Thursday, May 14, 2009

Demo Submissions: Part 2

Months have passed. Demos have been piling up. The bins fill and the task of listening becomes more daunting as each week passes. I'm amazed at the steady flow, the hard cash spent on packaging and postage... And more amazed that I'm starting to think of this as a task. Which sucks. Because I want to love them all.

I guess I have to say it - originality still counts. A lot. Many of the submissions fall into either of two categories: Bands that are heavily influenced by Minus the Bear, or music that builds toward the inevitable 'Explosion in the Sky'. I get it - it's really fun to play hyper-melodic and dynamic music - but why would a label be interested in a sound-a-like version of one of their already successful acts? Anything after the fact is formula.

Yet these clone-groups make up only a fraction of what comes in...

A great majority of the music submitted is so far from being anywhere near a thing we would release it's to the point of ridiculousness. Quick scrutiny of the label's website or MySpace page would reveal our interests (albeit on a very basic level). There's zero chance of SSR releasing a traditional honky-tonk record or placing a collection of beats by a hip hop producer... We'll listen to these along with the rest, and probably fucking love some of them... But some music remains outside this label's sphere of interest/influence/understanding. Even if the desire existed, we're simply not positioned to place it in a way that would benefit anyone - artist or label. Why burn energy and resources promoting an album of truck driver country when there's already a long list of vital music that's much closer to our collective heart?

That said, there's a fairly wide range of music that does interest us: Some of it swirling underground, still developing... Some obvious to all: I mean, what independent record label wouldn't want to release a Deerhunter or No Age single this year? Here two are current - near perfect - examples of bands that are closing on the pinnacle of their individual visions; their music is both catchy and disorienting by turns, textured, melodic, and perhaps most importantly, surprising (considered in context). They are becoming indie touchstones: the bands that younger bands emulate.

Anyway. Suicide Squeeze does get a lot of cool stuff in the mail. The best music often gets buried under an avalanche of grossness... That's to be expected... Thing is: the music I'm getting most out of is happening around me all the time... As much as I'd like to highlight a few demos, I find that there's a lot more to talk about purely on the local level.

The number of musicians hovering around Seattle and Olympia - that are playing shows and self-releasing music of extreme quality - is just ridiculous... I'm talking about bands/labels/releases that easily parallel, if not surpass, most of the albums I spend my food and drug money on...

Yah, it's like that everywhere... Iowa City, Atlanta, Portland, Los-Smell-Angeles; even fucking Brooklyn must have a wealth of sound secreted away, songs so new the Pitchfork trident has yet to pierce them...

Back when I was living in Ohio, I thought that nothing could touch the diversity of music surfacing between Akron and Cleveland, where divergent scenes developed massive potency in relative isolation. I realize now that the personal connections I had with these players - either as friends, or because I saw so many of their shows - made all the difference. You study what interests you; you move closer to the things you love: you do these things because they come naturally, because what is unforced almost always makes the most sense. Nothing in nature says no.

Which brings me to Levi Fuller and his Ball of Wax Series... Levi really does too much for Seattle. He runs with a myriad of sonic projects (all of them worthy of attention), is deeply involved with Hollow Earth Radio, and acts as a kind of scene curator/taste-maker by focusing attention on his favorite local music through Ball of Wax.

I went to Ball of Wax 16 at The Sunset earlier this month, unsure of what to expect... $7 got me in the door, plus a copy of the latest installment: a booklet and CD tucked in a cardboard folder. Unexpected, and cool.

The music compiled on the disk rolls across a landscape of varied sound... Eighteen area musicians contribute a track (including one from each of the night's performers). However, the show leaned hard on the rocking/singing material, leaving the quieter, private moments for later listening. [I'm sure Sokai Stilhed either has, or will participate in future shows]. If the billing had been better balanced, it may have more accurately reflected Levi's overall aesthetic choices... but this is a very minor gripe. Of all the live acts, BLOUSE went the furthest afield. I've played the fuck out of his song "Pimm" ever since, but I couldn't suppress a distracting fit of giggles once the yogi-spirit-wiz (in sunglasses) began to twist on stage, arms flapping, as his incense smoked off a small table.

I'll attend more of these events because they stress exactly what I was trying to convey earlier in the post - about the personal connection I feel after witnessing a performance, and how that connection intensifies when there's a musical reminder to take home... The way Levi does it, one experience illuminates another. The audio, visual and social elements are brought together in a way that encourages deeper exploration and understanding. And that rips.