Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sir Richard Bishop, Fishermen 3, Flash Flood & The Dikes, The Black Swans @ The Kenton Club, 1.28.12

The Kenton Club is an honest-to-god working class pub in Kenton, which is a neighborhood in NE Portland. I used to stay about 5 blocks from there, when i first moved up here, and don't make it up that way much, these days, it always gives me a healthy dose of perspective, to see all the ways that i have changed, the direction that my life is moving, as i remember being a wounded nomad, wandering to the Cup & Saucer with a walking stick, Gandalf impersonation in full effect.

The Fishermen 3 were up first, and were exactly what my cochlea and timpanum needed, melancholy country folk, Southern Calfiornia style. Reminded me of the early Mojave 3 records, or Gregory Alan Isakov, from Boulder, Co. (who i talk about over here, if that reference means nothing to you.) Basically, i felt like dog vomit last night, half-sick; sick of people, sick of my thoughts, the sound of my own voice. Malnourished and bitter, i didn't really want to DO anything. Didn't feel like going out, didn't feel like lying curled up in a ball at my friend's house, either. It is a testimony to my friend Nate, who motivated me to get out the door, and to how much i love Sir Richard Bishop, that i went out. But it was a free show, with 4 awesome bands. Its just weak to pass something like that up, especially if you've been looking forward to it for a month. So the Fishermen 3 were a sunny respite on my otherwise bleak and bitter soul, a warm desert breeze, to dispel the dismal late-January ennui.

Flash Flood & The Dikes were an honest to god country band, and a good one at that! With hints of fiddle, musical saw, 4 part vocal harmonies, and pedal steel, plus an arsenal of Gibson hollow-bodies, these guys had their shit together. They did a full on country version of 'I had to much to dream last night,' by The Strawberry Alarm Clock (i have heard the strawberry alarm clock on record, but i've never seen it played live!), as well as a Michael Hurley number, who is one of my heroes, they had the room swaying and waltzing. It was pretty well packed at this point, and the room was warm and friendly. There was a pair of lesbians on the dance floor in front of me, who might as well have been fucking, ushering in the Valentine's Day bitterness a few weeks earlier than normal, but even then i realized i was being a curmudgeon, and managed to enjoy myself. It was nice to see country music played, without irony or chargrin. Just THE REAL DEAL.

Finally, Sir Richard Bishop, the moment i'd been waiting for! It turned into a war between those that were sitting, and those that were standing. Those that were standing eventually won, but i held to my guns and maintained full-lotus, spine erect. Occasionally, the giants would part and i could see Bishop's hands moving on his beautiful Les Paul. Sweet Jesus, i'm not sure if i've ever uttered these words on this page, and you know i avoid hyperbole like the plague, but this man is a fucking genius. A living legend. Over the span of 45 minutes, he ran the gamut of the entire solo guitar oeuvre, from Sonny Sharrock to J Mascis, but mostly hanging around the late and lamented Jack Rose's opium raga blues, which really caused me to remember, and lament, that master's passing. Jed, i take back what i said: nothing will ever replace that man. But Sir Richard plays the Raga visionary blues like a boss, a cross between ravi shankar and django reinhardt. His tone was as sweet as souvlaki, and he moved through effects pedals and loops seamlessly, effortlessly. Seriously, i have seen 1001 solo guitar dudes, great and small, and he was one of the finest i've seen. Total mastery. His music filled my daydreams with flying carpets and sandalwood incense, elevated me above my petty mortal problem, and like a bird, i was set free. And for that, Sir Richard, and all the rest, thank you.

Sir Richard Bishop is going to be opening for Michael Gira, for a few shows on the West Coast, in March. I would not miss those shows, if yr anywhere remotely close, or if you have some frequent flyer miles to cash in.

One of the last living masters, don't sleep, don't be passive. Do yrself a favor, and recognize genius.


All shows with Michael Gira (Swans, Angels of Light)

3/15/2012 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall

3/16/2012 Los Angeles, CA @ Echo

3/22/2012 Seattle, WA @ Triple Door

3/23/2012 Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios

Apparently, he's got 3 new cdr's out now, also

After this, my briefly elevated mood ran out, and i left before i bit somebody's knee-caps, so i didn't get to see The Black Swans, but i hear they're good, also. I'll have to catch 'em next time. Me and my buddy hopped some barbed wire, to catch the last train downtown.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Graig Markel - s/t (2012, Recovery)

I became aware of Graig Markel when i saw his band Dead Ship Sailing, at the Ella Street Social Club, in Portland. Apparently he liked the review i wrote of the show, (over here), and was kind enough to get in touch, and to send me a real, honest to goodness vinyl record of his new solo record!

Dead Ship Sailing sounded like The Jesus and Mary Chain being backed by suicide, so imagine my surprise when i unsheathed the vinyl to find a bare-bones, intimate acoustic record. Citing influences such as Nick Drake and Bruce Springsteen, circa 'Nebraska', these 10 songs make me feel like i'm driving through the prairie, in the middle of the night. Its probably winter out, the car window frosted and crystalline. Maybe you can see yr breath?

If you go into this record, thinking about the influences, about the labels, 'folky', 'lo-fi', 'blue-sy' you will miss the point. It will stream by you like headlights headed in the opposite direction. The devil is in the details, here, and when you slow down enough to get to know this collection of confessional ballads, there are treasures to be had, wisdom to be gained. Its like the quiet person at the party, off by themselves, who turn out to be a world traveller. Or perhaps a mystic.

