A couple of nights ago I saw a lovely and unusual quartet from Olympia open for Laura Veirs in Nashville, called Lake. Laura had brought them on tour, even though their first date together in Chicago was Lake's first club date-ever. They'd reportedly done some performing previously, but only in house concert type situations.
I liked them a lot. As Laura put it in our interview today, part of the Northwest aesthetic is not to be too polished, and they weren't suffering from that. But no matter. They all switched instruments every song! And they all played everything pretty dang well, and sang to boot. It was totally refreshing to me--the songs were parallel pop (pop from a parallel universe, I mean) and completely unfettered by, well, anything.
Here are three video clips of the band, shot at the show:
So, this is a review of a couple of things that have to do with Lake. First, I listened to an eponymous CD on the KELP! label. (KELP! is the brainchild of Karl Blau, one of the Saltbreakers, Laura Veirs' band.) It's out there, but it's really good, and it's fun. In terms of its availability, we refer you to the KELP! website. KELP! is a mostly monthly periodical CD label where many cutting edge bands and artists can be found, to which one can subscribe.
The rest of what I heard were all cassettes, from a cassette label called brown interiour music, also from Olympia WA. I had to drive across town to my storage locker to find a cassette player first, that's how long it had been. The label is owned by Lake member Andrew Dorsett, Matt Topartzer, and co-founder Mark Morrison. Apparently cassette labels have been going on as an alternative or as a reaction to digital media (CDs, downloads, iPods, etc.) since CDs appeared. Cassette enthusiasts dislike the impermanence of CDS (they scratch, and will wear out in time, etc.), and don't like music being boiled down to 0's and 1's; they prefer magnetic particles on tape.
The first tape was from Ashley Eriksson, excellent parallel pop. There's probably nothing like this crew going on in your town--there certainly is nothing going on like it in Nashville TN that I have heard about. The second tape I heard was, I believe, a solo effort of Andrew Dorsett's called "mattress sound"--this was a soundscape of some kind that, honestly, I didn't know what to make of. (To hear a couple of guitar & voice songs by Dorsett, also known as "dash A," visit his myspace page.) The third tape was a Lake tape. Primitive sounding, but compelling. There was a warmth and a fatness to the cassette format that I'd forgotten about. We've all gotten used to CDs, to mp3's, to downloads and ringtones, and I haven't heard an LP in a long time. The last time I heard one, a friend put on Sly Stone on an old Bell & Howell stereo like they'd have had in my high school, and I thought I'd lose my mind, it sounded so phat.
So, anyhow--check out brown interiour music, check out Lake, check out KELP!, you're bound to find somebody or something you think is great, I certainly did. I think I'm gonna go buy a cassette machine, and take a trip out to Portland, and maybe Olympia, too. There's a lot of cool stuff going on out there. • Frank Goodman