For three years, my friends Mark and Kenny and I organized the Cumulus Music Festival – a series of shows featuring fairly diverse music, most of which had no vocals and was experimental in some way while still being somewhat in the universe of “rock” – it was a tough sound to define (without using the dreaded “post-rock” word), but we knew it when we heard it. We had performances from Earth, Master Musicians of Bukkake, AFCGT, Diminished Men, Talkdemonic, Joy Wants Eternity…the list goes on.
For various reasons we elected not to do a festival this year, though we hope to come back strong next year. In place of a full three nights of shows, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to book a night of Hollow Earth’s Magma Festival, and that night is finally almost upon us (this Saturday, March 3rd at Radar Hair and Records).
One of the bands in this vein that was a dream choice for all of us was The Drift, from San Francisco. Their album Blue Hour, released on Temporary Residence records, was probably the 2011 album I listened to the most, and will continue to listen to obsessively. Their music is relatively simple and stripped down – most of it employing just guitar, bass, and drums, with the occasional addition of extra melodic instruments such as melodica – but it is incredibly rich and perfectly executed. This song “Continuum” might help you understand what I mean:
We were pleased as punch to be able to get The Drift up here from San Francisco for this show, and we knew we had to show some of the best of what Seattle has to offer in the world of instrumental rock. I think we’ve done that with Fungal Abyss, Gems, and Lowmen Markos.
Fungal Abyss’s music is, as far as I know, all improvised – most likely under the influence of hallucinogens. They don’t generally feature the subtleties and intricacies of a band like The Drift; rather, once they’ve wound up to full steam they might just pummel you into the ground with thick, ropey chords, terrifying drum beats, and distended guitar riffs for 10-20 minutes at a time. Here’s “Moon6,” one of their shorter (and more recent) sonic explorations:
Gems are more synth- than guitar-based, lest you think this sort of music is entirely about guitar worship (OK, it’s a lot about guitar worship, but not entirely). They also make music that will genuinely have you bobbing your head, if not outright dancing, lest you think this music is all about cinematic soundscapes and gazing at your feet (OK, it’s a lot about those things, but not entirely). Gems are bubbly and weird and actually – dare I say it? – fun. They also have two drummers, which totally rules.
Lowmen Markos is the only one of these bands I’ve seen live before. They played the Cumulus Festival in 2011, and The Luna Moth (the band that my co-Cumulus organizer Mark and I play in together) has played a few shows with them since then. You might say they fit the more “traditional” definition of post-rock (if there is such a thing): Their music is mostly instrumental, it employs lots of guitars plus some synthesizers and the occasional atmospheric vocal. They add complexity to their sound via layered melodies, shifting time signatures, and impressive dynamic control. They all seem to be excellent instrumentalists, and they play very well together. This is not to say that they’re just another Explosions in the Sky clone, though; far from it. Lowmen Markos has their own sound and their own approach, and they give each song its own character. They’re still a relatively new band, but they seem to get better and better every time I see them. They’ll be the perfect way to kick off this show and welcome The Drift to town.
So there you have it. I hope I’ve made the case that this is not a show to be missed. See you at Radar Hair and Records on Saturday – and bring your earplugs!