In honour of the Year of the Water Snake and the festival's ninth year running, Symbiosis Gathering 2013 took us to the stunning isolation of Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, CA to lose ourselves in an unbeatable line-up, and to then find ourselves in poetry, trees, healing domes, sacred fires and endless dives into the lake (for which we are all grateful). With an emphasis on the magic of transformation, Symbiosis provided an enchanted space of bio-psycho-spiritual healing, environmental and sociocultural conscious learning, and a unique source of musical inspiration. Among the many loved and soon-to-be loved artists was the powerful voice of Lynx, the free-flowing explorations of Mount Kimbie, and the ever-passionate words of The Coup.
Photography by Setareh Vatan

Lynx

Out of the untamed medley of transcendental ritual and primal movement that coloured the ether emerged, like a wild cat to the stage, Lynx: a woman whose roar resonated with deep earthy sounds that, like any shamanic heartbeat, carried the audience into a trance. Lynx's style marries folk, electronica, and traces of indie pop with her own beat-boxing, into a highly satisfying cross-genre hybrid, arousing overwhelming appreciation from a crowd immersed in continuous proclamations of love. With her first album, October 2010's On The Horizon, this Bay Area-brewed artist has been charming the world with her strong vocals for some time, and yet my first taste of her at Symbiosis was certainly a highlight of the festival for me, as it no doubt was for many others. Lynx creates a raw, sensual atmosphere throughout songs that swing from downtempo to upbeat rhythms. Her lyrics evoke archetypal imagery of a profound feminine power. On The Horizon presents a magical copulation of the inner unconscious in a poetic dance with a surreal surface world, as Lynx sings of existential ruminations amid romantic sentiments in a lyrical journey that hints at a negotiation of the self. At a festival focused on the partnership between two states of being, Lynx reaches symbiotic perfection through both technical eclectic success and a smooth voice that seduces the audience into watery world balanced between the emotive and the physical, leaving the crowd soaked in enjoyment and hungry for more. Luckily for all of Lynx's pre-existing fans and the new ones she created at Symbiosis (such as myself), her new album, Light Up Your Lantern, will be released on October 22nd.

One of the most peculiar things about living in Seattle at the moment is the fact that there are not one, but two ridiculously over-the-top psych rock divas here. I mean, what are the freaking odds? Of course, I've probably written about Midday Veil to the point of complete overkill by now, but you know, they continue to do weird shit that amazes me, so until that stops, I'll keep up with it. What I haven't mentioned is the oneiric excellence of their smoky contemporaries Rose Windows. The reason for that probably has to do with the fact that it took several years to congeal their debut album, The Sun Dogs, into existence. Although the band initially blew me away live due largely to the sheer concussive force of vocalist Rabia Qazi, it wasn't until the disc dropped in June (on Sub Pop Records, no less) that I truly processed the depth of songwriting and lyrical complexity going down in that camp. Highly recommended. As it turns out, this depth comes largely from the blazed mind of guitarist Chris Cheveyo, and as I learned when I caught up with him by e-mail, it's channeled primarily from deep meditative states. How do musicians initially trained in oppressive religious traditions end up twerking on stage with Big Freedia (that happened) and making cameos in upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson movies? Weed, that's how. Read on, true believers.

Califone Stitches Dead Oceans (2013)Califone - Stitches Album ReviewPeople go to the desert to find themselves. Califone's honey-baritoned lead singer Tim Ruttili went looking for himself in the endless sands of the American Southwest, and with their latest, Stitches, returns with the band's most vital and compelling record since 2003's Quicksands/Cradlesnakes. Stitches was recorded at various locations across Arizona, Texas and Southern California, where Rutilli's been living for the past few years. This is the first Califone record to be recorded outside of their native Chicago; they've traded steel and chrome skyscrapers for wide open skies and the promise of the sea. This translocation has had a profound impact on Califone's music; Stitches radiates stillness and expansiveness, the aural equivalent of driving in the sun across the Mojave, or watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
Califone - "Stitches" - DOWNLOAD MP3 [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Califone-Stitches.mp3|titles=Califone - Stitches]

Portland's MusicfestNW has always had one of the more diverse festival lineups around. A large part of that is because -- rather than jamming thousands upon thousands of people asses to elbows in a huge field on some farm somewhere -- MusicfestNW puts the action into venues scattered around Portland, setting the population loose. It is less of a festival and more a set of well-curated shows that all just happen to take place on the same weekend. Accordingly, I skipped around town to see multiple acts, my favorite of which were Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Roseland Theatre, Mount Eerie at Aladdin Theatre, and Frank Fairfield at Bunk Bar.

