From the first inhale of Trebuchet’s self-titled debut record, I’m hooked. The ukulele like lapping waves of a tropical shore; the surf lead guitar the birds lazily riding the swells. A breath—giving pause, the moment that will make or break the entire album. Sweet voices coalesce in harmonic bliss, one as strong as the next, none overshadowing another. The wave does not crash, it pushes onto the shore, allowing warm salt water to kiss my toes and leave me wanting more.
The six-song, vinyl-only release (it’s also available digitally) was christened with a show at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill last night, with friends and family accompanying on stage and in the audience. Whether by blood or by feeling, all four bands playing on the evening’s bill were related, and the feeling in the audience was that of an unexpected family reunion.
Survival Guide opened the show, who I unfortunately arrived too late to see. You Are Plural introduced a new twist to the duo of Wurlitzer and cello: drums. The percussion filled in some spaces, but since most songs were written without drums, it felt forced at times. But the harmonies and interesting time signatures kept the set flowing and piqued interest throughout the set. The New Trust brought a powerful rock sound to the stage next, Josh Staples’ thundering bass lines commanding attention from even the smoking crowd in the atrium.
I was lucky to see Trebuchet’s first-ever performance, at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, last year. The band impressed the hell out of everyone that night, in part because three of the four members are known for intense, instrumental post rock in the band Not To Reason Why. This was as far from the expected as possible while still loosely relatable to the same genre.
Last night, Trebuchet sounded polished, like a beautiful piece of obsidian after hundreds of years in a river bed. That igneous black rock born of violent eruptions from the Earth’s core, sharpened and used as arrowheads and spear tips, left alone under running water matures into a polished, beautiful stone. I walk toward the sea, wading in up to my hips. The warmth and gentle swaying covers the impending danger of being too far from shore, too far from home. This is the best kind of escape.
Style: Relaxed, Americana instrumentation, four-part vocal harmonies, extremely musical songs, listenable without being boring, beautiful, interesting without being obscure
Comparisons: Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, what other Portland bands wish they could sound like
Rating: 4.5/5 (Just because the record is only six songs!)
Trebuchet’s debut record is available at www.trebuchetmusic.com.
1. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)
2. The-Dream – Love vs. Money (Def Jam)
3. K’naan – Troubadour (A&M / Octone)
4. Nellie McKay – Normal as Blueberry Pie (Verve)
5. Thorns of Life – Live at 924 Gilman (Torrent)
6. Sunn o))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
7. Tyondai Braxton – Central Market (Warp)
8. Nomo – Invisible Cities (Ubiquity)
9. P.O.S. – Never Better (Rhymesayers)
10. Litany for the Whale – Dolores (Molsook / PMM)
11. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)
12. Superchunk – Crossed Wires (Merge)
13. Not to Reason Why – Would You Hug Fire? (Pandacide / 1912)
14. Vijay Iyer Trio – Historicity (ACT)
15. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss / Columbia)
16. Adam Theis & the Jazz Mafia – Brass, Bows & Beats (Jazz Mafia)
17. Souls of Mischief – Montezuma’s Revenge (Heiro)
18. The Full Blast – Black Hole (Atavistic)
19. Finale – T.I.M.E. (River City)
20. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise)
Nomo – Invisible Cities: Dean played this for me on the way home from seeing Ornette Coleman in San Francisco, and it was one of those moments when everything made sense. Nomo take the Fela Kuti thing many steps further than most of Fela’s acolytes who frustratingly seem stuck in tribute mode, and use a funk-based template for exciting arrangements. A thoroughly enjoyable Moondog cover, “Bumbo,” is everything good about this group: thumb pianos, a steady groove, and a horn section that stretches out and snaps back like elastic.
Neurosis – Times of Grace: I swore off Neurosis in 1993 with Enemy of the Sun, and even slept through one of their shows at Gilman around the same time. It takes love to retract such shunning, and upon reconsideration, Enemy of the Sun, though no Souls at Zero, is a fine album. Better yet is this 1999 Steve Albini-produced record, which does away with the tribal drumming and whatever weird effect Dave Ed used to have on his bass, and sticks to the true live sound of a band unafraid to mentally fornicate with the dark side.
