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January 23rd, 2002 WWeek Music Staff | Music Stories
 

The music page that's provocative, super-smart and hella sexy.

     
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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
PREVIEW
The Music,
The Message,
The Machines
Milemarker twists synth-pop into punk for robots and cybernetic insects...and you.

Milemarker began in 1997 as an experiment. Question: Can punk rock and computer music coexist without negating the positive effects of each? Early data: Ne Plus Ultra, the debut album featuring live instrumentation juxtaposed with digital pop built from Fugazi and Jawbreaker samples. Live performances saw the band playing in near-darkness, guitarist Dave Laney and bassist Al Burian spitting out acidic vox, writhing in post-punk guitar spasms and attacking keyboards while cheap strobe lights blasted the band--and the audience--in the face.

On 2000's Frigid Forms Sell CD, Milemarker's sound seemed to crystallize. Literally. Icy synths took over entire songs, with keyboardist Roby Newton's eerie, slo-mo vocals glittering like shattered glass caught in a snapshot flash. The knifing guitars were still there, but the electronics were assuming a more powerful role. And on the band's latest, "Anaesthetic," they seem to have taken command entirely, covering the album in a shiny synthetic skin.

Laney explains part of the album's chilly vibe comes from a wholesale band relocation from Chapel Hill, N.C., to Chicago. He adds, "We had been making music for a long time that all had that sense of urgency to it, was more aggressive and screaming and stuff like that. But the idea was to try and express the same things by laying back from the screaming a little bit."

Many people hear "Anaesthetic" and think "New Wave." But Laney won't have it. "It's strange because I don't consider us a New Wave band," he says. "I do like the element of people integrating the fundamentals of that music into punk rock and changing the genre a little bit or messing with it. But I think you've gotta have a firm sense of what you're trying to accomplish when you're doing it so you don't replicate somebody."

Ah, replication--one of the hallmarks of a contemporary technological society. Another is man's alienation from his animal soul, one of the group's favorite lyrical obsessions: Robots, insects and humans don't so much coexist in Milemarker songs as crossbreed. We are becoming one and the same...unless we fight back.

But the members of Milemarker haven't become cyborgs yet. On stage, they sweat like any flesh-and-blood creature, and they've even dropped the infamous light show to better expose their human fallibility. Says Laney with a laugh, "Instead of freaking out in the total dark with some lights going, we've tried to actually be tight in the light." John Graham

Milemarker plays Friday, Jan. 25, at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. 9:30 pm. $7. 21+.

PREVIEW
Curators of the Curious and Strange
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: Sublime. Subversive. Desperate. Weird.

Bands didn't come much stranger than Idiot Flesh, the theatrical Bay Area troupe that mashed together kabuki makeup, clown outfits, puppetry and surreal, piercing art-metal songs about teen devil worshipers and messianic snack foods. But when Idiot Flesh broke up, guitarist-singer Nils Frykdahl and bassist Dan Rathbun achieved the near-impossible: they formed an even stranger band--Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Named after a mega-obscure institution of dadaist thought and confrontational art tactics, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is simultaneously a pretty midsummer night's dream and an evil nightmare. Frykdahl croons and grunts through blacked-out teeth and shoots out scattershot guitar riffs. Rathbun either claws at his bass or plays homemade instruments such as the "percussion guitar." Carla Kihlstedt looks like a wood nymph; her violin screams like a banshee. Drummer Frank Grau butts percussive heads with scrap-metal basher Moe! Staino, who plays like the unholy spawn of the Who's Keith Moon and Einstürzende Neubauten's F.M. Einheit. Songs swerve from graceful ballets to steely thrash. And audiences' heads, for the most part, spin.

Why Sleepytime Gorilla Museum? Frykdahl explains with a typical mix of intellect and ridiculousness: "Their adversarial tone and often comically oblique critique of the intellectual institutions whose form they mimicked have always seemed a natural model for a way of approaching the largely wretched edifice that is the commercial music industry. Their sense of theater in the avowedly formal fields they worked in defied assimilation, and that, of course, is what we must all do to survive and become invisible, right?"

