Post image for O’Death “OUt Of Hands We Go” (2014 Northern Spy)

Brooklyn alt-country, post-americana act, O’Death has accomplished quite a feat with their fifth record. They’ve created an album that I genuinely enjoy (not a feat) while employing my least favorite instrument: the banjo. This is such a feat that there have only been 2 other occurrences in 2014 (Saintseneca’s Dark Arc and Lowercase Noises “This Is For Our Sins”). It’s nothing personal, but if I see a band loading in and they have a banjo, I just write them off as being more cannon fodder for the overhead speakers at every just-shy-of-corporate PNW coffee shop, inadvertently soundtracking the smug click-clacking of macbook toting slacktivists clad in patagonia gear… but I digress.

Don’t let that hate-mongering opening statement fool you. I dig the fuck outta this record.

I’ve admittedly missed a sizable chunk of O’Death’s career, 2 records and 8 years have passed, since I fell briefly, madly in love with Head Home. 2006 saw a darker, more Waits influenced sound. Not to imply that 2014′s version of O’Death is exactly a ray of goddamned sunshine.

Out Of Hands We Go is a beautiful, melancholic drifting record that finds Greg Jamie exercising far more vocal restraint, though still at times a might unsettling/eerie, the vocals are smoother than their earliest work (while not sinking to the Jose Gonzalez-esque whisper/croon of 2011 single, “Bugs”).

The album also does an excellent job of dragging the listener into various settings and locations via tastefully manipulative production. Ranging from lush, and clean to hollow echo, and cassette tape hiss, Out Of Hands allows the listener to feel like they’ve experienced several aspects of the band, or maybe journeyed through the story with them. Personal favorites include “Wait For Fire” “We Had A Vision” & “Isavelle”. – Joshua Isaac Finch

O’Death plays with Coyote and Stone Jack Jones at Sam Bond’s at 9:30 tonight. 

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Milstein At The Movies: Locke

by on October 23, 2014

Post image for Milstein At The Movies: Locke

When I first heard about this film a sad groan oozed forth from my heart. The trailer gave the impression of a mash up between Speed and Phone Booth (or Liberty Stands Still, whichever execution of that gimmicky premise you’re comfortable with). The pitch is that the whole film is just a guy in his car in real time. In the trailer there is a hint of tension leading my puny brain to believe that there is a sinister plot threatening the lead character. These were assumptions based on a lifetime of consuming mostly formulaic media.

Ivan Locke is a construction contractor working on the biggest project of his career. His reputation amongst those in the industry is impeccable. His home life is idilic, loving wife, two adoring sons, and a home that is never seen in the film but given Locke’s high end BMW is imagined to be quite picturesque. We find out early on that he’s recently made a life changing mistake and this night, this drive that he’s compelled to take, is his reckoning. He must risk his career and family to do what he believes is right.

Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the titular character is one of the things that cinephiles will site to win the “Hardy is the new Brando” argument. He absolutely sells Locke as a flawed yet upstanding man who wants nothing more than to do right by the people in his life under the circumstances he’s created around them. Though he’s the only actor visible onscreen, Hardy doesn’t carry the film alone. Ruth Wilson gives a moving voice performance as Locke’s wife. Andrew Scott also stands out as one of Locke’s employees who’s character provides a pressure release valve for the tension created in writer/director Steven Knight’s script. I’m sure that Locke is not for everyone but I can assure you that this film is in no way executed as the novelty that it appears to be. It’s a well played character study of a person in the most difficult 80 minutes of his life. – Seth Milstein

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Post image for Devin Townsend Project “Z2″ (2014 Hevy Devy Records)

As a person who has never created something fabulous, I am curious to what musicians think when trying to write the follow up to a spectacular release. I’d assume they can’t think about such a thing or they’ll probably get ridiculously self-conscious about their works and question themselves at every turn. Hell, they probably do that regardless of what they’re writing. If you look at the discography of the Canadian maestro Devin Townsend, you will most likely be in awe of the sheer amount of music that this human produces. Between 1995-2006 he was most known for being the frontman of Century Media Records alumni Strapping Young Lad, with six full-length releases in those 11 years.  In 2008 he announced he would be embarking on a journey to create four albums under the moniker of the ‘Devin Townsend Project.’ This project itself released two full-length albums, Ki and Addicted, in the year of 2009. The second two albums, ‘Deconstruction’ and ‘Ghost’, followed this up in the year 2011. Already this discography is looking at being bigger than many artists who’ve been playing just as long as this crazed Canadian. Keep in mind; this list didn’t even include the eight solo albums he’s released since 1996.

