Posts by: Emily Turner
September 27, 2013
Photo c/o Instagram user bee_dee_em
When Unknown Mortal Orchestra co-headlined Phono del Sol (along with SF’s The Fresh & Onlys) in 2012, their set was pre-II, and thus pre-best of UMO. The band released II on Jagjaguwar early this year — their sophomore LP to 2011′s self-titled — so I quickly spun the hazy, psychedelic album into constant rotation and critics generally fawned over the thing. The Portland-based (though 1/3 New Zealand-born) trio finds a delicate balance between lo-fi minimalism and swirly, disoriented pop songs heavy on themes of isolation with II, which they translate gracefully into a live show. The ability for ominous lighting and a rather prolific fog machine at The Fillmore last night does in their favor — in comparison to the more stripped-down atmosphere of Phono del Sol last year — as they played a haunting, 90-minute set before an intimate crowd.
The Fillmore’s audience was actually pretty sparse at the start of UMO’s performance — though the floor filled out as the band churned out more echoey, elongated versions of tracks from both II and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. For the majority, they took their recorded material and ran with it, turning 4-minute pop songs into dizzy epics threatening the 10-minute mark. Typically this habit reads as indulgent, and if it were anyone else I’d be skeptical, but UMO’s fuzzy, kaleidoscopic vibe and swirling technical intricacy lent well to these exploratory tangents. Going on this theme, a black caped Ruban Nielsen (guitarist/vocalist and New Zealander) was a little out of it — he seemed to get lost in his nimble guitar wizardry and invoked the encore with a whisper of “I’m drunk…” — but his disoriented swagger somehow worked in his favor. His distorted vocals and heart-thumping baselines courtesy of Jake Portrait induced a tunnel visioned “strange old state of mind” (as “So Good at Being in Trouble” proclaims), and sounded appropriately Twilight Zone-y on performance highlights “No Need for a Leader,” 2010′s Bandcamp debut “Ffunny Ffrends,” and “Monki.” “Jello and Juggernauts” and “Thought Ballune” from their self-titled, as well as “Secret Xtians” off II impressed as well.
A Nielsen-solo, acoustic version of II‘s first single ”Swim & Sleep (Like a Shark)” started out the encore, and two more tracks (“Ffunny Ffrends,” “Boy Witch”) brought the set to a close. For a three-piece, UMO’s sound is deceptively labyrinthine — yet maintains the calm, quivering minimalism they’re known for. This band’s unique and immersive presence is addictive — I’ve vowed to be there each time UMO graces the Bay from here on out, because I’m a sucker for subtly baroque psychedelia such as theirs. I recommend you profess the same.
Hear Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “So Good at Being in Trouble,” a gem from II below.
September 24, 2013
Woods has claimed the title as ultimate zoned-out folk band with an edge; their meandering, acoustic epics are interjected by screaming reverb. At the risk of sounding trite, the term ‘folkadelic’ fits their sound quite aptly. They shook a sold-out crowd with an hour-long set at the Chapel on Friday night, and delivered a satisfying balance of well-received singles, lots of songs from their most recent album, and new material.
Jessica Pratt opened the show — is it just me or has she been prefacing every even-slightly psychedelic performance in the Bay Area as of late? Do we need a few more badass, freewheeling ladies to take the spotlight and shake up the pattern? Fellow San Francisco favorite The Fresh & Onlys followed, with their sunny spin on garage rock and a no-bullshit disposition. Frontman Tim Cohen wasn’t timid in telling the distracted audience to “shut up for one second, guys . . .” and enticed them to pick up the band’s latest EP (“It’s good . . . it’s alright I guess . . . ”). They played three songs (title track “Soothsayer,” “Glass Bottom Boat,” and bass-driven “Drugs”) from said EP — entitled Soothsayer and out on Mexican Summer today, September 24th. I’m not sure whether the crowd was (a) too out of it, (b) had already seen The Fresh & Onlys a zillion times, given their live show is ubiquitous here in SF, or (c) just wasn’t digging it — because the band’s trumpet-riddled garage pop was met with unfazed eyes and a peppering of mid-set chatter. You win some, you lose some. The Fresh & Onlys’ set was solid — but it did run a little long for a supporting act, and the constant stream of blunt, in-your-face guitar riffs could have lent to more variation.
July 23, 2013
It’s tough these days to stand out in the technicolored sea of psychedelic rock that is the Bay Area. But San Francisco producer Al Lover does it well. He’s remixed the likes of Ty Segall, King Tuff, and Thee Oh Sees, but is now taking a stab at the ol’ original recording game. Last week, Noisey premiered a track from his 250-pressed 7″ single and impending LP Space Magick - both out sometime this fall on PNKSLM Recordings, date TBA. Featuring Tim Presley of White Fence on guitar and vox, the new song “Snake Hands” is slightly creepy and certainly trippy.
