Lenore. is a dark planet with twin satellites of ethereal voices orbiting around it…Nature-inspired, dark folk songs like “Ether’s Arms” and “Dig” are sharp and shining—the glinting edge of a spade in the garden. Songs about the moon, sun, ancient trees, the seasons, and explorations of darkness and light resonate throughout this purely Pacific Northwest creation of lyrical magic and vocal alchemy.
The first time I heard The Quebe Sisters, I was standing in the woods on Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon at the Pickathon music festival. It was a private session of stripped-down songs, played in a quiet setting away from the larger stage and big crowds—and very intimate, except for the film crew and microphones jammed into the 10 by 10-foot concrete and wood pumphouse. I didn’t actually see them directly until they emerged—but what I heard instantly transported me to another time. It was the romantic and sentimental song, “Going Away Party,” by Texas songwriter Cindy Walker. The sound coming out of that little shed was so pitch-perfect and golden-toned, I thought it had been pre-recorded and auto-tune processed. It was as if the Andrews Sisters of the 1940s had emerged from the fires of time with their close harmony style and dropped down to the forest, fiddles in hand.
They’ve opened up from wrist to cuff a silver channel in the forearm of the prairie. This, so the black ink flows faster to the hand that writes the checks which leave us dry thirsty and poisoned in a future of rubber bullets and bird feather shields.
After his first viewing of A Clockwork Orange on Inauguration Day J20:
Feldspar: What Now? Pixel: Something classic, something funny Feldspar: Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Pixel: Try again. Feldspar: Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Pixel: Hmm, that’s new. Feldspar: It has Leprechauns and Banshees and Sean Connery when he was young. Singing. Pixel: Perfect.
“If you don’t have a song to sing
you’re okay you know how to get along humming . . .”
“Waltz (Better Than Fine)” — Fiona Apple
On the last day of the year, an Anna’s Hummingbird appeared, perching gently on the edge of a cut rose bush stem. I loved the way The Cornell Lab of Ornithology described them “no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel . . .with their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds.” Their Anna photos also use a thorny perch and float on the edge of a twig.
“Anna’s Hummingbird was originally named Ornismya anna by René Primevère Lesson in 1829, based on specimens collected by Paolo-Émilio Botta and owned by the duke and duchess of Rivoli. Lesson regarded it as one of the most beautiful hummingbirds, on account of “the bright sparkle of a red cap of the richest amethyst…” on the male’s head, and so named it after the duchess of Rivoli, Anna de Belle Masséna. Gould (1861) placed it in a new genus, Calypte, for “not only the throat, but the entire head as glitteringly resplendent as if they had been dipped in molten metal”. Calypte is greek (Кαλυπτη) for covered or hood (Holloway 2003), a reference to the male’s iridescent crown. Males turn their head from side to side as they sing, flashing the brilliant iridescence as a signal to other hummingbirds.”
I leaned against our window into the garden and took a few photos as he visited the rosebush and feeder.
Waiting for the bus downtown in winter, a large building has a video screen with a film projected 30 feet wide. A dark field is suddenly lit by a spiraling flame. A tanned, beautiful face comes into view, green palms collar his neck, skirt his shirtless waist, and cuff his wrists. He is a fireknife dancer, twirling the machete-like nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” He brings the long flamed edge to his open mouth like a hot drink and taps it to the edge of his tongue where a brief lap of blue and orange ignites and smokes out like a bare-skinned dragon and I think, “yes, perhaps a trip to Hawaii.”
In the darkest time of the year, perhaps even, in our culture and our larger world, Bazan invites us to “admit your despair to safe people in your life this Christmas. Be a safe person for others. Feel better. Jesus Christ, you guys.” It’s an honest Christmas wish we could all find some truth and light in.
David Bazan has been remixing and remastering a lot of different things lately. His music. His workflow. His life. He’s been incorporating old songs and sensibilities into new endeavors, like releasing his first music video, embarking on a documentary about his “existential, artistic and family life,” and touring with a very unlikely holiday album collected from annual yuletide song releases, dating back to his Pedro the Lion days.
No matter the sound—from guitar strings to symphonics or synthesizer—nor the venue—whether it’s a house show or concert hall—one beautiful consistency remains in Bazan’s music: his raw, emotive vocal delivery of difficult topics, from faith to politics and all the human faults in between.
Walking around in an emotional ‘Haze,’ Dawn brings her new record to The Old Church on November 18 with collaborator Lauren O’Connell and openers The Native Sibling.
Haze is an emotional autopsy of confessions and conversations around the loss of relationships. It captures, as Dawn describes, both “that feeling of walking around in a haze” and “relates to the idea of being hazed: put through some strange and often cruel rite of passage.” As a daughter of missionaries, songs about her father and religion such as “Orchid” and “Amen” feature prominently on Haze. But these aren’t anti-religious anthems or angry breakup ballads. The 10 songs on Haze are melodic and precise—sharp words set to sweet hymnals ranging from sparse guitar and vocals to glittering synth ballads—as if to soften the scalpel she takes to her evangelical upbringing and poignant endings.