Upon close examination, living with this record over the span of a couple of weeks, using it as company and a crutch to get through lonely nights, his craftsmanship and attention become apparent: the way he swaps out lyrics, rearranges structure, nuances and intricacies that reveal a tasteful ear and years working in the music biz. Graig runs a recording studio in Seattle, Wa. and this whole record was recorded to an analog tape deck. Its got tone out the tailpipe, the guitar playing is nice, not flashy but tasteful, and again, there are nuances that show a talented songwriter, odd discordant chords and subtle overdubs. Add pedal steel licks and the occasional piano stabs to fill in the cracks, and you are left with a nigh-on classic!

The consistent mood and tempo, the tenor of the vocals, create a hypnotic lull, but don't let it lull you into complacency. You can put this record on repeat, you can leave it play for hours and hours, and just let it create a mood, let it stain the air like late-afternoon sunshine.

Highly, highly recommended!

You can preview it over here

i would also like to plug for the vinyl, gorgeously packaged in a raw paper sleeve. It looks, and sounds, amazing!!!

Also, if you are around Seattle, Dead Ship Sailing is playing at The Comet, on Capital Hill, on February 17th.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

White Rainbow, Charles Berlitz presents The Garnet Tucan, Caspar Sonnet, Rene Hell Wed, 1/25: Valentine's

Valentine's is a sweet, secluded spot next to Voodoo Donuts, in SW Portland. They have free live music every Sun., Mon., and Tues., and there's always interesting art on the walls. They apparently also serve Real Absinthe, for those that want to make like its Paris circa 1923.

I arrived typically late, to a surprisingly packed house, with the sounds of, (i'm assuming), Caspar Sonnet, already in full tilt. Two fellas, one playing unsteady electric guitar with the other on some ukulele like instrument and vocals. Their sound was akin to Math Rock, with a Jandek-ian vibe. They seemed to live in a world of their own, but their was a dream logic, an internal structure, and they were able to keep their mutant dirigible afloat, peeking in at verdant valleys previously unexplored. I admire people who do their own thing, doubly so in front of a crowd, and especially when they can PULL IT OFF.

My buddy Nate poked me in the back. He came out to see Rene Hell and White Rainbow, and i also ran into some friends from the House of Good Spirits, in Northeast Portland. It felt nice, a free weird show, a night on the town. Friendly faces.

Rene Hell up next, and it was not what i was expecting, AT ALL. I'd listened to his recordings quite a bit, and had been expected some dreamy, synthesizer scores; cyberpunk dystopianism, with a dash of nostalgic somnabulism, a la Emeralds or Oneohtrix Point Never. What i got, instead, were two dudes blasting out a furious smoothie of digital noise, like Squarepusher, but all the way broken, all the way down. The collective migraine of the information canals. Here, also, there was rhyme and reason, seasoned shamans of the digital id, this was a new jazz, albert ayler and sonny sharrock teleported to the end of the Mayan calendar. These guys were delicate listeners, and could pirouette like a ballerina, or a nascar driver at 117 mph. Quick. On their toes. The music ebbed and flowed, and occasionally rumbled into some broken machine funk, reminding me of Pole, but without the dub. My body began writhing and head-banging, involuntarily. A guy next to me nudged me, asked if i was actually DANCING to this music. I told him that i actually LIKED this music, that i thought it was good. He seemed satisfied, and after a thoughtful pause, added, 'its kind of refreshing.' We were friends, after that. Apparently Rene Hell are gonna be in Portland for the next month, so keep yr eyeballs peeled for future appearances. I highly recommend seeing these dudes live, and listening to their albums, as well.
(i read that Rene Hell was one person, but i swear there were two guys bringing the noise. I dunno what to tell you...)

Next up Charles Berlitz presented the Garnet Tucan, a daydream of an extra-terrestrial swamp, not a real extra-terrestrial swamp though. A daydream of a pixellated, technicolor extra-terrestrial swamp. This music was NOT trying to be genuinely ethnographic; again, two dudes, one guy blasting out crunchy, plastic African beats while the other played gamelan middle eastern scales on a cheap, destroyed keyboard, while a hazy image of a crescent moon and stars and night-time were projected on the wall, from an old overhead projector like you took notes off of, when you were in High School. The music was pleasantly evocative, rhythmic and trancy and made for some of the nicest furniture music i've heard in a minute, light conversations about the pictures behind our eyeballs. Beats the fucking movies any day of the week, if you ask me. (i like to go to the movies, too, don't get me wrong.)

Lastly, the Headliner, White Rainbow, infamous in Portland Town for 80s fetish sleazy funky dance parties. He was rocking an ableton set-up, with a swarm of controllers around, which he used to summon, and then mangle, disembodied bass lines, hip hop beats, and a VERY legitimate sounding 303 lead. All this to the good, but i was mostly struck by his stage presence, super real and down to earth, 'oh, adam, yr so good at making the ableton beat.', 'no, that one sucks.' cutting off jams midway, and then bringing the typhoon full-force. It seemed like a perfectly normal night on the town, DJing for yr friends, making beats in yr bedroom. In a word: pure, and in my world, that makes it good. I watched the fuckers dance for a while, swooning on a bar stool, not much into a dancing mood, too many heady visions coalescing in my synapses. Had a number of conversations with progressively drunker new friends, and thought for the millionth time, how glad i am that i don't drink anymore. Not that there's anything wrong with that, y'all do what thou wilt, but i will way that is much easier to not make an ass of thyself, when one doesn't drink, and the bartenders hate you a lot less.