Devin Townsend’s goofy, but heavy, masterpiece Ziltoid the Omniscient was released in 2007. I once read an interview with Devy where he had said Ziltoid was actually a test to show what you could do with $3,500. To prove that you didn’t have to be in an amazing studio, paying $2,000 a week to get a fantastic product. Of course, not everyone has the knowledge that he has when it comes to music production. That list, while not as extensive as his writing credits, is still very impressive. With production credits for bands such as Himsa, Bleeding Through, Ihsahn, Darkest Hour, GWAR, Lamb of God and Soilwork. Regardless of how much money it cost to make Ziltoid it sounded fabulous. I feel like this record really helped Devy break out of the shell of Strapping Young Lad that he, himself, has said was constricting due to different factors. If, at this point, you’re wondering how the new Z2 record stacks up to the first, well, it compares very well!

As a young fan of Devin Townsend in 2007, there will always be an important place in my heart for Ziltoid. That being said, I very much enjoyed Z2. This is a double album that clocks in just shy of 2 hours long. The first disc is, technically, a different release called Sky Blue that is a more traditional Devin Townsend Project release that has no interaction with the Ziltoid lore. When I first heard the DTP album Addicted I was rather intrigued. It was heavy and musically interesting but it was also very poppy. I always refer to its genre as “pop metal” because I can’t really peg the genre any better than that. With some of my favorite tracks being ‘Supercrush’, ‘Hyperdrive’ (which is a re-imagining of an original Ziltoid track) and ‘Ih-Ah.’ Each song had a more than pleasant earworm that would infest your brain for weeks to come, but you could also still mosh to the music at times. This is a very intriguing thought to me. I loved it. When I started into  Sky Blue I was very impressed. It was moody, ethereal, catchy, but far less “poppy” than the aforementioned Addicted. My two favorite pieces are ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Before We Die.’ Ol’ Devy has really improved the orchestration of the choirs and symphony parts for his records, and these tracks show this progression.

The second disc is entitled Dark Matters and follows Ziltoid and his band of unruly aliens that have come to Earth. This shows Captain Spectacular (voiced by Chris Jericho…yep, that guy) approaching Ziltoid for assistance and not just to blow an asteroid sized rocket into his mothership. This album features a fantastic performance by all of the musicians (whom appear on almost every DTP release), and is very pleasing to listen to. I will say that I feel it is not as “metal” as the first Ziltoid and is very symphonic. It sounds like Devin Townsend had killed Danny Elfman and absorbed his brainpower, but also still wanted to make something heavy. But this ‘something heavy’ also features plenty of fart noises and poop jokes.

Since 1995, Devin Townsend has released 23 full-length albums, numerous singles, EPs and even live albums. That is, on average, over 1.2 albums being released every year. His capability to create good quality music in almost any genre he touches, is so impressive it’s actually disgusting. That being said, I would very much suggest you check out this double album out! Two hours of Devin Townsend is never a bad idea. –Stephen Parker

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Halloween is approaching and the most terrifyingly grim thing you could possibly jam into little Jimmy’s candy bucket is a week in this dismal existence without the relief afforded him by seeing live music. Go to a show. Take little Jimmy to a show. Do it for the children. Here are this week’s Eugene Area Live Music Listings…Show Cal-page002

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Post image for Sacrament Of Flesh: A Talk With Embers

Oakland crust-punk act, Embers has been smashing up house parties and diy venues since 2004. They’ll be gracing the stage at Wandering Goat this Friday and we had the pleasure of asking Kelly Nelson (Bass/Vocals) and Steven DeCaprio (Guitar) a few questions about the tour, and the history of Embers. 

I’ve heard your music described as everything from punk to blackened crust to hardcore. How would you describe your music at this point?

Kelly: I think blackened crust is the most appropriate way to describe our music. Most of our listeners have referred to us as some kind of interpretive hybrid of black metal. While more our song structures tend to be more complex than crust, we have all been influenced by bands like Amebix. I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to our music as “hardcore.” I don’t think we have any really connection musically to that genre.

Steven: We definitely have strong roots in the crust and hardcore punk scenes. From the moment I picked up a guitar I have been inspired by both metal and punk, and everything I have played over the years has been a cross-over of the two genres. However since Embers was founded we have been more focused on composition. We don’t spend much time as a band discussing genre. We have always focused on writing songs that convey particular moods rather than emulate a particular style. That said we have community with and derive inspiration from the crust scene so it isn’t surprising that our music would develop along those lines so I would agree that blackened crust is an acceptable descriptor.

ember4

Embers’ web presence outside of facebook looks something like that of a band currently on hiatus or currently inactive. A tour obviously says otherwise. How stoked should we be? Does a return to the road mean the possibility of a new record? Does Embers just have a strong distaste for self-promotion?