Girls – Album: I allowed myself to be hoodwinked into this crap by Rob, who stated thus: “It’s like early, angry Elvis Costello backed by some cheesy ’60s LA pop band. It sounds about as unhip as possible, yet it totally rules. I love it when someone does something so well, you just can’t deny it – even if it seems like the wrong thing at the wrong time.” I trusted him until yesterday, when upon the fifth listening I just got sick of it and took it off. People are into its simple songs, with melodies and choruses, because that stuff hasn’t been popular for a while. That doesn’t make it good.
Up Tight! – Soundtrack: Jules Dassin is famous for The Naked City and Never on Sunday, but I’ve gotta say, there’s nothing like Rififi, which I saw once at the Rialto while Tom Waits sat behind me. The local angle on Dassin gets deeper when you factor in Thieves’ Highway, partially filmed in rural Sebastopol and which features the most gripping tire-changing scene in the history of cinema. This film, written, produced and directed by Dassin, has never been available on VHS or DVD. I’m dying to see it. Booker T. & the MGs play a soulful score, with an interesting re-recording of “Time is Tight.”
Not to Reason Why – Would You Hug Fire?: I’ve heard that the title was suggested by a developmentally disabled person, so cut it some slack. I’ll write more about the amazing packaging later, for the paper, but for now just know that it’s finally out. It’s been an exciting few years watching this band get better and better, and everything good about them comes together on this album. It used to be easy to lump them in with Explosions in the Sky but that’s no longer appropriate, especially with the strings and horns on this densely produced outing.
Elvin Jones / Jimmy Garrison Sextet – Illumination!: The last time Elvin Jones played at Yoshi’s, he was accompanied by an oxygen tank. Played up until the end. When I talked to John Handy, he echoed a story going around—even told by Ted Curson (scroll to “July 21st”)—that Elvin Jones once pulled a gun on Charles Mingus. This record is essentially Coltrane’s Impulse quartet without Coltrane, plus clarinet, flute, English horn and baritone sax. On it, Elvin plays remarkably. This is a good time to let you know that McCoy Tyner is playing at Yoshi’s on New Year’s Eve and surrounding dates, with Esperanza Spalding, Francisco Mela and Ravi Coltrane. Go.
Richard Harris – Slides: So I guess there was this thing going on for a while in the 1970s where it was okay to be unemployed and wasted all day as long as you gave off the vibe that love and nature were the most important things in the world. Rod McKuen, embroidered denim shirts, EST, all that kinda Sausalito-y post-cocaine stuff. It really has been 37 years since this album came out. Harris is sometimes atrocious in the best way and sometimes great in the most atrocious way, and telling which from which depends on your mood / glasses of wine you’ve had. I appreciate the challenge.
D’Angelo – Voodoo: You ever see a vat of tar on those asphalt trucks that smell? I know you’ve smelled it, but if you look up close, it’s incredible to see. Huge, round bubbles that slowly rise to the surface and dissipate rather than pop. That’s what this record is like: steamy, yet incapable of a rolling boil. It took me years to realize that it was more than rhythm and blurts. Perhaps I gravitate to the chicken on the back cover, and the fact that it is most likely about to be killed. A sleeper-wave album.
Superchunk – No Pocky for Kitty: In 1993, I thought for sure I had to be the only person listening to this album everyday twice. As such, like a Superchunk ambassador, I told everyone about it. When I met Kid Dynamo, and they had heard of this album, I freaked. The new book about Merge Records called Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records is excellent, and is a good reminder of the days when indie rock had no internet presence. I love being blown away when someone else has heard of some wonderful discovery. It happens more infrequently these days.
Reggie Workman – The Works of Workman: When one thinks of exemplary double-bass albums, one often thinks of Dragonetti Lives!, a wonderful 1975 recording on John Fahey’s Takoma label by Bertram Turetzky. (Listen to some of it here.) Turetzky plays with a lone piano backing, but on The Works of Workman it’s just the master bassist, his bulbous tone, and some fantastic Japanese engineering. Workman throws in a little bit of his dominant bass line from Olé Coltrane here, and weaves through compositions by Paul Chambers, Duke Ellington, Stanley Cowell and Luiz Bonfa. Recommended.
