Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.
Maybe it comes from a childhood of more often than not having my nose in a book, but I’ve always been fascinated by symbolism; the symbolism of color being no exception. The idea that one color could have so many different constitutional meanings opens a world of possibilities. Blue could mean you’re at peace with yourself or depressed, red signifying desire or rage. Then there’s green, in the interest of full disclosure, the favorite color of your humble correspondent.
Green is the color of good luck and prosperity, valor and service, the grandeur of nature, youth, vigor, fertility, inexperience, growth, jealousy, greed. The former two are often referenced as the “green-eyed monster.” People have been described as “turning green with sickness.” Of course, in America, green is also the color of money, which inspires a lot of green-eyed monsters to come out of the woodwork. As an exploration of the multitudes of the color, the new full-length from Vancouver quartet Dumb is titled Seeing Green.
Recorded on Gabriola Island, BC and produced by Jordan Koop (whose name you definitely will recognize if you’ve immersed yourself in the liner notes of Wolf Parade), the full-length -- the band’s fourth release in two years and change -- offers an aural clarity to Dumb’s brand of whip-smart, herky-jerky post-punk. Musically, Seeing Green is half-sleepy and half-skittish, reminiscent of Desperate Bicycles only not as loosey-goosey. For the most part, unless you’re, say, Beat Happening, it takes a great deal of hard work to make what you do look easy, and Dumb are a glowing example of such an idea.
“Artfact,” singular for the fact the lyrics are sung in Spanish by Pipé Morelli, has an outro which serves as a fantastic getaway chase that feels like a motorcycle racing through a forest to avoid certain doom, hitting every tree branch in its path on the way out and sputtering to a stop, running out of gas before reaching its destination.
Throughout Seeing Green, the workmanlike rhythm section -- helmed by bassist Shelby Vredik and drummer Pipé Morelli, who augment their solid foundation with neat flourishes which highlight the subtlety of their skill -- is scribbled over by the guitars of Rossino and Nick Short, squalling and squealing all over songs like “Power Trip” and “Hard Sea.” They weave in and out of each other’s paths and harmonize on “Barnyard,” they scramble and unscramble deftly on “Cowboy,” they amble along in a bummed sort of way and rev up one last time on closer “Roast Beef.” The occasional intensity of Rossino’s vocals translates into anguished yelps on “Don’t Get Me Started,” but for the most part revel in a melodic depiction of a reefer comedown where he’s caught in the middle of a rant.
A nervous energy courses through the fabric of Dumb (even in their slower songs) that is also very reminiscent of Parquet Courts; this is in no small part bolstered by Rossino’s word-drunk lyrics and the slacker/genius dichotomy embedded in both the words and their delivery. A love for the marriage of high-concept themes disguised as messy punk-ish songs is the slightly fraying thread between both groups.
But while much of the best writing from Courts songwriters Andrew Savage and Austin Brown are usually indicative of the strength of narrative -- as fractured and off-center as it sometimes is -- an auspicious stream-of-consciousness informs the words Rossino sings. On “Cowboy,” there’s the image of bounty hunter wearing a drawl, Stetson and chaps who ends up sounding like they’re making their way through a late-’80s rap battle. Porcelain buttons and inflation calculators dance around on “Soft Seam,” and apparitions are found tough to extinguish on “Roast Beef.” They are all tied together by another shade of green, the rotting, moldy hue of capitalistic dependency; relationships are ruined and nerves are worn to strips, all in the pursuit of the green dollar.
But the themes are always strong within: Asking wealthy friends for money, the nagging voice of envy droning on in the back of the mind of his characters, the endless expanse of strip malls covering the terrain. Someone somewhere is always either chasing or seeing green.
Knife Knights Sign to Sub Pop, Release Single "Give You Game"
It's safe to say Ishmael Butler and Erik Blood have a high familiarity with each other's work process. The Seattle music icon and the former titleholder of Seattle's hardest working producer (a title relinquished in his move to Los Angeles) have worked together extensively on Shabazz Palaces projects, which somewhat inevitably led to the two of them pairing up as the experimental pop group Knife Knights. Their debut salvo, "Give You Game," is an eerie, addictive, and naturally spacey bounce, featuring the twisting syllables of Stas THEE Boss and the silky vocals of Marquetta Miller. As for the video, I'm not going to give anything away; I'll only say depending on how strict your office is about such things, it's probably NSFW.
Read more about the epic pairing of Knife Knights and "Give You Game" via Sub Pop.
Perry Porter Drops Short Film Titled "Channel Surfing"
Tacoma's Perry Porter is an artist across multiple mediums; he's a painter, a rapper, a classically-trained drummer. His evocative vision extends itself to the forum of filmmaking with a five-minute quasi-sampler of tracks from his excellent full-length project Channel Surfing, replete with French subtitles, scenic views of the Seattle skyline, a pretty dope Frida Kahlo shirt, the world's most foreboding barcade, a young woman inhaling puffs from a Juul (which I hear is all the rage these days), a tribute to PaRappa the Rapper, indoor murals, and Porter's charismatic vocals (including a shout out to Spanaway). Read more about the film at City Arts.
A Seattle underground supergroup of sorts, Big Bite take most of the best parts of Northwest rock music, stir them all around, and kick them up along with a cloud of dust. Their eponymous debut full-length is indicative of both their alchemy and ability to veer away from formula.
On the first new full-length under the beloved Dear Nora moniker in almost twelve years, Katy Davidson's songs are as riveting and alluring as they've ever been.