Al Lover tells The Bay Bridged that DMT is a key ingredient in the making of the new record, and “Snake Hands” in particular attempts to reach unknown spirit realms – at whatever cost. “To me this song is the part a bad trip that gets really heavy to the point where you think it wont end, and then you break through it and feel cleansed and reborn, kinda. If that makes any sense.” We get you, Al. Listen to the hallucinogenically-cleansing track below.
Al Lover is keeping busy with a few other projects – namely, the monthly mixtape Elevated Trasmissions for Austin Psych Fest, and another original mix for the Swedish Festivalrykten, featuring psych and garage greats like Dead Skeletons and FIDLAR. He also has a San Francisco gig approaching; catch his live beat set at Bottom of the Hill on July 31st, alongside Coo Coo Birds, Face Tat, and Bubblegum Crisis.
Coo Coo Birds, Al Lover, Face Tat, Bubblegum Crisis
Bottom of the Hill
July 31st, 2013
9pm, $8, 21+
July 1, 2013
Is there a more apt way to punctuate a hectic SF Pride weekend than a sold-out, electro-dazed dance party? Will Wiesenfeld, otherwise known as BATHS, closed out a three-month-long tour on Saturday, with openers Houses and D33J also in attendance. Spirits were high, pride was had, and BATHS commanded the stage. Despite their minimal set-up – Wiesenfeld on keyboard and vocals, and just one accomplice to cover the guitar and a few layers of schizophrenic electronics – their energy was huge and the audience was enthusiastic.
The sold out show was a LA-fest; fellow Los Angeles-based electronic acts D33J and Houses opened the evening for BATHS, and the crowd’s high spirits increased with each set. Wiesenfeld, in-tune with the Pride happenings of the week (“Is it Pride or something?!”), was chatty and charismatic. Between bouts of autotuning his stage banter and spouting suggestive innuendos, BATHS let their new release Obsidian take center stage.
A morbid counterpart to 2010’s Cerulean, the latest LP mixes Wiesenfeld’s complex, bubbly electronics with darker, borderline-screamo elements. His falsetto morphed into a screamy wail and the crackly beats became more ominous. At worst, Wiesenfeld’s new material ventured a little too far into dubstep territory at times, but it was mostly adventurous and experimental – think a doomy Animal Collective, like on “Incompatible.” He accents these frantic, danceable beats with suicidal lyrics (“Phaedra”) and pensive piano outros; BATHS is deceptively versatile and definitely contradictory, but in a good way. There’s a lot happening behind Wiesenfeld’s nondescript façade – he can get a packed-full Great American Music Hall to dance to satanic-electronica songs about death, a feat that’s pretty conceptually impressive.
Unlike most other electronic acts (disclaimer: I’m not typically very into electronica), BATHS’ experimentally-driven beats maintain some semblance of soul. I liked Wiesenfeld’s live show infinitely more than his recorded work – live, his music feels living and breathing. His frazzled distraction was endearing (“Sorry, I was just thinking about the Earth…there’s a lot to think about”) and he’s a vocal powerhouse. This won’t be the last I’ll see of BATHS.
May 14, 2013
On Sunday night, May 12, Jim James floated onto the Fillmore stage looking like he had just been electrocuted. His mess of hair and beard frizzed wildly in every direction and his crazy-eyed stare poured into each fan in the front row, one by one, as he reached out to touch their fingertips – and then bowed to the crowd in Namaste. His humble entrance was endearing, and kind of hilarious. His wide-eyed stare got comically creepy after piercing my soul for a few seconds too long and about two feet away from my face, but it was obvious he appreciated the audience contact as he sauntered back and forth across the stage and sang into the crowd.
After penning six respectable studio albums with his claim to fame My Morning Jacket, a one-LP stint with stellar supergroup Monsters of Folk, and two cover albums (of George Harrison and Woody Guthrie, respectively) under the pseudonym Yim Yames, James released a solo album of original tracks, Regions of Light and Sound of God, in February of this year. Incorporating his saxophone skills and a four-piece live band to back him up, the new album is much more jazz-influenced and ostentatious than his folky past, though his Louisville southern twang remains.
James opened Sunday’s set with the first track from said LP, “State of the Art (A. E. I. O. U.)”, and staggered through the majority of the album with a somewhat manic rock star swagger. The bluesy “Actress” and “All is Forgiven” stood out while the artist flailed around stage, and the sentimentally cosmic lyrics of “A New Life” (“there’s more stardust when you’re near”) made the track one of my favorites. Throughout the two-hour set, the artist traded off between his Flying V (which otherwise sat locked onto a stand), an acoustic guitar, a brassy saxophone, and he went hands-free to belt in his notorious falsetto. He’d take breaks between songs to acknowledge the golden bear statue enshrined on the amp behind him and did an spirited praise dance (or something) with it. This, combined with the Namaste greeting, made his set seem like some ritualistic offering to the gods of rock and roll. Strange, but I can dig it.