Struck out into the streets or Portland with my friend Nate, who was pretty wasted at the time, and observed the bars vomitting out their revellers onto the streets, and the hustlers trying for one last score and one last taco before bedtime.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ghost Ease, Fingers Moen, Spun Monkey Patrol @ Ella Street Social Club, 1.19.12

Angels Flyer

Arrived in time to hear the last of the Ghost Ease, always a pleasure, and sounded even better to this ears than the last time i saw her (more about that here). Earlier in the set, she apparently played with a sort of noisy, minimal guitarist, that sounded excellent, that had my friend enthusing at length. Sorry i missed it, have to see her again.

I also mostly missed Fingers Moen, whom i wrote about over here. My friend and i decided to duck out and get bagels with food stamps from Fred Mayer, while they were still open, and just barely missed a teargas incident. Everyone was standing out on the street, smoking cigarettes and talking. We thought the band had finished, but it cleared up and Fingers Moen went inside and finished. Sat outside on the steps and ate bagels and cream cheese and talked to my friends Jake and Matty about sarcastic crust punk while Matty tried vainly to chase down people entering the venue, in an attempt to get the $5 surcharge. (He wad working the door). I liked listening to Fingers Moen folksy Velvet Underground/Neil Young homage through the wall than actually watching them on stage. They had a bass player with them this time, as well, and i thought it helped fill out the songs a lot, although he was brand new and didn't know the tunes yet.

The last band, whom i surmised from Matty were to be an 'instrumental jam band'. Its funny, there's a part of me that groans internally when i hear those words in combination, although i tend to listen to a lot of hippy rock, at times, and even play that kind of music, sometimes. Its probably my inner music snob. That sound should be located and exterminated.

The Spun Monkey Patrol ended up being a talented instrumental funk/rock/electro three piece. All of the musicians were gifted on their instruments; the guitarist made love to his Les Paul, while the bassist kept it together with a solid thumpslapnpop, and the drummer bordered on Drum 'n Bass breakbeat exactitude. Everybody's tone was solid, they all had nice instruments that they knew how to play, and the sound in the venue was exactly right, levels in complete harmony, leaving no auditory afterburn afterwards. They encapsulated everything that is good and right about jam band music: its danceability, its optimism, its libido. They got a crowd of people moving on the dance floor, which was the first time i'd seen that go down at Ella St.

Seeing so much live music clearly illustrates the tug of war that goes on with my mind. Music is the air in which i live and breathe, i am pretty much surrounded by it all times, and it is interesting to see the different ways in which i relate to it. At times, i don't hear it at all. At times, it lifts me to the heavens. At times, in plunges me into the pit. The sound almost always wins me over, however, and i am elevated; my small self dissolves like a receipt in the rain. My eyes close. A small, sly smile will cross my face. My body will begin to move, of its own accord, and i am GONE, which is to say i am entirely present.

Just some random Thurs. night in the Pacific Northwest. Nothing special about it, except for that millions of years of evolution, and billions of cosmic dust, coalesced to form a cross-section of humanity and pick up the ritual that has been played through millions of times before, in a billion different ways, and is, inexplicably, brand new. The faithful gather, hoods up against the rain: in the sound, you can hear the echoes of all the saints, the children, angels and windstorms and holy whales. It amasses like a Mandelbrot set, deep and mysterious, and as you gaze, you reaize the term 'everyday consciousness' or 'waking thought' is such a fucking joke. There ain't no such thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ex Girlfriends Club, Sexy Water Spiders, Di di mau @ Dante's, 1.18.12

This has rather inadvertently turned into another Rock 'n Roll marathon for yrs truly, as Portland is teeming with interesting, free music, at the moment. I shall persevere, and continuously plunge into the bush, throwing myself out into the night, into the concrete jungle, and report what i find, to tell you who's worth a damn, and who isn't.

Was gonna go to Ella St Social Club last night, as there was something of interest going down, and i love that spot, but i noticed this show, instead. Tagged on pc-pdx under Noise and Riffs, and one of the bands was compared to YOB, i was sold, hook line and sinker. Besides, i'd never been to Dante's, and they have torches outside!

Dante's is a proper sleazy rock 'n roll den, it just makes you think of cocaine and hot hot sex. Lit up like an ocean of blood on the inside, with enormous chinese lanterns, they even have platforms for strippers and go go dancers to gyrate. After years of polite indie rock concerts, it is refreshing to dive into the belly of the beast. I was glad to be out, in the surprisingly temperate Portland nighttime air.

Ex-Girlfriend's Club up first: the singer was like some frankenstein's hodge podge of joey ramone, mick jagger, and iggy pop. He's about 9 feet tall, and he was the best performer i've seen in a minute. They tore up a homage to the early to mid 60s, at times extremely reminiscent of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but laced with amphetamines and booze, to conjure the true theater of the absurd and dangerous. It was like some shamanic invocation, to tear a whole through time, space, and history, to that meta-reality where everything is happening simultaneously, and the spirit of cynicism, 'been there, done that.' has no room to breathe and breed. They ended with one of the most excellent stage dives i've ever seen, with the singer than running around the infernal theater, knocking over beers and singing into people's eyes. Tremendous. Highly Recommended! (They were also handing out free CDs that night, so expect to see that reviewed, sometime in the nearish future).

