People like to hate on christmas, venting about capitalism, christianity, family traumas, and other right-wing cacodemons. There is a lot to despise, and it is easy to get washed away in a grinch-green tidal wave of elitism and misanthropy.
Oddly enough, i have managed to dodge the bitterness bus this year; being far, far away from any kind of roots or history, being so far outside of mainstream society that i am just like a kid, agape in wonder at the window of some FAO Schwartz. I have been awash in sensuality, in aesthetics, marvelling at the christmas lights staining the misty evenings, watching hordes of drunken santa clauses take over the streets of SW Portland. Its been an oddly beautiful time, in my life.
This time of year always reminds me of another important, but weird, landmark in my evolution, that is far removed from families and egg-nogs; i started taking psychedelic drugs on christmas. I dropped acid for the first time on christmas, with a flickering candle-lit angel burning itself into my own private mythology. As we get into the opening stages of Capricorn, i feel the elegiac hum, a silent and timeless grace descend like a blanket of heavy Chicago snow, a feeling of REAL religiosity, that is weakly imitated by the hallmark holiday.
Around this time of year, my former wife and i would commemorate this anniversary, liked to hallucinate and trip out on the christmas lights. We had an abysmal daily grind, but loved each other tremendously while on these higher vibrations, and still do. One time, after going through a particularly rough spell, we dropped some acid and listened to Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works vol II', which has remained in steady rotation ever since, and decided that it was the best christmas music of all time. It was like we were able to see each other with fresh eyes, forget all the hurtful words and bullshit plastic holiday hustle and bustle, we were quiet, serene and timeless, whispering words that echo through lifetimes, through decades, and i hear them, even now. They remind me of the changing of the seasons, of timeless values like love and warmth and family, and i am child-like and in wonder, in my heart.
This music always reminds me to feel that way, far-away ghostly bells that are innocent but alien and eerie, at the same time. I had a friend get mad at me for lending him these disks, at one point, he had some sort of astral projection dream where he was whisked away to some alien airport, where he was being menaced. So if you like that kind of thing, i would recommend checking this out! These discs are some of the most gorgeous, emotional ambient minimalism i have ever heard. I have listened to them 150,000, and i never get tired of them. They plunged me into the deep end of ambient deep listening, an insatiable hunger for atmospheric sounds to stain the night air, to stain the shadows of my mind, until my dreams flicker and flame like a tree top angel.
Many of you have probably heard these before, but i would advise giving them a spin, beneath colored lights, perhaps with someone you love and trust. Have a quiet conversation, watch the spaces between the words. I will be playing both discs, on dec. 25th, to commemorate the occasion, and perhaps some of you can join me in the ritual, wherever you may be.
A two-fer today, as i've been seeing boatloads of amazing music, and i happen to have a computer in front of me.
Received a last minute message from Million Brazillions, wondering if we would be able to host a show over here at Goat's Head Manor. The notice was short, and we were not able to comply, but thankfully they got it together, and did it at their place instead, a magickal spot in NE Portland sometimes known as the House of Good Spirits (H.O.G.S.). The line-up was 3 moons (Jeffrey from Fake Hospital), Baronic Wall, Harsh Niar, and Smoke on the Water.
Jeffrey is a new friend of mine, and is totally kicking out some sweet music these days. Interesting ideas, interesting textures, messy and cheap, just the way i like it. Last night, he was playing a battered classical guitar, through a spaghetti array of effects; singing through a microphone that looked like a guitar pick-up, that gave a cool cracked transistor radio effect, slathered in delay and echo. For some reason, i kept thinking of Jandek, although this music was much more colorful. Sort of like the cover for Ready for the House, put on a paint spinner.
Baronic Wall up next, who was having a barrage of technical complications. I listened to his wall of guitar noise through the wall of the house, having a fascinating conversation with Suzanne from White Gourd (mentioned previously), about embodying the major tarot arcana.
