Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.02.08

In the Walled City

Vocalist Scott Evans describes his band as “detuned sludgy heaviness.” Of course, you would expect the music of a band named after a squalid, neglected tenement city in British Hong Kong to be gritty, grimy and tough. San Francisco’s Kowloon Walled City delivers music with a sound almost as impenetrable as the fortress-like gates surrounding the dilapidated enclave of drugs, prostitution and gambling from which it takes its name. 

KWC’s new five-song EP, Turk Street, is also influenced by the piss-stained sidewalks of San Francisco; the opening track, “Turk, Taylor and Jones,” is named for streets in the Tenderloin District, but in the band’s reimagining, the city has been laid waste by some nameless horror — zombies, I think — filling the streets with corpses.  

There’s an element of thunderous groove to KWC’s music that, while not a surprise, is not usually a big part of most sludge bands. “My Hands Are Turning To Bricks” is a slab of heaviness, but KWC makes its low end throb, a difficult feat for most bands accustomed to moving at the speed of concrete. Their music has the heaviness of early Neurosis but with an agility and unexpected energy, despite the doominess of Evan’s totally crusty vocals. 

This West Coast tour marks the band’s first foray outside of the Bay Area, but judging by the excellent reviews Turk Street has received on a number of metal blogs, and an interview in the December Thrasher, it won’t be their last. Lucika, Kowloon Walled City and Black Delaney play at 9 pm Thursday, Dec. 4, at Samurai Duck. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia

Getting There

A cynic might think the minimalist, old-style zine feel of the CD booklet for Eugene band Malomare’s new release, A Day Without Yesterday, was almost calculated. The spare cover put me in mind of Mineral’s The Power of Failing; the handwritten lyrics, short, emotionally fraught phrases punctuated with periods, might remind you of a Jawbreaker record. But a cynic wouldn’t be trying to pin down a phrase — something less clichéd than “unmet potential” — for the feeling of listening to a band you’re pretty sure eventually will be doing more than they are. Malomare is two guys, Aaron Baker and Bondy Black; A Day Without Yesterday, in Black’s words, “covers some of the work we’ve done over the last four years.” The CD’s eight songs sprawl over the better part of an hour, crisscrossing ground traveled in the late ’90s and early 2000s by guitar-led bands like 764-HERO or The Gloria Record: slightly dreamy, slowly building, sometimes assertive songs with a reflective tone that’s often created with repeated guitar lines and restrained drums. The vocals are sometimes steady and well-suited (“Way Back Home”), sometimes wobbly or overly echoing, as in the misty, seven-minute “Influence.” Malomare sounds like a young band, one whose members are working their way through their influences (bands listed on their MySpage page range from Deerhunter to The Bravery to Daft Punk to Low) on the way to something more their own. Sure, they need to kill a few of their darlings, but you need to check them out now so you can watch them grow. Malomare, Dirty Wink and The Heirs of Eiffel Tower play at 10 pm Thursday, Dec. 4, at Luckey’s. 21+. $3. — Molly Templeton

Mini Mac Orchestra

The melting pots of the UO freshman residence halls occasionally birth fruitful creative endeavors … but ones that unfortunately fizzle by graduation. Local duo Muke (pronounced “mook”) hopes to thrive beyond campus. What started as an idle pastime for UO students Madeline Liebowitz and Luke Kazava eventually turned into a full-blown gig, as Liebowitz and Kazava were encouraged by friends to bring their multi-layered iBook songs to life on a stage. “We didn’t start Muke thinking we would play live shows,” Liebowitz says. But once the duo played a few local concerts in 2007, performing live became “completely addicting.” 

Those shows spurred Muke to record even more tracks, develop a website and MySpace page and release their debut album through iTunes and other digital outlets this year. Shutterspeed Lullabies consists of 10 dreampop gems incorporating acoustic guitar, keyboards, electronic drums, melodica and flute, among other knickknacks. But perhaps Muke’s best instrument is Liebowitz’s elfin voice, a soothing chirp that often just hums (“Dreamsicle”) or doo-doo-doos (“Barnacle Bay”) its way straight to the your cerebral cortex. Elsewhere, “Electric Skyline” is a straightforward electro-pop whisper that walks so mournful a path that an interlude of sax and flute feels like a burst of warmth while album closer “Hanglider” coasts you right through the depths of winter on a glacial breeze.

