Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.02.08

Coming Soon To A Campfire Near You

Loch Lomond

For one night only, Seattle, Portland and Eugene join forces to bring you some of the best chamber-folk Americana bands from each of those respected cities. From the other Emerald City up north, The Cave Singers are the bucket-stomping backwoods classic rockers of the bunch. On their critically acclaimed debut, Invitation Songs, vocalist Pete Quirk quickly climbs atop the list of distinctly voiced Seattlites (including Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell) with his nasal-scruffed lyrics dripping gospel and soul. Those pounding bass pedals come courtesy of ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves bassist Derek Fudesco

Portland’s Loch Lomond are what a band would sound like if The Mountain Goats wrote the lyrics for Sufjan Stevens’ music. A robust string and choral section augments Ritchie Young’s plaintive storysongs on their latest album, Paper the Wall. On “A Field Report,” Young steals straight from Stevens’ playbook with lyrics like “teeter-totters and daughters / are things I’ll never have in my backyard / ‘cause I’ll never have a backyard.” This heady mix of orchestral fever dreams makes for one of the best folk-rock albums to come from Stumptown this year, obvious influences be damned.

Two of Eugene’s premiere Americana musicians, Ehren Ebbage and John Shipe, join forces and add a lovely twang of alt-country to the ticket. The Cave Singers, Loch Lomond, Ehren Ebbage and John Shipe play at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 3, at WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Chuck Adams


Dudes! Ditch Your Vocalist!

Sometimes I want a band’s vocalist to speak up when his muted lyrics are getting drowned out by techno-glitch bombast. In the case of Woven, I just want him to shut up.

On their new LP, Designer Codes, the L.A. band makes that case straight off with the 1-2 buzzsaw blitz of “Trumpeting Strength” and floating world of Aphex Twin-inspired “Perception Whore.” Compare those two dynamic tracks with the next song, “Fragments,” and we run into trouble the moment singer Ory Hodis opens his whiny mouth, the tune suddenly nose-diving into an Evanescence b-side. Now, you might think Evanescence are the bee’s knees, but Woven is a band that lists trip-hop and ambient rock gods as its influences. Radiohead circa Kid A? Uh, maybe if you zoomed in on “Treefingers” and added System of a Down vocals. Sigur Rós? Maybe if you took the album-closer “She Blows My Amplifier” — which is a thing of near-beauty thanks to minimal vocals — on its merits alone. 

Woven frustrates because the guys in this band could really be on to something, but they have this annoying lead singer ruining more than half the songs on Designer Codes. The rest of the album more than warrants checking out Woven’s free show on Friday, but please notify me when they ditch Hodis and delve deeper into their own musical wizardry. Woven, Science Heroes, Brightwood and Ninth Moon Black play at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 3, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+ show. $5/sliding scale. — Chuck Adams


Operating Excellenece

Eugene’s “blue-collar, underground rock band” The Underlings fall into a category of punk rock that walks the line between classical and nouveau. It’s not quite Sex Pistols, not quite Fall Out Boy, but a place that offers musicians room to grow. 

The subgenre of post-punk is a slightly more polished version of what we’ve come to identify as gritty, unabashed musicianship. But in the post-punk realm, musicians aren’t afraid to be tight, harmonize, play upstrokes and throw in some synthesizer for good measure. The Underlings’ latest release, Operational Excellence on Daily Records, pays tribute to the spectrum of punk by playing with different sounds, subgenres and even subgenres of their own subgenre. “Born in a Box” has an 80s flavor that combines distorted pop with a spat of bubblegum pop. “Getaway” has a gritty Beach Boys sound, with frenzied guitar that opens and closes the song. “Baby Please” takes a bolder, more traditional approach with hard-hitting drums and guitar similar to NoMeansNo. 

After more than a decade in Eugene bands Billy Jack, Activator and White Hot Odyssey, Ed Cole (guitar, vox) looked for a band that more resembled his influences — X, Dead Moon, The Meat Puppets and Mission of Burma. Cole met musical mates Dave Peterson (bass, vox) and Bryant Grace (drums) in 2006, and, after a year of playing shows, the band tracked Operational Excellence at Eugene’s Big Timbre Studio and mixed it in one grueling weekend at Gung Ho Studio. 