Harsh Niar, is Sewn Leather playing with a guitar player. Sewn Leather makes a distinctive cassette stomp, gnarled and trashy in the best possible way, playing tape loops through a ghetto blaster that looks like he got it from Chris Carter off of Ebay, and doing vocals over top, also through a barrage of cheap FX. He has made trashy cheap homemade into an art-form, almost a dogma, an aesthetic, that is not replicable by digital processors. He is waving his freak flag high, and i truly get the sense that he DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK. I like that. I also like his sounds. The beats crunch in just the right way, blasting off the cassettes, and he looked and sounded tremendous in this funky living room, with a giant stuffed bear and python in the corner.
Finally, Smoke on the Water, where some dude sat on stage and let a Gibson guitar feedback while he took gravity bong rips from a Nancy's yogurt container, while he occasionally played the 7 notes from Smoke on the Water. It turned into a test of wills, as he played for 20-30 minutes, and the obstinate noise freak in me was activated. I can outlast ANY performance artist. I have listened to 24 hours of Throbbing Gristle. I looked through their stellar VHS collection. I listened to the feedback. I'm pretty sure i caught a contact high.
I am so tremendously excited to be living here, to be meeting adventurous musicians and artists and metaphysicians. Not only am i meeting so many inspiring people, they are friendly! There is a sense of inclusion, here, or maybe i've surpassed some test in myself, that has made my artistic aspiration go from being distant pipe dreams to a burning napalm core of every breath that i take.
Thanks to all the awesome bands, the awesome house, the awesome dog Ratchet. Thanks to my new friends. Thanks to the city of Portland, and the unexpected sunlight today.
Been getting into a good flow, making music and producing records during the day, hitting the streets at night, getting the chi moving, getting my head clear. Meeting other musicians, watching tons and tons of bands, a continual flow of new ideas, perspectives, approaches, and i return late in the night frothing at the mouth, ready to take on the next batch of challenges.
Arrived late at Ella St., (as usual), missed a set from Pale Tourist, which is unfortunate, as a few were raving, and it was apparently their last show, due to transpersonal conflict. The singer seemed assured that they would rise from the ashes.
Fever must've named themselves after the Nancy Sinatra song, they were a white hot blast of dripping southern heat in the spidery Northwestern chill. They sounded like Marc Ribot's solo on 'Jockey Full of Bourbon' dragged from the vinyl, and extended over 45 minutes. There was nothing mutant about their soul; they were just a tight, powerful five piece, festooned in black. Dare i say, classic? The Amy Winehouse comparisons are probably inevitable, with the shadowy tattoed presence of front-woman Natalie Valentine, but she seems less tattered; more Grace Slick than Janis Joplin. Her voice was clear, pure and strong, even if the lyrics were hard to understand, and it was perfectly ornamented by the impeccable mood and tone of the musicians; the barbed-wire surf twang of Timothy Valentine, the sexy bass-throb from Dhananjaya Zakheim, and even an organist in a pork-pie hat, as the icing on the fucking cake. Fever are straight up soul revival, not trying to re-invent the 45, and they had me swaying like Audrey Horn in the back of the room.
Last, but not least, Dead Ship Sailing, from Seattle. This was apparently their first show, ever, and i see interesting things for this band. They sort of sounded like Jesus and Mary Chain jamming with Suicide, two of them on guitars with an invisible drum machine clanking out vintage beats. Backlit by scathing white light, the pair cut a striking duo of silhouettes on-stage, becoming androgynous angels of rock 'n roll. Stream-lined, stripped down, sleek and barbituated; urbanity in its most guttural.
During their set, i was kicked back in the corner, reading James Joyce's 'Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man'. There was an endless rampage of infernal imagery, as a young Joyce fears and trembles for his mortal soul, after discovering the filthy joys of sex. Images of blackless caverns of never-ending despair, heaps of the damned, writhing in filth and flatulence, as i squinted in the dim light of Ella Street's antiquated light fixtures. That's one of the things i love most about this venue, is they can rock out, but you can also just chill, have a conversation, read a book. They play sweet music during set-breaks. The people are nice there. It doesn't tend to be too crowded, and the jukebox does not overpower conversation. It is a perfect spot for me to get out of the house, get some thinking and some writing done, and hear consistently fucking awesome music.