Sexy Water Spiders continued the Garage homage, this time focused on the herky jerky mutant blues of John Spencer, circa Pussy Galore. True fucking punk spirit, these guys were like animated marionettes, shambolic but somehow razor sharp. The singer had the finest, operatic sound check i've seen to date, before launching into some throat singing, and then into a rockabilly number. The mutants will always be my favorite, the spazzes, the ones that don't give a fuck. Last time i checked, rock 'n roll was not about looking good and fitting in. I seem to remember some rigamorale about 'revolution', and its nice to know that exists somewhere, even if there is pretty much a precedent for just about anything you could think to do, at this point. They ended up with a song dedicated to people high on resin, the singer and guitarist stumbling around the stage like a drunken zombie, or Pinnochio on Treasure Island. Again, highly recommended.

The last band i saw was Di Di Mau! who was the one i was most jazzed about. I had listened to a track online, and it was full of rumblings and ominous squeaks. It was oddball, murky, and opaque, and i was fucking drooling. Ooh, free noise weirdness on a Wed.! Even more confused and excited when they turned out to be a muscular, intense post-punk/glam band. I love having my expectations dashed. Especially when it comes to music. The singer was wearing an ian curtis shirt, and it was impossible to not let that cultural signifier color my impression of their performance. However, i was TRIPLY stoked when it seemed that these guys were focusing on the earliest aspects of Joy Division, when they were a loud, fast, aggressive band, before the cold and the despair took over, and then took everything. This singer was nearly so fragile and damaged as Ian, these guys were warriors. At one point, they kept fucking up the beginning of a song, the guitarist couldn't hear anything in the monitors. The audience was getting rowdy, starting to throw shit. They shrugged it off, and tore through the rest of the set with renewed fury. The drummer blasted out a funky disco beat, in triple time, like Stephen Morris on Unknown Pleasures, giving the whole thing a nice, danceable edge, and the bassist was pure punk rock speed, holding down the bottom end, playing to the audience. Everyone i saw that night were all excellent performers.

I headed out into the night, elated, to find an all night Kinko's, my faith and fervor for rock 'n roll, punk rock, post-punk, metal, and my fellow denizens of the night, in full bloom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Caroline, The Love Below, Yuin @ The Laughing Horse, 1.16.12

Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective is a small but respectable book cooperative on 10th and Burnside, in SE Portland. Its an all ages venue, featuring mostly punk hardcore metal-ly things, which is so freakin' essential in this town, as it seems almost EVERY venue is a fucking bar. What are 18 years old supposed to do, smoke meth and stab grannies? On this Mon. evening, they got to rock out to four pretty legit bands.

My friend Leland plays in Caroline, who played first. Seeing as how i like the kid, and i know he's got good taste, and i already liked his guitar playing, i was predisposed towards liking his band, but i cannot ever completely check my journalistic integrity, and even if i like you, there is no guarantee i will not be disgusted by the music that you make. Thankfully, Caroline sounded really good this evening, so i didn't have to come up with nice ways of telling my friend his band sucked. I could definitely hear some of the influences i know Leland is into, i.e. Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Place to Bury Strangers, Sunny Day Real Estate, in short angsty twitchy post-grunge, wiry and high-strung, this is the fury of a generation reared on adirol and japanese cartoons, 4 loco and marijuana and the confusion of being a young adult in a world where anything is possible, but nothing seems plausible. They absolutely TORE UP their fucking set, tight and intricate, sounded pretty rehearsed for being a shambolic spazzcore band, but i thought they sounded best when they were tearing into leaded metal shreds, like Dinosaur Jr., and the vocals veer too close to pop-punk screeching for these ears, and i would like to see them explore more of the shoegazery/slacker vibe. For a moment, Leland was writhing on the floor and it seemed like a bit of a spectacle, a bit of a put on. 'Here's the part where i'm supposed to writhe on the ground,' which may be authentic at other times, but it didn't last long, and they tore back into some unbridled pummeling, before too long. These guys have been playing a lot, getting a lot of shows, and they are definitely worthy of yr time and attention.

The second band, Yuin, were mostly a by the book speedpunk band, with some 'core vocals, which is really two strikes against yr band, in my world. However
they were genuinely antagonistic, 'what's the difference between jam and jelly? i can't jelly my dick down yr throat!' and then SLAMMING into brutal waves of sonic terror. You could tell the young, activist types were kind of offended, and then succumbed to the sonic violence. It was sort of beautiful, and i was reminded for the second (and not the last) moment why the hell i loved punk rock at one point. I probably wouldn't listen to these guys on my own time, that much, but i would see them again live.

After a string of pseudo-core bands, i was rather surprised by The Love Below, who were mostly a terribly legit thrashy trashy sludge metal band. Sort of reminded me of like Botch or Cave-In, that leaden post-hardcore thing, which is as alien as a Giger print to me, but fascinating and heavy as lead. They got the crowd going, and the Laughing Horse degenerated into a (mostly) good natured mosh pit. I managed to lose my glasses and all forms of government identification, not to mention my last two bucks, so i decided the whole night was officially rock and roll, and was satisfied.

I kept having this sense, this subliminal impression, during the whole evening, of young folks, tearing at the bit, just RACING into the future, trying so hard to be legit, to be tough and hardcore, even though their voices had barely changed, sometimes. Its like, yr 18, but you've already seen so much, possibly travelled to other countries, cut their teeth on every culture, and bombarded on all sides by their own. They are old souls, but they are still prey to the confusions of young adulthood (no web site to google yr way through that one, sorry bud.) and i was really moved and empathetic. In their fury, in their attempts to shock, to awe, to be legit, to not give a fuck and channel the powers that course through every rock n roll band, i felt set free. I no longer cared that i was probably 10 years older than the average mean of the audience, and that i am a speedy, twitchy borderline homeless music journalist, and just thrashed like i had a car battery connected to my spine. If everyone is afraid to make a spectacle of themselves, then there would be no bands.

