along with many crate diggers and beat junkies out there, is that pretty much ANYTHING off of vinyl sounds fucking dope, so if you are sampling from the black wax, you can use just about anything. Its refreshing, really, to hear something aside from the clean, pristine minutae of an ableton live mix, where the details and possibilities are endless, can drive you to nervous exhaustion. This shit is all about FLOW, heart & soul; intuition.

The last night i spent in Olympia, before moving on to Portland and the next stage of my adventurous life, i was rocking Clocks on Fire on my headset, pacing the streets like a caged jaguar, exhausted and frustrated and utterly defeated. I had been trying to get to Portland all day, waiting for a ride from Craigslist to re-appear, but i'm pretty sure he was eaten by Venusians. I had the lions share of my belongings stolen that night, had been having frustrating interactions and miscommunications all day long. I was fucking over Olympia, and just trying to get down to see my lady. Slept on a porch of a house where my friends used to live, and felt like a homebum, felt friendless and cold and hungry and stressed-out. I settled onto the couch, on the front porch, in the nimbus glare of a cast iron street lamp, settling into the fuzzy beats and heady bass, letting this music transport me to my childhood, to another time, another place; a funkier place, a grittier place, a friendlier place. All of a sudden, a black cat from the neighborhood decided he wanted to be my friend, jumped up in my lap and started purring like a furry outboard motor. In that moment, all my troubles disappeared; i was happy to be sitting outside, happy to be sitting in the light of that streetlight. Happy i don't have a house, that i was in washington, that i was gonna get to see my lady, eventually. This music transported me, changed my way of looking at things.

These guys are legit. Talented, creative, unusual, yr probably not gonna hear these tracks on XM radio anytime soon, but if yr here, you know better than that anyway, don't you. These guys clearly have their heart in the right place, they're in it for the love, and for the art. They are making the world a stranger and more wonderful place.

The Clocks on Fire ep is the most recent release, but i feel like all three releases so far are part of a seamless whole. You can get them all off of Bandcamp, paying whatever you like. Give these guys lots of money, they deserve it!