Mount Eerie

Mount EerieThere are few constants in life, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is that every Mount Eerie performance is going to be different from the last. At this year's MusicfestNW that may or may not have been the case considering Mount Eerie opened for Bonnie Prince Billy two nights in a row at Aladdin Theater -- but if you caught one of those sets, it was probably quite a different affair from the last time you saw Phil Elverum perform. Elverum is an adaptable performer. Aladdin Theatre is a sit-down venue, and a Bonnie "Prince" Billy show necessitates a fairly muted and low-key scene. Sure, the sold-out crowd was buzzing, but they were buzzing about as much as you can for a headliner that plays Americana and folk. Mount Eerie's performance switched to match that feeling in the air. On stage, it was just Elverum with an acoustic guitar flanked by two female singers, singing backup vocals and doing verbal renditions of some of the instruments on his songs. It was a change from sometimes noisy and fairly abrasive solo shows. The chatter overheard afterwards ranged from people wondering who the hell Mount Eerie was to those wondering what the hell Mount Eerie was doing. It was an odd set from Elverum for sure, but a bold one, and one that he hit right on the button. Sometimes -- especially with Mount Eerie's recent sounds -- it's easy to forget how soft Elverum's music is at times (see: “Through The Trees", below). This particular performance was one that seemed a little bit out of left field, but it was one that worked as well if you appreciate the variety of Elverum's music. Editor's Note: We should probably also mention his upcoming November 2013 LP, the ironically-titled Pre-Human Ideas, which features auto-tuned versions of songs from his recent LPs. Yeah. Seriously.

When I was younger, I used to think that I'd live to like in another era, preferably one where the music was more akin to my own tastes. When I really think about it, however, a collector like me can only thrive in the digital era. Rarities are too hard to find otherwise; if there's only a bare handful of copies of a record in existence, the odds of finding it are much smaller. The internet is the great equalizer if you're looking for something obscure, as it's brought together the collectors into one community. Here's a few of my suggestions for getting your musical fix: Linda Perhacs, Charlie Christian, Earl Hines, Tampa Red, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.
See all Forgotten Gems & Dusty Classics Posts

Linda Perhacs

Linda PerhacsMost of my music falls on the older side, but I think that I have fairly broad tastes in music nonetheless. Psychedelia is an area of interest for me because I like the idea of widening one's perception of reality, and I like the sense of something that's otherworldly – especially when it's not too electronic and is more on the acoustic side. This is what drew me to Linda Perhacs. Finding information on her can be difficult because she spent a great deal of time in obscurity. She became known for a single album in 1970, Parallelograms. The album sold poorly and the record label, Kapp, didn't want to promote it, so she returned to work as a dental technician for three decades while her record became a hot collectible item, completely unbeknownst to her. She was recently rediscovered and has two additional albums waiting to be released.
Every article I can find on her compares her to Joni Mitchell, which is beyond the scope of this article. Her style isn't simple so much as stripped down to its most essential pieces. The melodies can be atonal at times, preventing the music from being too atonal, but it's never so out there that it becomes off-putting. "Dolphin," "Parallelogram" and "Moons and Cattails" are my favorite songs of hers. Linda Perhacs - "Dolphin" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Dolphin.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Dolphin] Linda Perhacs - "Moon and Cattails" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Moon-And-Cattails.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Moon and Cattails] Linda Perhacs - "Parallelograms" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Parallelograms.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms]  

Charlie Christian (1916 – 1942)