The Love Below

edit: apparently i switched around two of the bands, which means that Yuin were second and The Love Below, which means that The Love Below has beautiful, mutant album art and plays awesome sludgy post-hardcore, which makes them pretty much aces in my book. I think they're on tour right now. Check 'em out!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trauma, Ripper, ? @ The Know; 1.15.12

There is something inherently hardcore about going to a show on a Sun. night. Double points for making it a punk/metal show, plus an additional two for going out in bitter fucking cold.

This whole week there's been a non-stop onslaught of badass, bonegrinding sonic assault at The Know, a slightly hipsterish bar on Alberta, in NE Portland. A lot of black leather jackets, but brandishing a decent jukebox, i didn't catch too many glares from the sunday evening drinkers. My mohawk must make me inconspicuous.

Turns out Raw Nerves had to cancel, which was a shame as my roommate had been talking them up to me for a while, but seeing as how i had no idea who any of these bands were, i wasn't too disappointed, or probably wouldn't have known the difference. Didn't really know what to expect, but was still somehow shocked and pleasantly surprised at an evening of relentless speedpunkmetalthrash, sharp as stilettoes and hyped up on adrenaline, suddenly this sunday evening grew some fangs. Suddenly all was fierce, and terribly alive.

The first band, i assume must be ripper, were a hardcore punk band that screamed in spanish and were tight and punishing as a tijuana druglord. The singer stalked the floor, as the crowd cringed, like a room full of children who hadn't done their homework. I got right up front, accidentally headbutted the singer (he didn't seem to mind). It was sort of like being dipped in a piranha tank. It was over before they had hardly begun, and you were left, nothing but calcium and sinew. Tense, high strung, high energy; bright and keen as a katana, these guys reminded me of why i used to like punk rock so much.

Trauma played next. Stripped down blue-collar punk rock, blasted out at 200 bpm! The crowd still did their best Monet impersonation, but my frail caffeinated body did its best to jerk along to the shuddering blast beats. They reminded me of this band called Coliseum, that i saw down in Texas one time, just like stripped down rock 'n roll, very effective, and very deadly. Like streamlined, focused; and it made me not afraid to play bar chords, or churn out distortion, or playing a flying V. There was a moment, as the band raised and crested like a schooner in a tsunami, as the crowd remained stoic and the band just played louder, faster, the singer on his knees, screaming at the sky. Just giving it, bringing it all, and there was this moment, where the band locked into this chugging groove, like a train full of napalm, and the music just released, like a butterfly from a coccoon, or a poem. Where no one was trying to get famous or fucked or fucking famous, it was strictly and utterly for themselves, and for the people that liked their kind of music. The guitar player watched his hands, and took joy in shredding.

I didn't catch the last band's name, but they were filling in for raw nerves, i guess. They were a three piece, again total blasting rock 'n roll fury, but this time gone feral, eyes shifty and dangerous. A girl in a studded leather vest played a bass that was as big as her, and was lower than the lowest heroing bender. The guitarist shredded, but the real icing on the fucking cake was their drummer, who looked like he could have been 16, but could grind like he was never gonna stop; the tightest, fastest double bass work i've heard to date, all the while just freaking the fuck out on the cymbals. It was amazing to watch, he was like a whirlwind, and together, they were like Swiss clockwork, lining up impeccably, hitting every nuance, every accent. Totally impressive. Their set, and the night in general, was the perfect length, tight and focused, no flab. Left you wanting more, ready to pour out into the streets, ready to hop fences and start fires. Inspiring.

Find out who they are, and then go see them. It will be like a scavenger hunt.

All in all, the night ranged from ecstatic psychedelic brain cleanse, to utter normalcy, making shopping lists in my head, planning my week. And for some reason, i love doing those things while i'm watching some thrash metal band twitch their fucking brains out. Its like having them over for a BBQ. Its like these people are my family, my black clad socially awkward family. And while i occasionally have reservations about how my family perceives me, and why in blue devils they just WILL NOT react in public, it is not my place to judge, and so, stare if you like, i will twitch and thrash hard enough for the all of us. The bands usually seem to appreciate my vigor, and i feel nice and scrubbed out, when i leave.

My ears are ringing and i am finally warm(ish). Punk rock, on a sunday. Well worth the five bucks.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Elliott Smith - Either/Or

gone at last...

There is something powerful in embracing darkness, when it arises. In not wasting energy pretending to be all happyhappy mr fucking sunshine, instead preserving that vital chi to go through whatever the hell is making you feel that way in the first place.

This inevitably occurs, in this lifetime, on the coattails of any prolonged ecstatic state, the smiling shadow of happiness; what goes up must come down. Simple physics.

Found myself plummeting from the summits, late last night, burned out, tired, hungry, lonely. Pulled out this dusty gem, Elliott Smith's third full length, Either/Or, to get me through, to see the sunrise. Like a visit from an old friend, that understands you completely, where you need not speak a word. The depth and weight of years and memories, wrapped me in velveteen wings, and i was... comforted.

At this point, i've been listening to Elliott Smith's music for years, and there is a nostalgia to this music, but it is not a trip down narcotic memory lane. This music breathes and sings. It gets better and better.