“With recording programs you can create your own symphony with only two people,” Liebowitz says, and Lullabies is proof that decent pop songs can be made with a few simple elements. But translating that digital symphony to a live setting has meant many hours of practice with more instruments (Kazava recently learned how to beatbox). “Although our live set is a very different experience than our record,” says Kazava, “I think it stands on its own.” Both band members graduate next summer and hope to finally take their show on the road. After all that homework, it’ll be interesting to see where the music takes them. Muke plays with Green is for Go at 8 pm Friday, Dec. 5, at Wandering Goat. Free. — Chuck Adams

Triple Threat

You know you’re going places when the likes of Curtis Salgado, Tower of Power and Chris Isaak ask you to open for them on tour. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you’ve gotten people’s attention by winning an Oregon Idol competition and having a set of pipes that would make many female vocalists green with envy. There is no mistaking the talent that singer-songwriter-musician Debra Arlyn possesses, and for those who appreciate singers with passion and verve, she is a triple threat you should not miss.

On her third and most recent album, Tomorrow Another Day, Arlyn’s performances call to mind the fervor of Christina Aguilera’s thunderous vocals and the soulful beauty of Alicia Keys’ piano playing, particularly on “Worth the Wait” and “Forever,” a track which Arlyn penned 10 years ago, when she was only 14. Mixing elements of jazz, funk, R&B and even Motown, as on the mid-tempo number “Tell Me Now,” Arlyn’s recordings are at once familiar and fresh. 

Vocally she has become a real stunner, and her songwriting prowess has increased with each subsequent release, so when she talks about love and relationships — as she does in many of her songs — the words are heartfelt and her connections to the tracks are palpable. Romantic and dreamy one moment, funky and upbeat the next, the tracks come together to make for a pleasurable ride with twists and turns you will love taking. Debra Arlyn and The Essentials play at 8 pm Friday, Dec. 5, at Cozmic Pizza. $7. — Brian Palmer

Shipe Ahoy

Eugene has been John Shipe’s home for 25 years, but this week he will be relocating to Southern California. 

Shipe and his wife are moving to California for one year, “just taking a sabbatical, basically,” he says, “but I’ll still be busy working.” While there, Shipe will begin recording a new album while extending his side work as a lap steel guitar player. Working as Ehren Ebbage’s lap steel player was “the first time in my life that I’ve really considered myself as someone who could hire their playing skills out,” he says, “because I’m usually the songwriter who hires other musicians.” 

At this “Bon Voyage” show, Shipe will re-release his 2005 album John Shipe & The Blue Rebekahs, which he considers his strongest work but for various reasons was never properly finished. It is packaged now with a video of the 2004-05 recording sessions. Bandmate Ebbage will continue to tour, both as a solo artist and with the Dimes. Ehren Ebbage and John Shipe with Rich Sellars and Jerry “Groove” Abelin play at 9:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 6, at Sam Bond’s. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia

Bone Thugs-N-Huh?

You probably remember Cleveland hip hop crew Bone Thugs-N-Harmony for E 1999 Eternal’s big radio hit, “Tha Crossroads,” not to mention all those stoner jams. What you might not know is that the group met with some troubles in the new millennium. Why else would they be touring under “Bone Thugs-N-Family” instead of their true name? Not only did Flesh-N-Bone receive an 11-year prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon, the group ousted the group’s most cantankerous member, Bizzy Bone, and left Ruthless Records (who felt it necessary to revamp the group’s 2002 album, Thug World Order, because they found its content to be too political). Four years later, the three remaining Bone Thugs recorded 2006’s Thug Stories. But last year’s release, Strength & Loyalty, is the group’s true comeback album. It features hot mainstream artists like Akon, Mariah Carey and The Game, among others, and though it was recorded without Bizzy Bone or Flesh-N-Bone (who was released from prison on July 13, three years early), the five members have officially reunited, Bizzy Bone included, and have begun working on a new album, Uni5, which is good news for all the kids who missed out on the awkward experience of slow-dancing to “Tha Crossroads” in junior high. Bone Thugs-N-Family play at 8 pm Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the McDonald Theatre. $20 adv., $25 door. — Sara Brickner


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