May 6, 2013
May 4th, 1am, I found myself in front of a chaotic Dead Skeletons at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall, hypnotized with the rest of the audience by some sort of ritualistic frenzy. What a great weekend for psychedelia in the Bay! The Washington D.C.-based Dead Meadow led a miniature psych-fest that featured a slew of similarly stoney bands (Dead Skeletons, LSD and the Search for God, Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel, Old Testament, and more), scattered across three days and two venues.
My favorite of the bunch was Reykjavík’s Dead Skeletons — I have a biased penchant for Icelandic music, I won’t lie. The band got the most out of their jaunt across the pond, to the furthest destination they’ve ever traveled to play, no less, with two dizzy, skull-splitting sets: a Friday/Saturday double feature at Brick & Mortar. They headlined the former, with an hour-long maelstrom of intoxicating experimental psych, and opened for the masterful Dead Meadow on Saturday.
Dead Skeletons’ eerie epics were captivating and clamorous, and the gang of seven is a little eccentric (or maybe just Icelandic) with their helter skelter ‘Magick,’ and vibe-making stage rituals. At the start of each set, the multitalented Jón Sæmundur Auðarson slaps a pretty impressive watercolor skull onto a blank canvas, which they later sell at their merch booth, and lights fragrant sage to set the scene for their occult reverb magic. The whole thing is a dose of cosmic eloquence, and both nights I was way too disappointed to hear their sets come to a close. Highlight tracks: “Psychodead,” “Om Mani Peme Hung,” and “Ljósberinn” from 2011′s Dead Magick.
April 25, 2013
If you’re in the mood for some serious ’90s nostalgia, no time machine necessary. Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils at Slim’s on Tuesday night certainly fulfilled such a craving, and the audience was totally into it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a crowd go so absolutely ballistic. From my position at the edge of a lively flail-pit, I was one with the sweaty mob of enthused Beach Fossils fans dancing up a storm. It was a little unexpected, honestly – sunny dream pop doesn’t exactly equate to a dance-mosh frenzy, but everyone (myself included) certainly welcomed Beach Fossils’ infectious energy and stage wit.
But prior, San Francisco’s own Black Jeans opened the show with a short, electro-drenched set that I wished I was more drunk for. The solo act (a.k.a. the dreadlocked Russell Butler) sounded like a rainbow Crystal Castles trapped inside a synthed-out Haunted Mansion. Butler dubbed the crowd the largest he’s ever played for, which is pretty exciting. His erratic electro-pop and distorted vocals set the tempo for an impending burst of energy from Beach Fossils’ closing set. [More...]
March 5, 2013
There was a lot to choose from among Saturday’s Noise Pop 2013 festivities. So thank the gods of psych-pop that I ended up in front of DIIV‘s second consecutive sold -out show at Brick & Mortar. I’ve been hooked on DIIV’s Oshin for the past few weeks, so I had high hopes for the heavily-anticipated Noise Pop ’13 act – but I was not expecting to be so thoroughly winded by their gorgeous dreamy gloom and varied paradox of a live show. I’m not sure how they’re able to mix floaty shoegaze and echoey grunge so eloquently, but I’m sure as hell not complaining.
Before DIIV emerged, the show was already off to a great start. Oakland-based LENZ opened the night with just the right degree of sunny rock ‘n’ roll. Howling vocals and swirly, postpunk influenced, self proclaimed “ice-pop,” sounded solid backing up unfussy lyrics like “I feel like hell.” But following LENZ, SISU spun the sunshine a 180 and turned up the reverb. The reminded me a lot of their fellow LA-based musical hypnotists Warpaint, while they intertwined falsetto harmonies with melancholy goth-psych. A few songs were more heavy with dark synth, while others like “Cut Me Off” and “Light Eyes” were definitely not afraid of the wah pedal. The hypnotic stage projection was a given.
The crowd began to build at this point, and tons were audibly impressed by Wax Idols, another Oakland act who plays their own badass brand of screamy riot grrrl. Hether Fortune, Wax Idols’ charismatic front-woman, was undeniably entertaining and gives approximately zero fucks. Unapologetically loud and vicious, their official bio says Wax Idols sounds like Joan Jett “tearing through Best Coast with a chainsaw.” Basically. The band is one of few words, but they kept the crowd enthralled with uptempo post-punk filled with explosive, metallic guitar and cerebral lyrics (“Time doesn’t exist…”). Someone to my left gushed, “Well…back to the merch table then,” when their set ended. I would have to agree.