Saturday, April 7, 2012

Barry Brussea, Cotton, Waver Clamor Bellow @ The Waypost; 4.6.12

The Waypost was the perfect venue for the intimate, unadulterated acoustic tones of the evening; inside, it seemed like a mash-up of an Old English tea-parlor; all elaborate tapestries on the walls, busts on the piano, with a Old West speak-easy. The lights were low, and the crowd was there to listen.

I've seen Barry Brussea a number of times, at this point, and have definitely noticed that this attention can make or break his music. One man, one voice, a nylon string guitar, a couple of pedals, it's subtle music - but when you are in its thrall, it will wash over you, breaking like waves, removing you from consensual reality into a place archetypal and emotional. Barry is a master of atmosphere, and with the mellow vibes of The Waypost supporting him, he played the finest set i've seen him play so far, even without the presence of his brother Jimmy on drums. He got the tone and mood dialed in completely, his guitar was impeccable, coming through a classy Marshall amp. He played a set of material from his last record, A Night Goes Through (which i talked about over here,) interspersed with some brand new material, he's got a new record coming out soon, and some material that he rarely plays live, a spoken word number with minimal guitar textures, droning Hazerai delay, that sounded like a Raymond Carver story scored by Olafur Arnold, all about jumping off a roof into the hedges. Barry's music is all about the details, the little touches, from the way he packages his records, to the wordless cooing in a soaring falsetto, like on the encore 'Thrift Store Buzz" which had the crowd singing. A moving experience, a good place to be on Good Friday.

Cotton was expanded to a four piece for this occasion, fleshing out Jim Han's maudlin, sarcastic honky-tonk minimalist folk with stand-up bass, backing vocals, accordion, piano. Jim's unassuming stage-presence is really facilitated by the additional musicians, he can really be his dry humble self, without having to shuck and shill. His guitar was mainly dry and clean, the upright was round and full, Lily Valentine was a nice addition, adding vocals, little keyboard parts, and some tambourine. Cotton's music really excels with the presence of female vocals, the three part harmonies filled the room, let the sound take wing. The icing on the wedding cake, was Jeff Kelley on accordion, piano, kick drum - dude's a total badass, and he ripped some awesome country piano solos, really bringing the speak-easy vibe to life. It is clear that they are all consummate musicians and care about what they are doing. Cotton are quickly becoming a favorite - i am honored to have such a dedicated and talented musician living in the same town, often playing shows for free, for the love of music. On this particular evening, Cotton's blend of faded romance, bittersweet romance, c & w drunken sway, and hummable melodies probably saved my sanity, just what the medicine doctor ordered. I wrote about Cotton, previously, with a link to their last album, check it. Love it.

Waver Clamor Bellow were an unexpected delight, a two piece instrumental duo, electric guitar and an army of pedals, and amplified viola, they created some of the most beautiful looping, drones i've heard in a minute - rippling fingerpicked arpgeggios on the guitar with the sawing sonority of the viola, rich and lush, run through delay and a big muff (!), their 45 minute set reminded me of Dirty Three or even Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but way more optimistic and colorful. The interplay between the musicians was near-telepathic, totally in tune with one another and able to pull off intricate ebb and flow arrangements. it was like a mixture of improvisation with a chamber ensemble, which is very hard to pull off well, without falling into the stuffiness of either. Instead Waver Clamor Bellow are creating something timeless and classic and brand-new. Again, like with all the other acts, the tone was impeccable and the audience was appreciative, allowing WCB to really raise the shakti, get something immense and powerful going on, climaxing with the finale, which was built of bowed guitar, clanging and looping, bowed glockenspiel for that temple bell sound, pizzicato viola plucking, that would've done Andrew Bird proud, that settled into a cresting, soaring bowed melody. Fucking outstanding.

If anyone happens to live in Olympia, Wa. and should read this today, Barry Brussea and Cotton are playing together again, along with soul-sister Leah Bee, Jake Kelly, and Snail Party, at the Swamp House. Should be transcendental.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jason for coming out to the Waypost show. The show was a real joy, and thanks for taking the time to write a nice piece on the experience. By the way the Olympia show was a great time.