Sunday, February 28, 2010

Richard Skelton - Landings

Read this entire review on The Silent Ballet. It's one of my best.

The ethereal breath and blurry edges of Landings is kindred with the music of Skelton's other pseudonyms, but what makes this album so good is its scope. At seventy minutes, it has the transmutational quality of changing size or shape to couple with the listener's mood. This is music of grieving and focus, but it is also ritualistic and gracious. It isn't going to make the listener cry and wish for something better; this is a tribute to the land in which it was recorded, and it behaves as an attentive listener, not an edict of expression. It offers itself to be explored, and what we find in listening is that the human heart, no matter the damage done to it, perseveres. Richard Skelton was truly compelled to play in this place. He would wake up at 5 A.M., drive to the moor and play guitar, violin, or concertina for hours in an old ruin or by a stream, in hopes that the environment would bestow itself into the recordings. He pressed individual CDs for himself, dressed them in little boxes, and stowed them in secret places where they were recorded, not wanting anyone to discover them. These private relics are still hidden in the landscape, and only he knows their locations!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cumulus 2010 Part 3

Saturday night was definitely the most diverse and interesting of the three. Each of the bands was worlds apart from the others, so the idea of "festival" felt more true. Celebrating our differences, so to speak.
Bill Horist began the evening with a perfectly normal acoustic guitar. I say this because after a long period of time where he played highly avant-guarde music with a plethora of talented musicians from around the world, including prepared guitar where the neck is fitted with all kinds of gadgetry to make textural soundscapes, he decided to play guitar and not fetishize it.
Bill's expressions speak volumes as he plays, and his phrasings were so wonderful, at one point I got very emotional. After the show we talked to him about music and the nature of electricity, as well as the entities that aided in his soon-to-be-released album next month. The interview is incredible and I can't wait to share it with readers of The Silent Ballet. This is a wise man indeed.

Cue the fog machine...
I had heard a bit of The Diminished Men prior to the show; knew they were channeling the midnight exotica of an Angelo Badalamenti film score. Nothing compares to the live performance, however. With saucer effected guitar, baritone guitar and tight drumming, their set was exquisite. I could have listened to them play for another hour, they were so good.

The trio known as Bronze Fawn stepped up next, and while at first they seemed like a lot of post-rock bands, they had a few tricks up their sleeves. The main one being that they are very tight. The bass player had so many pedals (a majority being digital effects) he had to set them up on the floor, off the stage. Steve appreciated the guitarist's pedal transitions, which while subtle to the ear, were happening a lot on stage. The final song they played was a dynamic narrative with false endings and a great sound.

Lastly, we had Talkdemonic, who I met a few days earlier in Portland for coffee. I had water, but they are close to tracking a new album as well. The appeal of this band is improving, as a lot of the folktronica beats that accompanied their older material is giving way to a looser and wide open sound where Lisa's viola does a lot more of the lyrical aspects.
Kevin is an awesome drummer, and he always seems to look really happy. I am definitely stoked on their newer material as it is heavier and just more natural feeling. These two peeps are super nice and I look forward to seeing them again, maybe at Kevin's fusbol tournament this summer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cumulus 2010 Part 2

Day two saw Steve and I buy some pedals from a true gear-nerd, and we ran into our old friend Zack, a local Seattle musician who plays in The Fool The Magician. He said the Funhouse, the venue for the show, was a cool place to play. Energetically, the Funhouse is designed for dirty, trashy punk shows, and I don't think the vibe of the music at Cumulus really fit. This Blinding Light were perhaps the best band to fill the space properly with their psychedelic whirlwind of fuzz and groove.

The Ever Changing Sky opened, and they had a couple good tunes that framed their set. They struck me as a rag-tag bunch of post-rockers who had found each other by chance. It was pretty or'nary post-rock. The drummer was great and he did play his cymbal with his earring at one point. Props!
AresteiA are from Portland, and their music was also pretty familiar, following the teachings of Mogwai, EITS and the like. But it was their energy that was captivating. These guys ROCK. And they fly all over the stage. Their drummer hit his skins so hard he went deaf. Afterward, their bassist told us "It would feel wrong to play this music and stand still." Still recovering from the workout, he then attempted to drink his water, but it splashed on his shirt. It made no difference because he was already so sweaty from playing.