His music has taken on new depth and breadth of associations since i moved to Portland, where he spent a lot of his life, and recorded a lot of his famous work. Names, dates, and places from the city of roses litter his records, and his songs flow through my head as i wander and explore my new home.

I also hear his echoes and reflections in so much music that is coming out now. Its like he's hardwired into our generation's genetic code. The lush, yet still lo-fi, recording style, the introverted multi-tracking bedroom auteur, the self effacing lyrics. I hear it everywhere from M Ward to Stephen Steinbrink, not to mention a billion and one living room concerts. He's like the patron saint of lonely, self doubting artists everywhere.

As i get into making records of my own, i appreciate these records more and more. They sound fucking awesome. He was such a brilliant guitarist (i don't hear enough about his guitar playing), the sweet vocal harmonies.... everything tastefully placed, everything just so. It inspires me, every time i hear it; has me rushing for a guitar and a microphone.

You've probably heard this record before, but maybe you haven't. I like to occasionally remind people of old favorites, not to mention provide a skylight into my experience. I don't want this blog to be about the new, flashy trend. There is nothing like getting to know a record, over days and weeks and years; how it changes as you change, how you perceive with the eyes of different epochs and experiences. There was a point when i was listening to his albums, when i was hopeless and dead drunk, trapped in rural Indiana, no money, no future, drowning in depression and alcohol; it comforted me then, too. Now, 6 years on, i am living in the city where he made these records, and the sky is bright. That contrast, that experience, is what drags me out of the pits, out of the blues, what gets me through my days and lonely nights.

So maybe you've never checked out Elliott Smith. Or maybe its been a while since you've listened to this particular album. Or perhaps you might listen again, and wonder what its like to be me, and be lifted out of yrself for a moment.

Thanks Elliott, for all the beautiful music. Sorry you were so fucking miserable.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Opening Eye - Good Amount (Crash Symbols, 2011)

"Christian Filardo, aka Good Amount, is more than just a friend, he's a blinking glowing media being... an internet chrysalid waiting to plug into the supermind. Opening Eye is a new manifesto of Filardo's ever shifting anticipation of that union; ambient soundscapes littered with clustered bell tones, projecting a sense of monoliths. Big ideas and big narratives to draw them out, from our digital hierophant, Christian Filardo." -Dwight Pavlovic
Opening Eye, the newest chunk of plastic and magnetized tape from the cassette label Crash Symbols, out of Phoenix, AZ. It arrived, anonymous as an orphaned child, all innocent in my inbox. Yet again had the thrilling moment of excitement, discovery, and connection, upon first listening and realizing that i actually like this music, and that Christian Filardo had actually taken a moment to read this blog, and figure out what my tastes are. Here's how he described the 4 tracks off this cassette, in the flying e mails that ensued:


The idea for “Opening Eye” came about one and a half years ago when I was studying printmaking on the island of Skopelos in Greece. I hadn’t been in a relationship with anyone for a while and was in love with this lesbian girl who I obviously couldn’t be with. So leaving Phoenix for Athens came as quite a relief despite the fact that at the time I was feeling quite morose. I chose to see my experience in Greece as one of reflection to get my life back.

All throughout Greece they have these blue and white eyes that people hang from their windows and put on the corners of there houses to ward off bad spirits. While my record is about the opening of my third eye, it is not in the conventional way. Essentially, this record is about my personal intimate journey in finding personal enlightenment in the country of Greece. I have broken down the record into four parts, which include everything from my journey through the historic Mediterranean to waiting in airports.

1. Closed: Closed is representative of the time period before and while I was in the process of getting to Athens. I walked the corridors of the Phoenix and Atlanta airports reflecting on life. Once upon the plane I got drunk off of box wine and spoke to this girl named Sarah who sat next to me about my issues. I couldn’t help just feeling like a depressing drunk. I remember falling asleep to that movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African Rugby Team and waking up in spurts of kids screaming.

2. Matter: Matter makes up the gradual heavy times and influential down times of the journey. The moments at coffee houses drinking espresso and Alfa beers. The trips to bars at night, walking down the city streets into the center of the city. The frequent questions about Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns I would get from locals. The meat and tiny experiences, endless countryside and Casino 777 billboards.

3. Gain: Represents all the “AH HA” moments or moments of obvious disbelief. Marveling at ancient ruins. A few things that come to mind are dolphins swimming along side the boat I took out to the Island of Skopelos, touching the Acropolis and being in awe of how big it actually is and feeling proud of Greece’s existence, and overall fascination of a cultures respect for food.

4. Opening: The realization of the value of life. Purity that lies within every person and animal. Enlightenment on how I was physically and mentally growing by being in such an important historical place. Deep desires and understandings turned simple and the feeling of bliss and happiness. A desire to never go back into the dark.

While i do not feel like music needs to have a backstory to be interesting, and sometimes there is this sense of tabloid drama in the marketing of records, i DO enjoy knowing what was going through the person's head, during the moments of creation, and going back and listening to the album, again, with a different headspace.

As far as the actual sounds on this cassette, it is mainly neue Kosmische keyboard ambience, Klaus Schulze on the beach, Mai Tai in head. A bit warmer, fuzzier than those Berliner cosmonauts, due mainly to the analog production and new age samples lurking beneath the murk (i hear whales! i hear loons! i hear waves! I KNOW WHAT YR DOING!) All in all, gives a sense of glo-fi tropicalia bliss drone. Fans of The Skater's axis, Tangerine Dream, Panda Bear, or Dylan Ettinger's neon daydreams, will need to have this.