Steven: I would say I have a love/hate relationship with promotion. Before we formed Embers I had given up on the punk scene as a musician. It seemed that even in the punk scene there was an increasing trend toward a consumer mentality. After that Kelly approached me to start a new music project which would become Embers. What reeled me back in was the bond of family that Kelly and I have. I decided that it was more important to share the experience of making music with my friends than to worry about the music scene or music industry.

After playing with Embers for a while we decided that we wanted to “promote” the band. Since then we have taken turns doing promotion. Once we started promotion I would throw myself into it and found the challenge to be somewhat exciting. However all of us have other endeavors that take up a lot of our time outside the band so we are unable to maintain a constant presence.

Kelly: The Embers website needs to be revamped. Once a new site is up, we’ll notify folks via social media. The Bandcamp page  has been much more supported by the general public for merchandise sales and other relevant information. We do have plans to record another album in 2015. We’re all very much looking forward to that pressing and plan to debut several brand new songs on our upcoming tour. Anyone who would like to promote Embers is encouraged to do so. Most of us run our own businesses in the Bay Area and stay super busy so any additional support is greatly appreciated.

embers live

What survival tips do you have for new touring musicians. How do we not drive our band mates crazy on tour? 

Steven: I’m not sure. Things have changed so much since I started booking tours. Do new touring musicians have any survival tips for old touring musicians? That’s what Embers could really use.

Kelly: Good question..it’s like any relationship really. Open communication and conflict resolution skills are important. Sometimes being on the road and in each other’s faces require stress management skills as well. My one biggest piece of advice, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and HAVE FUN!

Steven: There are things Embers does on tour, but I would hardly call ourselves a role model. The one thing that I would say is to not bite off more than you can chew. There is nothing worse than cancelling shows at the last minute or not showing up when you have agreed. You also don’t want to run out of money or return home to find that your life has completely fallen apart. Make sure you have a working vehicle, sufficient savings, a plan when you return home, and give yourselves huge time margin to make it to every show. 

I think the best approach is to focus on your local scene first, then expand by touring within the region, then try to make connections with folks willing to support you further out. Don’t just randomly book a tour in half way across the country or the world. If you build up some support in your region while promoting your music online then you should make connections eventually with supporters that will help you take that next step. 

As far as driving band mates crazy is concerned Embers is probably the last band you should ask. Perhaps that’s the other reason we always tour for less than a month.

embers live2

How do you think Embers has grown since Memoria In Aeterna

Steven: Most of the songs on Memoria in Aeterna were written by Kelly, Jerry, and me before the others joined the band. Because of this there wasn’t a strong emphasis on the harmonization between instruments. The layers on that album are derived from the various improvisations by Nine, Lillian, and Timm playing over the structure of the songs.

Kelly: Our music has grown as the co-creative process through intuitive connection in the band has grown. The new material is more rhythmically, harmonically and emotionally complex. Again, like any relationship, it’s a ongoing journey of exploration through expression.

Steven: With subsequent albums we focused more on harmony, and were much more intentional about the way the instrumentation was integrated into the song structure. In this way the newer material is more complex than our earlier material even though the instrumentation is less dense.

House shows or small venues?

Kelly: This tour I believe is mostly in venues but we always love a rowdy house show!

Steven: I hate to make a broad generalization because both can be bad or good depending on the situation. I guess at this point I prefer small venues because it seems that shows in small venues tend to be better organized more often than house shows.

New socks or new strings?

Steven: I just bought new strings, and my socks are threadbare so clearly I prioritize strings. Of course at this point I would pick socks because I’m doing good in the sock department. I’m sure Jerry would pick socks because what is a drummer going to do with strings anyway?

Kelly: That’s a funny question! I gather you are in a band and looking for advice. Don’t put on new strings in the middle of a tour unless you have the time to re-EQ your amp. New strings need to be worn in and can change your sound. Changing nasty socks will be appreciated by your band mates. If your band mates are happy, you will be happy.

Embers will be tearing down The Wandering Goat Friday the 24th at 8pm with Kaoxifer and Aether Wrought. If you aren’t in Eugene, check out their facebook for more tour dates.

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