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November 7th, 2001 Willamette Week Music Staff | Music Stories
 

Is Quiet Really the New Loud?

     
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PREVIEW
Ladies & Gentlemen, We're Floating in Space
Spiritualized = Cosmic

Most articles about Spiritualized focus on the band's gigantic sound. That's understandable. On record and, especially, live, their lush, sweeping sound is like the buzzing offspring of some psychedelic garage blues/rock band mating with a symphony, higher than ozone. They make you feel stoned, even when you're stone-sober.

True, perfectionist leader Jason "J. Spaceman" Pierce's vision is obsessively ambitious: His latest record, Let It Come Down, employs no fewer than 100 musicians; when he arrives in town Thursday, he'll bring 17 players to cram the Roseland's stage. Since Spiritualized only comes around every four or five years, you better get your ass to a ticket counter.

But while Spaceman creates incredible soundscapes, he's also an underrated lyrical talent. Strip away the layers and layers of music, and you'll find emotionally naked depictions of drug addiction and romantic despair relayed with overlooked wit ("I think I'm in love/Probably just hungry"). On 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, the two subjects overlapped, and often you weren't sure whether Spaceman was singing to an ex-lover or to his junk, i.e., "I don't even miss you/But that's 'cause I'm fucked up/And sure when it wears off/Then I will be hurting."

Some read Let It Come Down, which includes titles like "Twelve Steps" and "The Straight and the Narrow," as Spaceman's search for redemption. Of course, looking doesn't mean finding: When Spaceman admits, "The trouble with straight and the narrow is it's so thin I keep sliding off to the side," it's obvious the struggle continues. That's rough for Spaceman, but good for the rest of us, who find solace his struggles, so similar to our own. Dave McCoy

Spiritualized plays Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Roseland Grill, 8 NW 6th Ave., 224-2038. 7 pm. $15.

 

ALBUM REVIEWS
Thank You For Making Noise
Four New Releases Ratchet Up Hush Records' Whispery Racket

Hush Records speaks softly, but favors a hefty rhetorical stick. It may rely on gauzy post-folk songwriters like Corrina Repp and Kaitlyn ni Donovan, but the Portland indie label that bills itself as "the finest in anti-rock" can get downright petulant about its signature sound.

"YAWN: Hush music is boring," warns a promotional flier. "Yes, in a recent survey taken at a popular area shopping mall, the average listener complained samples of Hush music...'lacked crunchiness' and 'didn't pump you up.'"

True to such declarations, Hush and its artists have targeted all things unsubtle and indelicate ever since Chad Crouch started the label in 1996. The early words of Kind of Like Spitting's self-titled album, one of four new Hush releases, roughly sum it up: "We like the music with the vocals mixed low/ We speak of songs as if no one else knows...Your average woe has no punk-rock credentials/ Your voice is not your own."

Among a quartet of recently released Hush discs, KOLS (essentially Ben Barnett and his sparse guitar) comes closest to traditional folk. Barnett sings of expiring love and life in a claustrophobic town--anyone who's ever pantomimed the agony of "just being friends" will identify with the fragmented little stories set in a familiar Portland landscape of bowling alleys, fading all-ages clubs and composting affairs.

While Barnett's laconic inventories of his own emotional damage sound almost reportorial, Amy Annelle's country-soaked songs are more like snippets of dream dialogue. On A School of Secret Dangers, the singer for Portland's The Places, delivers silky surrealities--"I dreamed that Idaho was on the coast but couldn't find the state to take its place"--over chords that could have been lifted from Hank Williams.

Noise for Pretend singer/upright bassist Esperanza Spalding, on the other hand, is hardly a troubadour of the subconscious. Her singing is supremely suave and perfectly controlled, lending her band's sleek cabaret jazz-pop a sophistication that belies its apparent youth. I could happily listen to Spalding all day. Fortunately, after NFP's all-too-brief turn on the CD it shares with Blanket Music, Spalding joins Corrina Repp as a backing vocalist for proprietor Crouch's svelte bossa nova band. In the hands of many indie-rock types, Blanket Music's synth-enhanced Brazilian pop would dissolve into kitsch. Fortunately, kitsch doesn't exist in the Hush universe. Crouch's warbling voice and the band's saunter come off as a genuine and successful tribute to its source.