You can download it, for whatever, off of the bandcamp, or own yr very own cassette for the low low price of only 5 dollars! Here's yr chance to reward honest, hard working, heartfelt musicians that are making sweet jams and running sweet labels. I'm looking forward to delving further into the Crash Symbols back catalog (looks like there's some good shit on there. Apparently they just put out a new Stephen Steinbrink joint, too, which you'll be hearing about shortly!)

Very nice work, christian filardo. thanks for getting in touch. its all about the connection.

Opening Eye

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sioux Falls, Fingers Moen @ Ella St. Social Club 1.10.12

I am never disappointed by the Ella St. Social Club.

It doesn't matter what's going on there, most of the time i don't even know what's going on over there, but i know that the music will at least be interesting, there's likely to be some cool, friendly people over there, and that i will experience something worthwhile. Its a straight shot down Burnside from where i live, and the walk is just long enough to clear the dust and fallout from between my ears, gives me a chance to get some brainstorming done. In short, a valuable community resource!

Fingers Moen were playing when i arrived, typically late. They are apparently a brand new act, one guy sporting a tie dye and a headband and long, stringy hair, playing guitar; another guy, also wearing a tie die but without a headband, played bongoes. Two men, two instruments (with occasional warbles of harmonica and kazoo), stripped down naivete rock. Total 60s throw-backs, the guitarist/singer seems to worship at the altar of St. Barrett, and their set reminded me of early Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground's more saccharine moments, perhaps a bit of Arthur Lee (ugh, i hate name checking Arthur Lee. Who the fuck actually listens to Love?), maybe a couple of the European cosmonauts like Gong or the Soft Machine, via a bohemian coffee shop. I appreciated what they were doing, they knew a bunch of songs and knew them well, played them well together, but it was a bit innocuous for my blood, and i thought they played too long. Its not really something i'd listen to on my own time.

Sioux Falls, from Portland but originally from Bozeman, Mt, totally brought it for the 20 people that persevered through the 55 minutes of songs about bears and children. One review i read called them Doug Martsch Apprentices, and they list Modest Mouse, Neil Young, The Replacements, Weezer, as influences, (and also for some reason Agalloch), so you know right away what yr getting here: a heap of country fried rock, extended guitar soloes, serrated vocals. No real surprises, except for that Sioux Falls sound incredibly good, while offering devotion to the Rock Gods. The bass was perfectly loud, smooth and round, filling my abdomen, my asophagus. The guitar player fucking RULEd, and the drummer wasn't half bad either. The vocals were surprisingly clear and understandable, and each song faded into a pyrochlastic fury of guitar freakout, while the rhythm section kept it all together. The guitarist must've been a little TOO flailing (is there such a thing?), he broke a string after nearly every song, and had to pause to change them out. They stayed cool as preliminary pickles up there, not even resorting to nervous banter like most do, just hanging out on stage, maybe talking to the crowd a little bit. I've had equipment go wrong on stage, and let me tell you, it is fucking nerve wracking! These guys just did what had to be done, picked up where they had left out, and furiously rocked out some more!!! I think these guys are seriously ones to watch.

Me and my buddy Nate missed the last bus, so we ended up walking 54 blocks, back to his place, occasionally pausing to purchase microwave burritos with food stamps, pausing to admire architecture. A chilly, damp wind, the lights were velveteen and hushed, the evening had the sense of promise, of a new day rising. All this music, all these comrades, all these days and long nights pounding pavement, stalking streets. The long walks, long talks; the long jams before going out to listen to yet even more music. Friends becoming friends, old friends reconnecting, everything rich and wide-eyed; beyond labels and heart poisoning cynicism, mutant children tearing up the night like confetti, throwing it towards tomorrow, watching the swirl.

Life is rich and rewarding. The great work is at hand. It is good, being a music freak, living in Portland, OR.

Indie Cred by Sioux Falls

Monday, January 2, 2012


One of the greatest challenges i face when pretending to be a real music journalist, is when bands and labels contact me out of the blue, looking for exposure. A slight tremor of the hands, a little shortness of breath, as i unfold my in-box, faced with the possibility of telling some young hopefuls that there band is hopeless, and i, in fact, hate their music.

I was quite relieved that this was not the case with Portland's Archeology, (there's no second A), and that i, in fact, rather enjoy listening to them. Someone described them as 'power folk', which is kind of stupid, but kind of apt. Their sunny harmonies and acoustic strum reminds me most closely to Colorado's Bad Weather California, but perhaps that reference is a little obscure, so instead i will name drop and say they remind me of Yeasayer's celtic twilight and four to the floor pounce, with fleet foxes tight vocal stylings and my morning jacket's faded romance.

That is not to say that they are entirely a pastiche or homage, another faceless derivative indie act. They have four part harmonies and three guitarists, one of whom plays keys, so this band has layers, nuance, and PRESENCE. This, coupled with the fact that they released 5 ep's in 2009, they year that they formed, and toured extensively, suggests to me that this is a young indie band that is doing it right, paying their dues, plying their craft, and are deserving of attention.

I haven't been listening to this band for very long, but i've been spinning tracks off of youtube and facebook all evening, and haven't gotten tired of them yet. In fact, i'm intrigued, and i'm looking forward to paying closer to them, and the chance to see them live.

Thanks to Rian, from ipromotogoodbands, for the heads up on these guys, and allowing me to keep you posted on what's happening, here in Portland.