A brief pause, from the recent barrage of reviews, to post something from my record collection. The input jack on my groundscored mp3 player went defunct, and i can no longer add any music, so i've got about 30 records that comprise most of my daily life. This is one of them. Its sort of a combination of a confidante, a security blanket, and a suit of armor.
I first became aware of Stephen Steinbrink, here recording under the name French Quarter, in Denver, where i saw him at the ever-funky Rhinocoperolis. My friend told me, 'he sings like an angel,'! He may have an angelic throat, but his heart burns with the fires of Tartarus. His veins flow with venom, but also honey.
These ten songs contain both innocence AND experience, romance AND hatred, and all the blurred margins in between. They convey the complexities of relationships, of living, which is very rarely black or white. The bitter really laces the sweet, a tangy and visceral listening experience, that has become my constant companion.
French Quarter addresses one of the most re-occurring questions in my listening habits: What seperates the wheat from the chaff? Why does one folksy singer/songwriter soar like icarus, while others fall like some embarrassing open mic mishap? Its all about taste and texture, on this record. Overdubbed guitars, sneaking in and out, at times sounding like slinky Ethiopiques out-takes, like on 'Debt', or the Arvo Part-like vocal chorales of 'Judgement', that sing like angels of the pit, of some of the most bitter and scathing lyrics i have ever heard. This one track, let alone the other 9 which are also brilliant, have helped me through some REALLY dark times, and there is hardly a day which passes without its gracing my headphones.
Being stuck with only 30 records to choose from, is forcing me to become intimate and familiar with them, and they really are becoming like friends, cheerleaders, philosophers. I am getting a chance to really delve and let myself become moved and influenced by this wonderful music, and this one is my particular favorite, which is why i posted it first. You can pretty much expect to see the rest of them here, in the near future, although you never can know what to expect, here at J's Heaven.
Another fine evening at the Ella St. Social Club, confirming my suspicion that this hole in the wall ex-mortuary is my new home in Portland. Both shows i have seen there have been mesmerizing, and both times i have had friendly, cooperative conversations, like real human being status. There was even eye contact!
I have my buddy Jake for getting me to this one. I was on the ropes, reeling from my non-stop ambition, fatigued and road-burned, ready to give up the ghost and listen to Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips on Audio Book and pass out instead. Jake kept me honest, true to my samurai path of musical willpower and unflagging reserves of energy. I felt better as soon as we hit the streets.
Missed the first band, got there in time to catch The Ghost Ease from right here in Multinomah County; a fair skinned young woman, dressed in black, perched atop a tom-tom drum.
Inwardly, i groaned a bit: here was yet another solo delay pedal troubadour. I feel like i've seen about fifty of them in the last two weeks. I talked myself out of a tizzy, however, calling upon my credo of journalistic integrity to realize that judging someone cuz they are using a looper pedal, is sort of like judging someone cuz they're playing the guitar: you can do a lot of different things with the instrument. It seems samples and loopers are here to stay, and it is our job to figure out how to use this new tool, and some people are doing some incredible things, truly melding with their technology to do some interesting shit.
The Ghost Ease are doing some interesting shit. She has a lovely voice, and interesting lyrics, from what i could hear. She could effortlessly harmonize with herself, and would flow into birdlike trills, to make gorgeous and harmonically interesting choral symphonies, out of thin air. She also had a pile of noisemakers around her: tambourine, maracas,bottles, even a hammer dulcimer, which she used to construct her pyramids of sound. Lastly, but not leastly, a totally unshakeable stage presence. At one point, she lost her entire arragement from her pedal. She calmly asked if we minded if she began again. Cool as a cactus, but pleasant-like also. Totally glad that my friend got me out into the Dec. evening, and he was totally stoked on it as well. Did i mention this show was free?