Bobby Birdman, warped alter ego of Rob Kieswetter, is the oddest entry in this foursome. Let Me In burbles with sly dance beats, strange zephyrs of sound blowing beneath the Birdman's deadpan lilt. Most of the last half of the album unfolds to a dead-slow rhythm track made up of looped inhales and exhales. Electronica? For an alien dimension, maybe. The elusive Let Me In makes a perfect endpiece for this latest series from a label happy to find itself at odds with the normal. Zach Dundas

See www.hushrecords.com for more information.

 

NOW 100% NICK'S FAMOUS CONEY ISLAND FREE
Hiss & Vinegar

 

OH, JOY!

Even though the Et Cetera Tavern held a pool tournament, the most exciting entertainment on the corner of Northeast 33rd Avenue and Killingsworth last Saturday night went down at Joy. The bare-bones all-ages club, a heartening addition to The Scene, hosted a lustrous set by Six Minute Heartstop, a band featuring ex-WW design guy Aaron Edge on drums and gadgets. In the biz for a few weeks now, Joy hosts one or two shows per weekend. Got some art on the walls, even. Find Joy yourself: On Friday, Nov. 9, Cuspidor, Weigh Brown and Steve Kramp play to benefit hungry Guatemalans; Saturday, Nov. 10, brings the All Girl Summer Fun Band, Fauna Polly and the S.C.U.M. Band. The shows start at 8 and 9 pm respectively, with $5 covers. This little corner of nirvana is at 3286 NE Killingsworth St.

DOIN' IT FOR THE KIDS

Jazz drum lord Mel Brown is one of the living treasures of Portland music--and now even kids can find out why! Brown and the good folks at Jimmy Mak's, the downtown haunt where Brown holds court three nights a week, are moving the start-time of Brown's Wednesday night Quartet shows to 7:30 pm for the benefit of minors. Sub-21s can turn out for the first set each week, to see matchless Brown and his crack sidemen spar with some of their students. The kids have to get scarce by 9 or so, per Oregon booze laws. The club's at 300 NW 10th Ave. Call 295-6542 for cover info and other details.

WRANGLER CUTS DRIVE US NUTS

Last week, as H&V tried to relax with some beer and baseball, television presented a spectacle more bothersome even than the sight of Roger Clemens' beefy head. The offender: an ad for Wrangler jeans, featuring Old Glory snapping in the wind and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son." In a Soviet-esque bowdlerization of history, Wrangler uses the first couplet of John Fogerty's anti-war anthem--and then cuts the song off before its real message emerges. Here's the verse, with the deleted original lines in bold: "Some folks are born made to wave the flag / Ooh, they're red, white and blue /And when the band plays 'Hail to the Chief' / Ooh, they point the cannon at you..." Makes a goddamn difference, doesn't it?

ALERT THE NERDS

A knowledgeable friend recently reported sighting a rare edition of Highway 61 Revisited including at least one ultra-rare alternate cut! Now with booty like that lurking in shadows, how could the self-respecting music fanatic not be pumped for the Portland Music Expo, CD and Record Convention? More than 75 exhibitors punt LPs, CDs, tapes, singles, imports and collectibles at the mouthful Holiday Inn Portland Airport Columbia Conference Center (8439 NE Columbia Blvd., www.cbub.com), 10 am-6 pm Sunday, Nov. 11. Just $3 gets you in, but the spending only begins there.

JACKO TO SCANDAL SHEET: "I FELT MY WORLD END"

Hiss & Vinegar was going to say something rude about the new Michael Jackson album. However, we find we can't do better than this Brit tabloid interview, wherein the False Dmitri of Pop speaks of global affairs: www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/news/4341823.

THE LAUNDRY

New local/regional releases include: a split CD by the Culottes and the Dimes (see Sonic Reducer, page 37); a whole clutch of discs from Hush Records (look left); Ponticello's Down Like Mercury; a split 7-inch (ask your parents) by Minmae and Morose, which includes a Cure tribute; OlDominion's Onry Ozzborn (see feature, page 33)...The eclectoids of Fez Fatale just signed with a New York publisher in hopes of placing some songs on the old idiot box...Kells (112 SW 2nd Ave., 227-4057) will donate all the money it takes in on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to help New York cops and firefighters...A new Portland music webmag is setting up digital shop at www.thespiral.com, with the first virtual issue due Dec. 1...Understandably, many readers have asked H&V for help in dealing with the anthrax crisis. Check out: www.exile.ru/127/ announcement.php.

Hiss me, you filthy slut. Email news/gossip tips to hiss@wweek.com.

 
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