The Underlings play a CD release party with Dan Jones and the Squids at 6 and 9 pm Saturday, Oct. 4, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Amanda Burhop

A Singular Song

Last year, Stars released In Our Bedroom After the War; last month, they put out an online-and-on-tour-only EP, Sad Robots, which veers from the dense, almost shoegazery distortion of “A Thread Cut With a Carving Knife” to the catchy-sweet synth-drenched pop of “14 Forever” and is generally as charming as could be. But frankly, I’m still not over the band’s 2005 album Set Yourself On Fire, or, to be more specific, one song from Fire: “Your Ex-Lover is Dead.” It’s a nearly perfect song, the kind of track a band might never live up to again, no matter how good they are; it’s bitter but nostalgic as it suggests the discomfort in the way the person you once loved might never be that person again. It’s up to you whether the dismissal in the lyrics singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan trade off is true or put-on for effect (though in a live version on, Campbell says the song is “for the person you despise”). “All of the time you thought I was sad / I was trying to remember your name,” he sings; Milan’s crystalline voice is cold as she replies, “This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin / Tried to reach deep, but you couldn’t get in.” But the lyrics never mean as much without the music, and you just need to listen to the song — and everything else this Canadian troupe of heartbreakers has to offer. Stars and Think About Life play at 8 pm Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $17 door. — Molly Templeton


Heirs to the Throne

Thrones, the band, consists of Joe Preston (except for an occasional guest drummer) and his devices, with which he creates sounds that are completely weird. The fact that Thrones are also a class of celestial beings said to carry the throne of God, as well as another name for toilets, is almost too perfect. Few bands have explored the liminal space between what’s sacred and mundane in music as well as the Melvins — the group Preston is most known for, though his resume also includes stints with Earth, Sunn 0))), High on Fire and Harvey Milk.  

With Thrones, Preston channels the Melvins’ weirdness into an even greater exercise in perseverance; for example, Thrones’ Sperm Whale EP concludes with 34 minutes of crickets chirping. When Preston does sing, his voice is mutated and alien. Thrones hooks are magnificent, but they are adrift on a sea of sludge, not free to all finders. The sounds he creates with his abundant use of vocoders, synthesizers and drum machine programming is so abnormal that there’s nothing else out there like it. I remember him saying in the book, The Sound of the Beast, “I want to hear big things moving at weird speeds.” Cool. Thrones, Rye Wolves, Tecumseh and Silentist play at 9 pm Sunday, Oct. 5, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+ show. $5/sliding scale. — Vanessa Salvia


Sun Rah 

If there’s one album that will emit the essence of patchouli oil and nag champa incense from your speakers this year, it is most assuredly Brightblack Morning Light’s Motion to Rejoin. This second full-length from the duo of Naybob Shineywater and Rachel Hughes — who both claim to have Native American ancestry “somewhere” in their blood — moves at the pace of sand slowly trickling through your hands and gives off the vibe of being baked and naked in the desert. BBML’s sun-soaked guile is inspired in part because Hughes and Shineywater wrote and recorded these songs while living in an adobe on a secluded New Mexico mesa, using only four solar panels to power their primitive recording studio. Naturally, the sun shines through as elements of Southwest twang, Delta blues, minimalistic gospel, warm, vibratoed Rhodes, lilting Silvertone guitars and mirages of other scorched audible components are swirled into BBML’s sound, which wafts in the air like smoke in some sequestered opium den.  

The slithering singing styles of both members may seem half buried at times, but in no way do they sag as they take on a shared craft for coos that are elastic, rustic, angelic and at times soulful. The panoramic grooves and lethargic tempos are easy to get swept up in — in a way they serve as sonic mantras and encompass the palpitations of a state of foreboding forlornness, while showcasing a knack for some breezy droning and down-home psych-jazz redolent of Traffic and, to some extent, Talk Talk.

To make it as simple as their music: Brightblack Morning Light captures the semblance of a stoned summer night under the stars in an empty outback. Brightblack Morning Light plays with Warning Broken Machine at 9 pm Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Sam Bond’s. 21+ show. $6. — Jeremy Ohmes  


Et Tu, Eco-Metal?

It’s easy to make the philosophical leap from black metal to ecologically minded black metal, but what’s surprising is that fewer bands do it. After all, black metal is rooted in pagan or heathen lore as much as it is in anti-Christian sensibilities. Wolves in the Throne Room live in the woods outside of Olympia, Wash., and the foursome is of the mind that playing black metal without paying attention to the natural world around you is a philosophical failure. The moon’s phases, what wildflowers are blooming, the honesty of wood, earth, and fire, the wheel of death and rebirth — this transformative power of nature is an everpresent theme in the band’s music, and along with that comes a greater sense of balance both musically and spiritually than is offered by most other bands in the genre. 

While the music is heavy, it’s also tempered by ambient passages, and on a song like “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots,” it’s easy to imagine a bonfire-lit ceremony honoring the fierceness of all of nature’s gods. Wolves in the Throne Room, Ludicra and Lucika play 9 pm Thursday, Oct. 9, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+ show. $5/sliding scale. — Vanessa Salvia