The piece-meal layering of live looping lends itself to a swelling, hypnotic reverie. A Samuel Taylor Coleridge Mon. night on the town. The various sonics and textures lock up and intersect, forming clockwork gears in the imagination. I began to sway and weave in my candle-lit seat, losing myself, leaving my body behind, my cares, my worries. The music eroded my workaday manic consciousness, putting me in a pleasant theta wave trance, and in this lull, this woman directly plugged her emotions, her experiences, her interior, directly into my gaping soul. This is music for whispering, music for hiding beneath the covers, in the hope that everything will be all better, upon emerging. It is psychedelic and totally, bewitchingly ethereal, but there is a human, beating heart, at the center of its maelstrom.
The Ghost Ease have three albums available, on BandCamp. I totally dig her shit.
*edit: i originally got the band name wrong, confusing The Ghosties, also from Portland, with The Ghost Ease. Necessary information has been amended, my feelings and observations on the music remain the same.
it was the best of times, it was the worst of times
This was my second official house show, living at Goat's Head Manor, a house venue nestled in lovely south east Portland, Or. We only have one residential neighbor, and noise complaints are scarce, so we're able to get pretty primal. This time, we were trying to steer in a new direction, bringing in quieter, listening music, as well as pandering to the party crowds, that usually come to our parties. The preparations were the most elaborate of any show, so far: we moved all the furniture in the living room, and made a sweet floor-sit space, hung up lovely fabric and lights, courtesy of GuildWorks (thanks Mar!) We worked really hard, tried to set up something special, to allow space for some exquisite music to take place.
My friend Lily and i kicked off the festivities, a short but very sweet and very rewarding set that people seemed to like. She used to live here, and for months we would sit on the front porch, drink endless cups of coffee, learn songs, talk about everything under the Milky Way. This set was a culmination of that phase, with her playing some nylon string guitar, and i played atmospheric gazey electric over top. We played mostly covers, with one original: we played songs by Mazzy Star, Sneaker Pimps, Sia, and The Delgados. I thought we sounded tremendous, especially considering the raw nature of the material and performance, being more spontaneous and less rehearsed. Its some of the best music i've been involved in, to date, and i'm totally stoked to finally be getting into thick, rich textural music, that i've been secretly nursing in my marrow for years.
My good friend Leah Bodenhamer played next, successfully bridging the cosmic and the earthly, as only she can. One woman, one voice, one guitar, this was raw, intimate, and very real. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and she totally rose to the occasion, surpassing nerves, sound problems, and atmospheric disturbances to conjure something sublime. A bunch of her classmates from the School of Forest Medicine were in attendance, and Leah left the stage, to sit amongst the audience, and lead everbody in some plant songs, frequently relinquishing the lead role, to become a voice amongst many. There was clapping, homemade rattles and shakers, a bit of stomping. The atmosphere began to shimmy and shake, the air became electric, shaded with the holy spirit, and i had that blessed sense of fulfilling my person, to help facilitate these musickal magickal moments to go off. Rock 'n roll church, indeed!
Next, and best for me, was the impeccable Barry Brusseau, featured previously here at J's Heaven. Getting him to do his thing at our house was what made me think of doing an intimate acoustic show in the first place. As usual, his detail and finesse were in evidence, with a liquid light show playing against the dripping windows. The room looked lovely, and a bunch of people showed up to see his set, seated comfortable on pillows and cushions all over the floor. The sound could have been a little better, as i couldn't hear his vocals that well, but even muddied up i was impressed by how polished and pristine his songs are, singing through different mics at different times, to have different effects. His classical guitar (so many classical guitars, in one house at one time!) was running through a classy Marshall acoustic amplifier, his tone was dry and delectable, hardly amplified at all. It is his presentation is what always strikes me about this guy, tone mood texture nuance clarity control. I'd also like to give a shout to his drummer, who hits all the right notes at all the right times. He can mute a crash cymbal like a classical pianist! For all the trials and tribulations, it was worth it to see Barry Brusseau in my living room, watching from a couch where i used to sleep. Labor of love, indeed.