Charlie ChristianCharlie Christian is one of the greatest guitar players jazz has produced, and to say that he is forgotten is in error. He's well-known among jazz aficionados for having played with some of the greatest musicians of his time -- but he's still relatively unknown among the public at large. He died young, from tuberculosis at the age of 25, and he never fronted a large orchestra or well-known group. However, he played a critical role in the development of bebop. Christian grew up in Oklahoma City and made a name for himself as a local talent. He was mentioned to John Hammond, Benny Goodman's record producer and a keen talent scout, who then introduced him to Goodman. Goodman didn't care for Christian at first and tried to throw him off during their first live performance by playing a song, "Rose Room", that he thought Christian wouldn't know. Christian ended up leading the group on a forty minute rendition of the song, earning him a spot in Goodman's orchestra. While in Goodman's group, Christian often led late-night jam sessions at New York clubs. These musicians were interested in expanding jazz's musical boundaries and included Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Don Byas and others. He died in 1942 but left behind some live recordings that show where he was headed musically. "Rose Room," the song that earned Christian a spot in Goodman's group, is a good song to get an idea of Christian's technique. His stated goal was to play like a tenor saxophonist, and he often played in a style similar to Lester Young. "Flying Home" is another classic of the Goodman sextet and features some of Christian's best work. Finally, if you want to hear what Christian was doing to help develop bebop, listen to "Swing to Bop", where he solos for the first two minutes in a jam session at Minton's in New York. Charlie Christian - "Flying Home" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Flying-Home.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Flying Home] Charlie Christian - "Swing To Bop" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Swing-To-Bop.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Swing To Bop]

Layla Sailor's gorgeous photo series, Kokoshnik, examines the traditional Russian headdress in a gloriously colorful and modern fashion. Historically worn by married women from the 16th to 19th centuries, the customary kokoshnik is generally characterized by a nimbus crest-like shape and decorative design. By contrast, Sailor's photos, a collaboration with designer Lisa Stannard, are an apt abstraction of the traditional headdress, incorporating lively geometric forms as well floral and animalistic elements, while honoring the intense, ornate design of the traditional pieces. The impetus for the series was to challenge how pattern is photographed, but nearing its completion, Kokoshnik took on additional meaning, as a way to show support for the members of the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot, a feminist punk rock group who were protested the Orthodox Church's support of Vladimir Putin on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior and were subsequently arrested. In Sailor's photo, the phase “Let Our Sisters Go” is placed prominently and resonates as solidarity for the cause of freeing Pussy Riot. The Kokoshnik project is exemplary of Sailor's affinity for color and her talent for displaying imaginative and cinematic images.In the interview below, Sailor dishes on her dreamy style, her lifelong passion for folk art, and the distinctions between commercial and personal work.

 

A review of the Pickathon Music Festival, located on Pendarvis Farm just a short bike ride away from Portland, Oregon, is a tough thing to approach. An honest review will be one of the most favorable things you will read, because Pickathon is one of the most well-put together, intentional, everything-that-is-right-with-America musical festivals there is. It is a bit difficult to be objective and maintain credibility while oozing and gushing over every aspect of the three-day indie roots festival as though it's a schoolyard crush... but let's give it the ol' college try anyway!
"Since day one, the idea behind Pickathon has always been pretty simple: what does it take to be the best weekend festival of the year for music lovers? This question has driven us to highly refine an experience that is truly unique. Innovation has always been at the center of this process and through the years many important elements have come together; collaborating widely on yearly diverse lineups that are built on the idea of great music being the sole criteria; refining six unique performance venues designed to create juxtaposing alternate realities; trusting important decisions can be discussed and made with our online community such as maintaining a low crowd density; becoming the only large music festival to eliminate plastic and minimize single use items; recruiting the finest food and drink purveyors in the land; focusing constantly on eliminating "normal" festival hassles; enabling families to thrive; working with the Pendarvis Family to create a highly designed paradise of a festival grounds, and the list goes on." - Pickathon Festival

 

Fox & Woman - This Side Dawn Album ReviewFox & Woman This Side Dawn Name Drop Swamp Records On their debut LP, This Side Dawn, eclectic pop-folk-jazz-rock band Fox & Woman gives us an exciting window into their developing hybridized sound. Throughout the album, satisfying pop-inspired moments catch our ear while sporadic bursts of musical potential demand our attention. Though hindered somewhat by its unfocused instrumentation, This Side Dawn suggests the artistic honesty and commitment necessary for the band to ultimately hone in on their unique sound.

