After talking about wrongfully ignoring Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a bungled Black Flag reunion and auctioning records pre-eBay, Scott Colburn unleashes a ridiculous nonsequitur: “That’s how reggae music started,” he says, and then unpacks the genre’s history, nonchalantly tying together years of seemingly disconnected histories. Colburn, who calls himself an “audio wizard,” is a Grammy-winning, Seattle-based record producer with voluminous musical knowledge that he sees as one big spider web, making illusionary connections freely and enthusiastically. That willingness to accept abstract ideas as linear is what has made him such a sought -out producer, working across genre with groups like Arcade Fire, Sun City Girls and Mudhoney. He splits his time between recording film and television scores and sees them as essentially comparable. “It’s the same in that you’re just creating a sound that supports the image,” Colburn says, and even when there is no tangible image, he seeks one out. “I did this French pop record where the band came together and was making this great record, but this one song wasn’t really happening. They played it a couple of times and I just got the image in my head,” says Colburn. “I went out and described this scene of a guy and a girl in a convertible going through the desert from Las Vegas down to Los Angeles and they’re really excited about each other and they’re going to have sex at the other end, and that’s the movie. The next take we did was the perfect take.” His approach from group to group, he says, is similar, always recording live to evoke how the band feels they naturally sound. “I usually get a vision—not vision like an image, but a vision of sound,” he says, then pauses to make sure he doesn’t slip too deep into the ether. “Of what that band sounds like and what that recording is going to sound like. It’s not evil voodoo magic.”
I don’t want to limit my lists to just records that came out in 2009, but rather, records that I discovered (or rediscovered) in 2009. I COULD list all the records I produced this year as favorites, but that goes without saying.
Zola Jesus – The Spoils – Sacred Bones 2009 LP – It’s a toss up for me on which record is my FAVORITE of the year, but this is tied with the next two records for top of the list. I love the mood of this record. It’s dark and otherworldly. Reminds me of an electronic Velvet Underground in which Nico actually could sing. I also feel it’s current folk music. There is a story here and the music sets the mood.
Xasthur – All Reflections Drained – Hydrahead 2009 2xLP – I’ve been a long time fan of Xasthur but each progressive release gets better and better. What I like about his black metal is the mood it sets with its slow picked chords. And it’s the chords that don’t sound right. In fact, the album doesn’t sound right, and that’s what is great! It sets the tone for a full-on post-apocalyptic 2012 epic Hollywood feature – the movie that no one will see cos we’re all dead!
Mudboy – This is Folk Music – Last Visible Dog 2008 CD – Actually, I would put the entire Mudboy catalog on this list but that would take a really long time. He is a recent discovery of mine from the Sound Projector Radio Show (which you should subscribe to immediately). The Mudboy retrospective that Ed did was amazing and included a 17 minute improv piece by Mudboy, exclusively for the show. That did for me! I needed the whole catalog, and I got it! I chose this record because you have to start somewhere, and if you are ready to start… start here, do not pass go and do not collect $200. Mudboy’s drones are infinitely beautiful and spellbinding. Like all great art, it doesn’t indicate what you are supposed to see or feel, it allows your daily mood to shift the mood presented. In a way, it’s the ultimate soundtrack to your life. If you are happy, Mudboy is happy. If you are sad, Mudboy is sad. If you are a stupid fucking idiot, then you haven’t heard Mudboy. (Also recommended is Hungry Ghosts CD and Mudbeats Vol 1.)
Slicing Grandpa – Chaos Midnight – Strain Theory 2007 10″ – Do you miss Chrome? I miss Chrome.
Flaming Lips – Christmas on Mars Soundtrack – Warner Brothers 2008 LP – Not only is this a great movie, but the soundtrack is impeccable. It draws from 50’s Sci-Fi, maybe even 50’s Russian Sci-Fi. They did such a good job at recreating those sounds. It has all the huge, weird string sounds you would expect intertwined with the huge weird synth sounds. It made me feel really good about my purchase of the M-tron.
Deep Purple – Deep Purple – Harvest 1969 LP – Actually, I rediscovered Deep Purple as a band this year and it was hard to list only one album (ok, check out Shades of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn and Burn too). I had no idea. Why did I skip this so long ago? This band was amazing. They rocked. No doubt about it. I now feel like I could approach Rick Rubin and discuss album production now that I’ve seen the light! The combination of excellent musicianship, the play between drums and keys, tasteful guitar licks and excellent, excellent vocals will make you want to repaint your room.
Darkspace – Vol 3 – Avant Garde 2008 CD – Like Xasthur in the mood department but really on the opposite side of the planet. This black metal band is really good at holding tension and releasing it at exactly the right moment. At the point where you think you may lose your mind, they turn the corner and show it to you (cos they plucked it right our of your bleeding skull).
Frank Zappa – Lumpy Money – Zappa 2008 3xCD – Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of these records, this set not only gives you the original mixes but build reels, edits, mono’s, etc. Truly a great collection and tribute to a classic Zappa mindfuck.
Grizzly Bear – Live on KCRW – Warp 2009 7″ – On Record Store Day, my faith in the buying public was restored while I spent 10 minutes picking up a few things and 30 minutes waiting in line to pay. Looking at the line, I was pleased to see NO ONE buying CD’s! Everyone had piles of vinyl. Some had turntables! I hesitate to list this album because their management is rude and incompetent, but I picked up this 7″ because someone told me that I would like them and was blown away by how great it is. It’s worlds better than any of their other records, and I think it’s because it represents the band well. It’s how I feel their records SHOULD sound.