The house was getting pretty packed, at this point, and i began to recede to the margins, watching in awestruck fascination as the party vibes from the dj's in the basement began to take over while Jin, a solo act, played every instrument under the sun, looping himself tastefully as he played guitar fiddle trumpet and other things, a one man gypsy troupe. It was getting hard for me to pay attention, but i liked what i heard, and will listen further.
At this point, the faceless party masses pretty much took over, and the whole house was elbow to elbow. Pretty awesome techno took place in the basement, courtesy of my roommate Jonah Lee, with my new friend Ky taking a spin behind the decks for a while as well. There was a 9 piece bluegrass that played in the basement, but i didn't see any of them, too many damn people.
We have this problem, here at Goat's Head, when we throw a party, and try and do something awesome, it ends up overrun by people we don't know. It degenerates into pure drunken debauch. During the course of the evening, we lost a whole bunch of holy holies, including my tarot cards and medicine pouch, as well as a beautiful glass piece. Someone stole a jade buddha, from the upstairs bathroom. Someone broke a mirror. If anyone has any of these items, i would HIGHLY ADVISE you give them. You can even leave them on the front porch, no questions asked. YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE FUCKING WITH.
You cannot steal magick, it must be earned.
For many many years, i toiled away in solitude, crying out with all my heart for a scene to be involved with, to meet other musicians, to go to awesome shows, to throw awesome shows of my own. I would read with yearning stories from New York, from Chicago, from places that seemed so inaccessible. Miracle of miracles, and i fell into this sweet spot in Portland, and there's so much good shit going on AT ALL TIMES! So many people who give their whole lives, their whole hearts, just to make some good art, something of worth, that speaks to the finer things, aspires to higher truths. People are going to extraordinary lengths, and often times JUST GIVING IT AWAY, or for dirt cheap (like Barry Brusseau's record for 10 bucks.) I mean, we made 7 bucks at this show. We are not capitalists.
And then you go into someone's home and fuck it all up, and steal their precious things. What the fuck is wrong with you?!? Its time to wake the fuck up. Like, now. Any society that operates outside the norm must be responsible for itself. We must be accountable for our own actions, if we are to survive. I have total sympathy, i've done a bunch of fucked up shit, in my own life, and i am no saint now, by any imagining. If you don't feel good about doing something, don't do it. If you are mindless, and not paying attention, wake up! If these venues shut down, there is no place for awesome music to happen, and we will be left with strip mall limbo. Trust me, i come from strip mall limbo, you DO NOT want that to happen.
But, all in all, i met a bunch of awesome people, and saw a bunch of awesome music, and participated in some sweet jams, later on! For me, those cards are just cardboard, and i will get more. For the person that would take such a thing, take a look at yr life. This is a wake up call.
Cotton are a twee-some threesome group of livingroom misanthropes from Portland, Or. They are currently J. Han, Abe Wallis, and Cait Olds. This eponymous record is their third.
You've probably heard music like Cotton before. You may have even heard people who were better at it. The question is: Why should i listen to Cotton?
There are a number of answers to this question. First off, if you are already partial to confessional lo-fi folk pop, this is right up yr alley, and will make yr weekend.
Next, perhaps you are partial to obscure, unknown acts, possibly from friends and neighbors. DIY or die, and all that; if that be the case, than Cotton will also make yr weekend, and probably the week following.
Lastly, if you are already fond of the sound of twangy, biting acoustic guitars; twangy, biting sarcastic lyrics; bleepy synths and arid drum machines; if you have EVER listened to Young Marble Giants, if reading Elvis Costello lyric sheets is yr idea of a nice evening, than this will make yr 'Best of 2011' list.