 

Amassing rare and forgotten music is a peculiar sort of hobby -- one that slowly transforms into an addiction. It's not that I don't love mainstream music. It's just that the thrill of listening to some forgotten gem that everybody else has overlooked is powerful. It also feeds into the collector's impulse I have to overturn every stone to find that song, and my love of complete collections. Not surprisingly, I also like to collect comic books. I guess I'm the type. In any event, here are five lesser-known musicians that I believe everybody should give a listen to, dating as far back as the 1910s and focusing on jazz, folk, and blues.

Don Byas (1912 – 1972)

I discovered Don Byas entirely by accident. I was listening to a Charlie Christian fan recording made in 1941, which was a musician's after-hours gig. There was a tenor saxophone present for some of the songs that sounded so much like Coleman Hawkins that I read the liner notes to see if it was him – only to discover that it wasn't the Hawk, but a guy named Don Byas. I quickly borrowed all the Don Byas CDs I could request and immediately got into him. His playing consistently impressed me, just as it did on that initial Charlie Christian album. Early bebop musicians like Byas were rooted in Swing traditions but wanted to play around with harmonic structure in their songs and experiment, which for me is a "best of both worlds" situation. Don Byas should be on the list of brilliant tenor saxophone players, among Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Sonny Rollins. In collaboration with Hawkins, he made what are considered to be the first Bebop recordings in 1944. Yet he is frequently omitted in jazz history courses, in books and in documentaries, meaning that newer fans of jazz might miss him entirely. Part of this is because Byas lived in Europe from 1945 onward and rarely visited the United States, giving him a large European audience but a smaller American fanbase. You might start by checking out the song that got me hooked: "Stardust" with Charlie Christian.
Purchase Don Byas Albums On Amazon ++ LEARN MORE ABOUT DON BYAS Don Byas - "1944 Stomp" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Don-Byas_1944-Stomp.mp3|titles=Don Byas - 1944 Stomp] Don Byas - "Byas A Drink" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Don-Byas_Byas-A-Drink.mp3|titles=Don Byas - Byas A Drink]  

In the music video for Strangefruit's "Sea of Fog", husband-wife duo Laura Clarke and Matthew Oaten weave together visual cues from David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, and Mikhail Bahktin, as well as incorporating themes of sexuality and visceral natures. The result is a morbid, eye-catching and initially misleading feast of fools. We spoke with both the video artists and the band below, on the process of shooting the music video, as well as its deeper philosophical context.

Strangefruit (Musician)

"Ghosts" and "Tell Me" come from Strangefruit's debut EP, Between The Earth and Sea, which is out now. "Tell Me" was recorded and produced at Abbey Road with Greg Wells (Adele/Rufus Wainwright/Pharrell Williams/Katy Perry), and "Ghosts" was produced by (The Killers, Goldfrapp, White Lies). Stream both tracks below.   "Ghosts" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Strangefruit-Ghosts.mp3|titles=Strangefruit -- Ghosts] "Tell Me" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Strangefruit-Tell-Me-Abby-Road.mp3|titles=Strangefruit -- Tell Me (Abbey Road Version)]

Laura Clarke (Director) & Matthew Oaten (DoP)

Laura Clarke: "Matthew and I have collaborated on several films over the years, but the film I am most proud of to date is a film I made in 2010 called Punctum. Punctum has been screened all over the world, most recently the Brighton Fringe Festival, but also the Young persons Moscow Biennale, the London Short Film Festival and a show called Screen in Barcelona. It follows a young girl's journey from innocence to experience, exploring the liminal space of puberty."

Strangefruit -- "Sea of Fog" Music Video

Please scroll to the bottom of the post for the music video.
"The original concept was that the music video would become almost like an art film. Something powerful, dramatic and theatrical, drawing on my research into psychoanalytical theories revolving around the origins of desire, sexuality and power. Exploring gender roles, the uncanny, the macabre, and Freudian theories of death and sex. I loved the idea of a banqueting table that looked opulent and decadent at first glance, and then upon closer inspection, was a decaying, rotting mess. The vulnerable, naked woman in the center of the feast, being devoured not only by the men, but by women too. The idea being that a feast is always a precursor to either death, violence or sex." - Laura Clarke