On a night when a single Republican voting for the House healthcare reform bill is hailed as “bipartisan,” I realize just how much there’s a gap in our lives. You’re either one thing or the other, especially around these parts. I spent part of my day yesterday at the St. Helena Skatepark, which just opened three weeks ago, hanging out with kids who can’t afford new skateboards. They were riding used boards, handed down to them, which also served as their transportation a couple miles back home. At the same time, just down the street, a winery hosted an upscale Napa Valley™ food & wine shindig with a half-mile line of shiny new cars parked outside and a $100 entry fee.
I drove home listening to Lucinda Williams’ World Without Tears, an album with a lot in common with Q-Tip’s The Renaissance even though the two wouldn’t ever get played back-to-back on the same radio station. The divide. So it felt right to join in a coming together, and that was the Free Mind Media benefit last night at the Guyakí Mate Bar in Sebastopol.
I fully endorse Free Mind Media because in a climate where everyone asks why, they ask, why not? People go hungry on the street. We sit around and wonder why. Through Food Not Bombs, Free Mind Media says “Why not just feed them?” Police shoot unarmed citizens with mental problems. We sit around and wonder why. With Copwatch, Free Mind Media asks “Why not march together in the street in protest?” We wonder why we’re divided and they live out and promote small, simple acts that we often don’t consider because we assume the divide is too great.
Aside from the obvious coming together of people—and there were a lot of people packed into Guayakí’s back room, old and young, rich and poor, bob-cutted and afroed—more than half the lineup last night had both guys and girls in the band, another “why not?” that’s good to see being answered. During Not to Reason Why’s epic set, Goodriddler’s Nick Wolch and the New Trust’s Julia Lancer joined in for an insane three-drummer extravaganza together, erasing the multitudes of Napa Valley BMWs from my mind and sending me back to Santa Rosa with a lifted heart.
Cheers to Free Mind Media and all the bands, and especially to Guayakí, and David & Celeste, for providing a solid all-ages venue that’s been going off lately with positive vibes.
Imagine my absolute shock when the other night, coinciding perfectly with my article this week in the Bohemian about why I still make tapes, this collection of cassettes arrived wrapped up on my front porch, like an abandoned child in swaddling clothes:
No way! Now that’s some incredibly in-depth joke, I thought, figuring that someone had spent hours making fake cassette artwork for five local bands: The New Trust, Not To Reason Why, the Velvet Teen, Polar Bears, and my own band, Santiago. But it just got even more insane when I opened the cases.
That’s right: these are actual manufactured cassettes!
My jaw dropped. Yes, these are complete albums on tape, and what’s more, the Warner Bros. style sheet for cassettes is adhered to down to the tiniest detail in the artwork: the black-bar cover, the block font on the spine, the timestamp on either side of the shell, the Dolby logo everywhere. Unbelievable. There are liner notes inside, and the catalog numbers even reference the old “-4” suffix, applicable to cassettes.
It’s like something I never thought I’d ever see. Holding something in your hand that surely couldn’t exist. Like a hallucination come true. Like the most retardedly beautiful Christmas present ever.
I called the usual suspects, Josh Drake and Josh Staples, and they proudly admitted to the feat. Those guys have done some absolutely stupid, bonkers-ass, unnecessary bullshit in their time, but this is by far my favorite thing they’ve pulled off. How did they do it? It turns out that there’s a place in Petaluma, Kaba Audio, that still takes orders for cassettes. Totally crazy.
I’ve been assured that there’s only 100 copies of these cassettes out there, which considering the demand for cassettes these days is probably about 97 copies too many. They come packaged in a $10 5-Pack, boasting “Now With Compromised Fidelity!” Those wanting in on this extremely short run can find it at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa.