As to why i give a shit about this band; i discovered them at a house show where i encountered the remarkable Barry Brussea, discussed earlier. I missed their set, unfortunately, but J. Han was kind enough to slip me a classy looking white paper sleeve, containing 10 songs. I was already leaning towards writing about bands i've seen, people i meet; there's so many fucking bands in Portland, i could fill 5 blogs with that alone. I gave their music a fair shake, but i am under no sort of obligation to like everything that passes through my fingers, and to be fair, this is not really music i would listen to every day. But, for the sake of journalistic integrity, and as i have been putting this post together, i have found many jewels under the creamy bed clothes of this humble, homespun record. There are interesting lyrics, unexpected twists and turns, such as 'lately you've been coming around/now my cock's hard as a fist.' on 'Mental Halitosis'. Gotta be quick here, kids, gotta pay attention. This music is sharp... it jabs. It really does remind me of the scathing moments of Elvis Costello's early material, mainly in its burning sarcasm. But just little things, like the tasty origami-logo on the cover, or the dusty little reverb on the organ on 'Pop - Ciclz'. These are the things which perk up my ears, then the intelligent and revealing lyrics rope me in, and i'm done, fallen under the spell of sublime pop music, yet again.
And lastly, the album opener, 'The Ghost' is elegiac perfection; simply arpegiatted guitar chords and ringing baritone vocals, as bells (literally) and organs caress their ways in and out. Two thumbs up, and well worth the price of admission, alone.
This is talented music by real people. Not re-inventing the wheel, but using the spokes to great effect. Hope it ripped properly, i suck at the whole tagging thing.
Its amazing how often this track gets me through my days, gets me off my ass, out into the gray streets and gray skies of Portland, Or. The original is sweet, Slugabed's gnarly atari remix is also sweet. This track can be found on the Ninja Tune XX box set, and big ups to the always excellent Electronic Explorations podcast, for turning a brother on. Thanks for the memories, pal.
Egads, this place was hard to find! Turns out there's a SW 20th Place as well as a Street, and its one block south of Burnside, for some reason. This mission turned from, 'i'm gonna put on my boots and go to the show,' to 'i'm gonna go wander around in the shadowy nether-regions of Portland, racking my brain, mentally calculating how many amplifiers i can run with my sundry delay pedals.' En route, i listened to Skullflower, Jim O' Rourke, Future Islands, and The Beastie Boys, as i trekked through the damp chill of the Nov. evening. I was in prime condition for a noise show. Ella St. Social Club is an old mausoleum; the walls flat burgundy, classy antiquated light fixtures cast cream dimness across the ceiling. The neon wurlitzer was playing 'Where is my Mind,' by the Pixies, before segueing into Cab Calloway, and i realized that i had found my new home in Portland! Arriving early, the only people milling about were the performers for the evening. Eavesdropping, i listened to people about to depart for Los Angeles or Australia; watching people loading in gongs and record players. I felt at home in this world, in that moment; thanked my lucky stars for being an underground music junkie. Four awesome bands for five bucks. The guy at the door felt bad for taking my last five dollars on earth, and i glowingly told him i would give my last five bucks for awesome music, every time. Tenses (featuring members of Smegma) played first, manipulating tabletop guitar and turntable to manifest soupy birdcalls and crackling hymns from thin air. People say that Ella St. is haunted, that the black drapery behind the stage conceals an elevator used for transporting the bodies for viewings. I like to think the spirits were given voice this evening; spectral vocals over the PA, from long ago and far away. There was a sense of respectability during this set, more art house than sweaty basement show, as Smegma have been peddling their free noise associations since 1971. Finesse and nuance were in full effect, the two improvisors paying close attention, playing off of one another, against the backdrop of random images projected onto a screen. In this kind of music, its all about the subtleties, like the guitarist occasionally putting down his ax to play a bit of muted trumpet or windchimes, to seperate the gold from the endless leaden onslaught of mediocre harsh noise. There is nothing like age and experience, and i vowed to take a couple of notes from my elders. I returned from a hurried meal at the Fred Meyer's across the street (another badass venue near a Fred Meyer's! Is this a trend in Oregon...) to bells and the sultry sounds of alto saxophone, creeping across the night as i smoked cigarettes i found in the ashtray. Returning inside, i found a lone woman in a cloak, performing against a backdrop of Atu IX, The Hermit, as she solicited a series of tones and squeaks from a saxophone, wind chimes, bowed gong, before climaxing into a bloodcurdling banshee wail, and looping