Friday, September 12, 2008

Silver Jews, Oneida and Espvall Batoh

Yesterday was jackpot day at a whole bunch of miscellania, some of it pretty vintage, showing up on the site. The big thing, though, and the piece most likely to get missed by everyone, is this review of last week's Silver Jews show.

Silver Jews + Mike Flood 9-4-08
Iron Horse · Northampton, MA


Tonight's the night when traditional forms -- folk, country, protest, blues -- get truly weird. Silver Jews' David Berman says he gets nervous when he songs seem a little too straightforward and right away has to do something to twist them around a little. Opener Mike Flood probably never has that problem. His stuff starts out left of center and goes over the hills and far away from there.

Flood is onstage when I arrive, a skinny, close-shorn guy in a camo hat, looking a little like Ed Harris gone feral. He's a local fixture from back in the days when Northampton was supposed to be the next Seattle. The final track on Sebadoh's Bubble & Scrape bears his name, and when he admits that his first attempts at songwriting were mostly to "figure out what Gaff" was up to, he's talking about Erik Gaffney. He also does a fairly wicked imitation of Lou Barlow mid-set, taking his Guthrie-vintage staccato strum way up high and dissonant, so that his guitar all the sudden sounds like something off an old Shrimper cassette. Inside humor, but funny.

Go to for the rest

"Strange Victory, Strange Defeat"

And a couple of short-ish reviews, also from Blurt.

Preteen Weaponry

Oneida's last two albums, The Wedding and Happy New Year, were unusually subdued and song structured, a far cry from the band's pummeling, mind-bending live show. Now with Preteen Weaponry, reportedly the first of three linked records, Oneida lets its krautrocking, freak flags fly with three extended meditations on rhythm, repetition and drone. "Part One" dives deep into cool tones, its rattling, clattering drums subordinate to Tortoise-y, laid back guitar. "Part Two," the only cut with vocals, is classic long-form Oneida, Kid Millions hammering out slow, ritual drums against firestorms of feedback, ghostly chants buried under undulating walls of tone. All three cuts circle relentlessly around reiterated ideas, intermittently transforming repetition into revelation.

The problem: though repetition occasionally leads to satori, there are times when you just want it to stop. As such, Preteen Weaponry is far too difficult to expand the circle of O-lovers much, but still essential for the hardcore fellow travelers.

Standout tracks: "Part Two", "Part One" JENNIFER KELLY

"Preteen Weaponry"

Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh
Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh
(Drag City)

Folk music is normally shaped, even defined, by sense of place. So, what to make of this geographically indeterminant collaboration of Espers' Helena Espvall and Ghost's Masaki Batoh, which draws from traditions as distinct as Scandinavian sea songs, Japanese traditional music, American blues, Celtic laments and free-jazz improvisation? Beginning in "Polska"'s throbbing, cymbal-clashing skirl, and winding through mournful modal melodies and sorrowful baroque flourishes, these songs seem to exist outside time and place, in a misty, mythical world. Espvall presides over the Nordic melodies of her girlhood, while Masaki adds Ghost-ly experimentation and effects. The one for the mix tape, though, is "Death Letter," a Son House cover lent otherworldly sheen with wild swathes of cello and weirdly reverbed vocals.

A member of the No Neck Blues Band once insisted to me that every country, every culture has a blues, whether it follows the standard 12-bar progressions or not. This sounds like the blues of a place that maybe only existed in imagination, at least until it was laid to tape here.

Standout Tracks: "Death Letter," "Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa" JENNIFER KELLY

Here they are at Terrastock 7

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