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August 23rd, 2006 MARK BAUMGARTEN | Riff City
 

Opportunity (Finally) Knocks

Menomena returns after a year with a new label, an album's worth of new material and some valid excuses.

     
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Justin and Brent when signing the Barsuk deal
One afternoon late last month, Danny Seim, of local experimental pop group Menomena, waited eagerly in Northwest Portland's production shop SuperDigital. The minutes ticked away as engineer Jeff Saltzman finished mastering the band's highly anticipated third album, Friend and Foe. By the time the album was ready to go, the deadline for FedEx had passed and Seim was left with no choice but to drive up to Seattle and hand deliver the record to the office of the band's new label, Barsuk Records.

"So, I drove all the way up there and the office was closed," says Seim. "I called up Josh [Rosenfeld, owner of the label] and he said I could just send it the next day."

Menomena could have looked at this as a chance to bitch about its new label, an unknown entity to a band that released its first two albums on Portland's FILMGuerrero. But, as Seim and bandmate Justin Harris explained to WW, they, along with vocalist Brent Knopf, looked at Barsuk's relaxed attitude as an opportunity.

Even after Rosenfeld praised the record and said it could be out by the band's hoped-for Nov. 7 release, the trio, possessing a mix of naïve exuberance and meticulous craftsmanship, decided to wait a few more months to get it remastered.

Now the album won't be released until early 2007, which will be four years since the release of Menomena's excellent debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster.

Since the release of that album, Menomena has itself been a bit of an unknown entity. As the group gained popularity, local performances dwindled. Then, following its early-September MusicfestNW set last year, the band dropped out of the public eye almost completely. It did release a follow-up to Fun Blame Monster, a lush three-track instrumental album called Under an Hour that was recorded as a soundtrack for a 2004 TBA Festival dance performance. Hour didn't possess much of Seim's signature cymbal crashes, Harris' blurting baritone sax or Knopf's warm Rhodes, though. Plus, the band never played a release show, leaving its now-large fan base unfulfilled.

This Saturday, Aug. 26, the band will break its silence, performing much of the new material—which, Seim says, is both darker and, at times, more "grandiose" than that on Fun Blame Monster—to what is sure to be a sold-out crowd at the Doug Fir.

"Probably the biggest difference between the first album and this one," Harris says, "is that we won't be able to play these songs live as they are on the album."

For Menomema, that change is good. "We had been playing the songs on Fun Blame Monster live for so long that, when we went into the studio, we knew exactly what we were going to record," Seim adds. "This time we're building the songs and making them more complex. It's interesting, like we're coming at it the exact opposite way."


Menomena plays with Nice Nice and Boy Eats Drum Machine Saturday, Aug. 26, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+. To read about Menomena's recent signing to hot-shit indie Barsuk, go to Localcut.com and search "menomena."
 
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