I got an overwhelming response to the article on cassette tapes, incidentally, which proves that you can’t kill a medium that’s been a part of people’s lives for decades. I even got some phone calls from people who rattled their cassettes into the phone, proving that they, too, still love tapes. The sad thing is that there’s still a market for cassettes (anyone who works at a record store can attest to repeated inquiries for tapes), but it’s just not profitable for the already-fledgling record companies.
The last actual manufactured cassette I saw domestically from a major label was Common’s Be, issued with a stock font, a chintzy black-and-white spine and no j-card at all. The last actual manufactured cassette I bought, though, was Green Day’s American Idiot, with a full-color fold-out j-card and official Warner Bros. packaging. It came from a seller in Malaysia, where cassettes are still relevant and where major labels actually order legitimate pressings of tapes there. Recently, they’ve made Metallica’s Death Magnetic, Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Weezer’s Make Believe, Against Me’s New Wave, and many, many more titles on cassette in Malaysia, all in short runs of about 200 or so.
The best way to find Malaysian titles on cassette is on eBay; type “Malaysia” into a cassette search and hundreds of titles pop up. There’s a long and strange dissection of complex Malaysian copyright laws here that might shed some light on why Malaysia is the dominant producer of new cassettes. And some incredible-looking Malaysian cassette manufacturing equipment is for sale here, which hopefully does not spell the end of cassettes entirely. Here’s a sample image of how they do it in Malaysia:
It was the fucking awesomest one-song set.
It was 11pm. Three bands had already played. I was planning on taking off to Sebastopol, had already said my goodbyes, and was literally halfway out the front door of the 600 House when Not To Reason Why started playing. Awww, shit. After the first couple notes, I was lured, like a magnet, back into the living room. How could I leave? When it comes to Not To Reason Why, you can’t even pretend like there’s an option. Just give in.
The Carlo Rossi was flowing. Fools were juiced. And if you’ve never heard them, Not To Reason Why are on some heavy-ass, pulsing, move-your-body epic-type tip. The song: “Zeitgeist.” The living room heaved, hands shot into the air, and the band played intensely, furiously, like it was the end of the world. Howls of joy. Heads shook in disbelief. Jessie Mae jumped up on top of an amplifier. For six sweet minutes, miracles came true.
Then the cops came.
People are always talking about how there’s nothing to do around here, but tonight was a pretty good example of why that’s untrue. Here it was, Thursday night of all nights, there’s a killer house party that gets busted by the cops and yet there’s still more to do. Juke Joint with J-Boogie. I headed west.
I pulled up to the Hopmonk Tavern a little before midnight and saw, I kid you not, a guy and a girl, standing and squatting next to each other in the parking lot, both talking to each other and pissing on the asphalt, simultaneously. Love works in incredible ways.
Inside, J-Boogie had just started his set with a megamix of Stevie Wonder songs—it being Stevie’s birthday—and the place was hopping like mad. Bodies on the floor, busting some serious moves. Breakdancers in the corner. Girls dancing on the stage. Again, the magnetic pull erased any choice other than to get down. Even the wallflowers were dancing in their shoes.
Out in the beer garden, I ran into a buddy of mine and asked him how, in his opinion, a small town like Sebastopol was able to so overwhelmingly support a night like Juke Joint. “It’s new,” he said, citing that everything fresh and hip has its initial glory period. Having worked at now-defunct Barcode in Santa Rosa, he could be said to speak from experience. “It’ll die down,” he predicted.
He could be right. But judging from last night’s huge crowd, and judging from the hypnotic spell J-Boogie had over everyone, it was hard to imagine an impending lull on the near horizon.
I’ve dug J-Boogie for almost ten years now, and the bulk of his set—after the Stevie Wonder tracks, and before the Motown / Atlantic megamix at the end—was a slick reminder of why he’s so great. Crazy, rhythmic grooves from all around the world; none of them recognizable, all of them dope. Also, J-Boogie’s one of the few DJs who can drop a long three-minute drum break with intros on the upbeat and full-on long paces of total silence and still keep the crowd not only moving but hollering with excitement. Hell yeah!
More photos after the jump.