Archeology are headlining the Doug Fir Lounge 1.6.12


Aerial Ruin - Valleys of the Earth (Vendlus Records, 2011)

Listening to Valleys of the Earth, the first solo outing for Portland's Eric Moggridge, formerly of Old Grandad and Epidemic, is like wandering into some shadowed Canyonland, leading you further and further away from the sun, further and further away from the life that you knew. From everything certain, from everything logical... perhaps there are petroglyphs? A spent campfire? Like the amber album cover, and much of life, it is full of ambivalence.

I came across Aerial Ruin in a red lit basement, (chronicled here), he had a beard like a viking and a voice like a fallen angel. With only his voice, his words, a guitar, and the barest smattering of effects, he torched off black light past life regessions, behind my retinas. He set my hair on end, and rifled my skin with gooseflesh. After going to tens of thousands of concerts in my life, you would think i would be bored and jaded; instead, Aerial Ruin had me thanking Baal for checking pc-pdx that night, for following my nose and my instincts, and ending up at the bar maldoror, for the unholy spectacle, yet again.

Moggridge's music could be comfortably categorized as 'neo-folk', if it were not for the fact that there is nothing comfortable or categorizable about this music; if you enter this land with that mindset, you will not catch the whiff of sulphur and sandalwood. You will not find the beating heart, in the heirloom chest of a broken down barn. This music is all about contradictions and blurred lines, my favorite: dark romantic acoustic music made by a man who looks like a heavy metal berserker, who rights songs full of witchcraft and cryptic romance. These are songs from someone who has truly crossed the void, and seen things he does not know how to describe, let alone relate to the rest of the world. He described his stuff as 'drug music', as in soundtracks for closed eye inner visions, but it is not the easily identifiable brand of Kyuss worship of most Stoner metal.

What i can say, is that anyone who likes any of these abovementioned styles, will dig this record. Fans of Death in June or Current 93, Brendan Perry's solo material, or the lengthy desert journey of Sleep's Dopesmoker will have a new holy relic on their shelves. People that think in categories and don't really listen to music, will most likely just miss it entirely.

Looking around the interwebs, at what other journalists have had to say about this record, has left me wanting to puke blood. There's not much there, period, and i feel the previous criticism has been bland and generalized. There's been much mention of the monotonous nature of the vocals and guitar style, and i'll grant that it is a singular vision, and that's not to everyone's liking. But not once have i heard anyone mention, that the playing is SICK AS FUCK, and everything is gloriously, glowingly recorded, gorgeously mixed, everything in its place. Moggrodge harmonizes gloriously with himself, giving the record a rich, velvety depth, with just the subtlest flavors of effects, like reverbs and delays, a little phasing, cuz hey, this is psychedelic music! While i've got 10000000 records to listen to and write about, and usually i can't wait to be done with a writing assignment and move on, i can't wait to listen to this album over and over again. To know its twists and turns, to lose myself in its shadows.

Instant Classic. Pay Attention!

Thunder Drums

Got an exquisite two-fer fer you today. "What's a two-fer," you might ask? Find out...

Thunder Drums is a tribal stomp from Scott Fitzgerald, a bit on the New Agey sound, but perfect for cruising around on mesas, through cacti, watching sunsets, and possibly stomping yr feet.

The files posted here are an actual cassette rip that i made a while back, for a very special lady in my life. This woman i was married to, many strange aeons ago, and this was one of the tapes that was in our car during our endless, perennial road trips. We listened to this as we drove back and forth across this massive country, from sea to desert to mountain to forest, and then back again. This was the soundtrack for two souls waking up, intertwining. One thread in the vast symphony of awakening.

I just learned the other day that this dear woman, who has been saint mother lover sister and most importantly best friend is getting re-married. She was out on her lonesome for many moons, as i was busy falling in love repeatedly, committed to her soul, dedicated to evolution, to meeting god in this lifetime. As i tried repeatedly to bullshit myself, to drown myself in illusions, striving for normalcy and a typical life, and this woman would not leave me be, a perennial bedbug and a thorn in my side. "You promised to move mountains," she would say. "You promised to push the meteor from off thy head." She would not let me sleep.

Our relationship has not been romantic in a long, long time, but we have been thicker than blood. She has saved my life repeatedly, been a constant source of sympathy, understanding, and frustration in my life. I didn't figure i would mind at all, be affected at all, upon learning of her imminent nuptials, and was surprised to find a very poignant retraction in my soul, like watching some indigo meteor slip over the horizon. Like watching a loved one, turn and walk away, watching their back diminish.

I grew up with this woman. We became who we are today, together, birthed in the nuclear crucible of a thousand and one psychedelic nights. We found magick together, we found the land, we found our human family. We found a billion awesome bands together, and danced to sweaty exhaustion, over and over.

As i have moved towards health and human adulthood, my definition of love has expanded beyond what i can get from someone, what they can do for me. I am wholly whole, in this moment, a molecule at rest, and my heart and my mind and my soul can perceive these beautiful creatures i have known, i have loved. Beyond selfishness, beyond ego gratification. Just a simple, fond appreciation, like the blue velour blanket i used to wrap around myself as i slept.

So far all of you out there, here's a time warp, back to 1997 and further still, to when thunderous bison hooves rocked the sandy earth, like the first heavy metal band. Lovingly ripped from cassette by myself, and i'm told the cassette is far superior to the digital re-issue, for some reason.

This one's dedicated to Angela Romany, soul sister number one and bff forever! Remain in light! and blessings on each and every remaining breath!