Elders are from Davis, CA and they play an almost bluesy form of post-rock. It's high on the romanticism, feeling more delicate than emotional, helped by the sensual bass playing and the ever-present Nord keyboard. The woman playing that also sang at times. The guitar was jangly, rough and sounded like static as the bearded player played dissonant and unusual chords. It was a different feel, for sure, though their set seemed to last a little long. One less song, and they might have people craving more... But they won't get it unless they buy the merch.

At last This Blinding Light started playing at 1:19am. This, in my opinion, is when I should be asleep. Steve and I were desperate to leave, but persevered to experience the ritualistic majesty. White fuzz and bright fog lights set the tone for some dramatic theater, which included big mallets, tribal workouts and a jaguar guitar that laid down some fuzzy leads over the repetitious groove.
These people seem like they love the psychedelic music, but they also seem entirely inaccessible. We weren't going to do any interviews this night, but if I had set one up with TBL, I might have felt oddly intimidated, or perhaps unwanted? All speculation, and I really should just erase what I just wrote, but fuck it. That was the vibe. Mix that in with the disjointed atmosphere in the Funhouse, and I would conclude that this venue is not good for Cumulus. At least This Blinding Light can JAM, and it was the only part of the whole festival when I was compelled to dance. Considering how tired I was, I consider their 3-song set a success.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cumulus 2010: Part 1

The instrumental music festival two years running opened up last night, with each successive band seemingly one-upping each other with tightness and virtuosity. A young fellow with his pony tail bunned up, named Paintings For Animals, did a 20-minute textural piece using only effects pedals and his voice. It was a performance that evoked the classic "nice try" response.
Cumulus Festival organizers The Luna Moth kicked out the drop-D drone rock jams, with creative touches provided by Levi, the bassist, who did some nice harmonic and upper register looping at times. A plod overall, to be sure. Steve and I can thank Levi and Mark (and Kenny) for hooking us up with entry and all the information we needed to cover this event.
Local heroes Joy Wants Eternity crawled out from a 7-month show hiatus and worked through a bunch of the material they still have yet to release. Despite a bunch of sour notes, no one flinched and JWE clearly are professional post-rockers, no doubt. The new material is certainly refreshing, but similar to their work on the albums they've released.
After the show the fellows talked to us and drummer Emery mentioned how they wanted to piss off all post-rock fans by taking a completely unexpected new direction in music writing. They have recordings on the shelf that they can't decide to release, and the craving for something new seems very strong. Their set was enjoyable, though, and they busted out an old song they had never played before in a live setting, not that I can name it.
Scriptures was bumped up to headline, and wow, they were tight. Formerly This Is A Process Of A Still Life (from Montana), this Seattle version has a new name and a completely new direction, which bassist Jason referred to as "desert psych metal." While the "metal" aspect was seldom, the rest of the description is apt, and the list of styles they would tackle in just one song was awesome.

This band is close to finishing their new record, and wow, I can't wait. It's a gem in the works, people. Lap steel, melodica, slide, thick synth drones, western guitars, arpeggios, and an absolutely stunning drummer make this band very good.

Friday, February 5, 2010

La Bionde - Space rock thing

This Italian duo was doing the space rock thing a long time ago. Folks like Lindstrøm and LCD Soundsystem are banking on it now, but it ain't new! This is OLD. Check the hair styles. Wow. Awesome. And how about that animation? There's some pretty great work behind those two gents. These days, something like that would have been so expensive, and really, no one makes animation like that anymore. It isn't rotoscoped either. There's full on hand-drawn heads rotating and angling in space. Very difficult!

The money shot is when the two animated Bionde dudes simultaneously fire ray guns. Name that innuendo!

Slow Six - Tomorrow Becomes You review

I finally got this review published. The great Jedi Council had a long, arduous debate over whether it would be scored an 8.5 or a 9. It's fun to make people decide shit.