Despite its circa-'98 formation, though, it wasn't until recently that the band released an album. With the members' other musical projects (Tin Hat Trio, Faun Fables, Species Being, etc.) on hold for a while, SGM has finally been able to get some serious songwriting and touring done. But rest assured, Grau says, new SGM material will maintain the tradition of the "Rock Against Rock" micro-movement--music that gleefully dismantles rock-'n'-roll clichés while still, well, rocking--begun by Idiot Flesh: "Rock Against Rock is an ethic that this band takes with it everywhere. To attempt to subvert the bloated carcass of rock, with its gluttonous addiction for replication, and its profit-driven priorities of hype over art, is something that is always a part of our creative process, unconsciously or no." John Graham

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum plays Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. 9:30 pm. $7. 21+.

 

MUSIC NEWS ABOUT RETAIL, RINKS & RECORDINGS
HISS and VINEGAR

END OF AN ERA...AND THE CHILDREN WEPT
It's come down to this: just five sad days left until Ozone Records finally closes its doors. In case you're one of the approximately .15% of Portland independent-music buyers who hasn't already ransacked the shelves of the legendary store at 1036 W Burnside St., a fire sale has been going on for the last few weeks. (We here at Hiss Central didn't tell you about it earlier because we wanted to save some of those goodies for ourselves, goshdarnit! That my S.P.K. record, y'hear? Mine!) Any items still left at press time, however, will be a recession-friendly 75% off until Jan. 27, unless the place is cleared out before that. After that, it'll be time to lock the doors and start scraping years' worth of stickers and spray paint off the walls--lord knows the building owners probably won't want any sign of personality to grace whatever they choose to put in the space. Let us guess: It's gonna be a new upscale yuppie cafe, right? Portland needs more of those. Count us first in line for a $5.75 scrap of panini.

PORTLAND: ROCK STAR CITY, U.S.A.! (Part I)
At the Jan. 11 Sleater-Kinney show, guitarist Carrie Brownstein announced from the Crystal Ballroom stage that she has finally made the move from Oly to P-Town, making the grrl-punk trio of Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss now a full-time PDX operation. And there was much rejoicing--except, perhaps, from local gas-station owners who thrive upon just such I-5 commuters.

ICY HOT
There's probably never a dull moment in the skull of Nate Andrews. That's where the brains behind The Natrons, The K-Bees and other Delta blues mutations cooks up all those krrrrazy ideas for self-promotion. (Remember when he locked himself in that super-sweet coffin for a day?) This week, Andrews has decided to take his alter-ego--Frank Furter & the Hot Dogs, a one-man band complete with kick drum, cymbal, harmonica and a full-size hot-dog costume--to a hockey game. On Friday, "Frank" will set up shop near the sausage vendor during the early part of the Winter Hawks' game at Memorial Coliseum; then, if all goes well, he aim to play on the ice itself during the break between the second and third periods. Reports have come in that another one-man band--drum-machine-toting '60s pop loverman Roger Nusic--may perform in his full rainbow glory as well. Not to be outdone, however, is ebullient piano troubadour Scott Fisher, whose eponymous Project is scheduled to play at none other than the Winter Olympics in February.

PORTLAND: ROCK STAR CITY, U.S.A.! (Part II)
Word from down San Francisco way is that Pleasure Forever, the devilishly decadent, cabaret-dwelling post-punk descendent of The VSS, will be drifting up from the fog-blanketed Bay Area (boooo!) to rain-soaked Portland (yeah!). As P.F. drummer Dave Clifford notes, "Does anyone still live in San Francisco?" The move will be on a trial basis at first, with potential for a permanent address change.

MISC. WAYS TO SPEND YOUR PAYCHECK
Keep an eye out for upcoming records promised from King Black Acid (see page 33), Slackjaw, The Vespertines, Richmond Fontaine, Docile, Alter Echo vs. DJ Wicked and undoubtedly more....

What's happenin', Rerun? Email hiss@wweek.com.

 
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