Choice Cuts 2009 – Universal Music Group 2009 LP – Related to the Music Store day story above, I just have to point this record out. As a bonus of supporting Record Store Day, we got some freebies. This was one of the freebies. I suppose its purpose was to expose us to other artists that we might be interested in. I find it interesting that it’s a selection of Universal Music Group artists and labels, though, so in a way I view it as “this is the best we have for this year”. BOY what a complete load of shit on this comp. Over 20 years ago, I was on a comp that was reviewed simply as an epic waste of vinyl. NOW I turn that award over to Universal for signing and promoting the worst group of “talent” I’ve seen in a long time.
Well at least I made it on this list!
We’ve started our fires in the forest and soon we will bring them to the cities with our second full-length album titled, Brand New Blood, to be released on Sarathan Records. Your first chance to buy the album will be when we release it for digital release on Tuesday, December 8th, and then you can go out and buy it in stores on Tuesday, January 19th…..
Not long ago, a group of genuinely backwoods dudes from the country moved to Seattle and began playing shows that burned with primal intensity and soared with pop sensibility. They called themselves Feral Children—a wholly appropriate name for a bunch of wild boys from rural Maple Valley, WA—and were ready to stake their claim in Seattle’s celebrated music scene. And when they arrived, they adamantly let it be known they would not be playing any of the following: “fucking California pop”; “classic rock covers”; or “shitty indie pop.”
Instead, Feral Children would be making their music—music from the Pacific Northwest. When they released their 2007 debut LP, Second to the Last Frontier, bassist Jim Cotton proudly stated: “It actually sounds like the first Northwest record that I’ve heard in 10 years.”
And it didn’t take long for them to catch the ear of KEXP FM and the local press, who jumped all over this debut with rare and unanimous praise: “will undoubtedly be heralded as one of 2007’s best” (The Stranger), “the future is now for the Feral Children” (John Richards, KEXP), and even “Perfect, absolutely perfect” (Seattle Sound Magazine).
In a city known for “hey-no-worries” politeness, there are countless interviews in which local indie rockers come off like glad-handing chimps toward their peers, often hiding their real opinions under a veil of niceness. The boys in Feral Children, however, have been ready to separate themselves from the pack and to claw their way to the top if need be, and they don’t seem to care who gets scarred along the way; “Yeah, we live in Seattle, but only because we have to.” In fact, they would prefer the soggier and stranger outskirts of town.
Luckily, they haven’t had to claw too hard to get attention; they’ve perked the ears of many on the strength of their music and the visceral ferocity of their live shows. And if Brand New Blood is any inkling, they’re set to garner even more acclaim, well beyond the hemline of the Cascade Mountain range they call home.
Like their last album, Brand New Blood contains music that evokes Feral Children’s home territory—sprawling, chilly, vast, strange, and, at times, violently stormy.
Comparisons have been made to another great Northwest concern, Modest Mouse, and that comparison is not without merit. But after listening to Brand New Blood, it’s obvious Feral Children share more in common with Modest Mouse philosophically than musically. The fact that they are from Maple Valley, WA, and not the big shitty of Seattle, has cemented their outsider status and shapes every lick of music they play. They also share that band’s mournfulness for nature—as natives of the Washington hills, these Feral Kiddies have watched Mother Earth raped time and again by greedy developers. They don’t approve of excessive wealth and would likely have no idea what to do with the wads of cash this album stands to earn them. To some, their perspective may be askew—but they are proud of it and don’t feel like conforming to anyone’s standards. Why should they? They’re from the real Washington State, so fuck you.
Take a listen to the album’s centerpiece, the colossal “Conveyer”, in which the band’s wonderfully wonky perspective of society is on full display. “This world is like a video game controlled by lonely boys with attention deficit disorder,” sings Jeff Keenan in a huffy manner that suggests total exasperation with everyday life. The song eventually erupts into full-throttle Arcade Fire-like pounding with Keenan frothing and barking the lyrics: “The milk calls the coffee black/ and Mother Nature’s getting so fat!”
Scott Colburn produced this album, and his ability to push a band into the stratosphere is all over Brand New Blood. This sucker is all about atmosphere; specifically, the Pacific Northwest woods featured in Twin Peaks or Twilight. In fact, the band doesn’t sound like they are playing in a studio at all. The cold blankets of synthesizer (“Kid Origami”), the tooth-clattering percussion that sounds like the breaking of bones (“Castrato”), the volatile guitars (“Enchanted Parkway”)—this album feels as if it were recorded along the banks of the Green River Gorge at 3 a.m. in the middle of January.
The legion of hyphen-wielding indie rock critics will likely be compelled to draw parallels between Brand New Blood to Lonesome Crowded West. But that would be a lazy comparison based on little more than geography. A deeper listen will reveal that while there are philosophical similarities, Feral Children are on to a whole other trip musically, one that feeds off of isolation and loneliness, the ghosts of their working-class pasts and the awkwardness of trying to fit in to Seattle’s hyper self-aware music scene. Desolate as it may sound, though, it’s obvious they are happy to have each other for company. Fucked up individuals they may be, but they seem to understand each other and speak fluently through their music. Feral Children are proud to stand together as a pack: defiant, dysfunctional, and outsiders to the core
Decoder Ring’s “They Blind The Stars, And The Wild Team” has been nominated for “Record of the Year” at the 2009 FBi and Time Out Sydney Music, Arts & Culture Awards. If you love the record, VOTE NOW!!!
Also, This record was at #4 on Itunes Alternative Album Charts recently
Jaye and I were at this show
I just posted the Interview by Scott Davis that appeared in the 5th issue of Ong Ong Magazine