the sound of ceremonial swords, sharpening. A+ for presentation and mood, however her loops were a little choppy and in this saturated world of antisocial looper artists, you have to be REALLY fucking good at what you do, to pull it off. Trust me, i am a novice sampler myself, i can't pull it off yet, either. This young lady is potent, and i will be watching expectantly to see what comes next. I knew i was in for a treat when the third band pulled out a Dream Machine! Fake Hospital, also from Portland pulled off a set of middle-eastern trance panic pandemonium; clarinet, bamboo flutes, delay pedals and pulsating loops woven masterfully and magickally to coalesce in an event horizon of moment, slo-motion movement, reality running backwards, like flickering celluloid, stained technicolor with a psychedelic light show. Brian Jones would have been utterly stoked, as these two fine fellows brought a hint of vines and the rustle of bird-calls to the damp chilly evening. I could practically feel the Jaguar's breath, on the back of my neck. Last, but not least, Spencer Clark's Monopoly Child Star Searchers. Spencer's infamous in the glorious glo-fi underworld, hypnagogic hierophant of Skater's fame, i was definitely not gonna miss this, but truly and utterly did not know what to expect. I've listened to MCSS quite a bit (see here for previous analysis) and had been bewitched by his plasticine bedroom devotional newage. He ended up playing a set of Atari gamelans, swooning keyboards pads and taiko drum samples, cresting like waves while you sip some cliche tropical drink. Except that drink would be laced with ayahuasca, because escapist easy-listening xxxotica this is not. Its cheap and funky and inspired, a stoned teenager's astral journey over antiquated National Geographics. In a way, this music is even more potent and beautiful than that which it is emulating, stodgy dusty field recordings from distant lands, because it makes no attempt at being authentic. This is music of the imagination, and the imagination is a powerful thing.
* * *
As i faded away into the city streets, high on hope and possibilities, i reached the conclusion that this was one of the favorite performances i've seen so far. Just the perfect combination of ambiance, inspired music, obscurity, and the random nature of how i ended up there in the first place. The people were all super friendly and accessible, most artists and musicians in their own right, eager to exchange ideas and contact information. It was like a cool breeze after dealing with the infernal heat of spiky metalheads, and i melted into the shadows, to collect bottles and cans.
Ella St. Social Club is the fucking shit, a total gem, and they have music almost every night of the week, often times for free. Their jukebox fucking rules, and i'm told their drinks are reasonably priced, although that has no relevance in my world. If you live in Portland, you should go there all the time. You'll probably see me there!
Six awesome bands, split between two awesome houses, smack dab in the middle of bleak, strip-mall sprawl, way the fuck out there in Northeast Portland. I was totally stoked to be seeing some noisemetalpunk, after a summer of forests and faery lights. I killed some time in the monolithic Fred Meyer's across the way, bringing some nice french bread and bananas as my suggested donation; a novel concept for metalheads, who usually subsist on hops barley and adrenaline. I arrived in time for the first act, in the basement of the Antikythera, a solo acoustic act called Aerial Ruins, the solo project of one Erik Moggridge. The basement was steeped in infernal ambience, dripping red light, deer skulls suspended from the ceiling. Moggridge cast a dark circle, initiating the evening; a lone voice, suspended in cough syrup, creaking like old wood; a single guitar, anchoring it to this world. Like a haunted barn, or a cermony in the middle of a pine forest. Ethereal, yet rustic, these are the sounds i am obsessed with; that defy easy categorization and comfortable labels. It demands attention, to belch forth its treasures. It makes people uncomfortable. Hipsters out for a good time, or looking for a quick fuck on a Sat. night, are not necessarily wanting to be swallowed up in an amniotic cocoon of steel and string and teeth and venom; but for the devotees, his music will transport you. The 45 minutes of his set almost uncannily echoed what was writhing in my soul, and allowed me to be present for the rest of the evening, with all my mental confusion and exhaustion i was experiencing. He was kind enough to slide me a copy of his album, for review, so expect to hear more of this fellow, here at jsheaven. Next up were Hungers, who summoned a gelatinous wall of headbang, like a hurricane of sparks and light, with a fragrance of wet fur; gently slamming you to yr knees, perhaps in gratitude, perhaps in preparation for execution. I was so keyed up from having to actually SPEAK to HUMANS, prying words like splinters of tinsel from eyeballs, and it was hard to get lost in their sound. I liked their mood and their tone, and i think they're from around here, so i'll have to check them out some more, and give them my undivided attention.
Sliding over to the Megaton basement to catch Sloths, who brought the much needed death twitch spazz release, tight and intricate as a trap door spider's machinations.
Here's a recap:
1 elbow to larynx;
Insect Warfare Backpatch;
Pretty girl in white dress, slamming into my ribcage;
fall, get up;
My vision was greying out, and my chest felt tight, but i felt entirely free from fear. My body could be damaged, but you can never touch ME. I was entirely free. The whole night, i was watching my personality squirm like a tequila worm on a hot-plate, dealing with insecurity and jealousy and anxiety and poor nutrition, but i was the eye of the hurricane, always observing. I heard someone say, 'i'll always get my ass kicked for metal,' and that pretty well sums it up. This music is not about being comfortable. Its about pushing yrself and being strong. This night was the real shit, the total underground. Wild and unhinged. Sloths pulled me out of my 'objective journalist' headspace, and cast me down into the pit, reminded me of my quintessence.
Back to the first house, arrived early and listened to Growing over the house PA, pleasantly silent and calm now. Waiting for Antikythera to play, watching them set up. Watching people being uncomfortable in the silence. Jesus Lizard coming on the stereo giving me a sense of what i was about to get into.
Antikythera are more than the sum of their influences, however. I can definitely tell the presence of Swans Jesu Godflesh Melvins Nadja in their collective record collections, but theirs was a distinctive aesthetic; their own voice. The presence of analog synth kicking out the low end, along with multiple signal paths from the guitar, going into a mountain of Orange amps the size of Giza, all held down to earth by leaden drums, there to beat down whatever hope may spring eternal.
The sound was fucking tremendous. I felt eternally grateful to be a devotee of the underground, even if i was wading through a river of psychic vomit for much of the evening. It was like walking in on a Bardo Pond gig, or Acid Mother's Temple, but paid for with bananas and you can get to know the bands a bit, afterwards. This is my life, and i will gladly give every ounce of sweat and blood for these sounds, these bands.
For a decade, i have been battling with mind-splitting passion for albums and concerts battling with jealousy bordering on hatred, wanting so badly to be making music of my own. I feel the personality striving to coalesce around a particularly image or idea or persona, hoping to alleviate this malaise of insecurity, caught in a catch 22 rat's nest of mediocre art, mediocre writing, and i am left, bashing my head bloody against the fucking wall. This constant devotion to shamanic house show sat. nights, has brought me eye to eye with unavoidable truths about myself, and i have no choice but to see, and to move forward.
All 4 bands i saw were top-notch, talented and hungry. The real shit. They're still unknown, and if yr in the Portland area, available to be seen frequently and probably cheaply. Both venues are also sweet, and well worth the venture on the Max, even if it seems a long ways away (its not that bad, they're like 2 blocks of the 99th/Gateway MAX stop. I didn't get to catch Megaton Leviathan or Drunk Dads, whom i'm sure were both stupendous, but i had to dip and catch a train. I'll make sure to catch 'em next time.
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