Monday, March 19, 2018

TREEFORT 2018—L.A. to Boise

Meanwhile, from that "other" city in California, Treefort has booked 32 musical acts for this year's festival. I figured I could recommend at least 10 of them so here goes, alphabetically.

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Jherek Bischoff / L.A.—And now for something completely different, or at least what might not be expected at the Treefort Music Festival: the alternative compositions of Jherek Bischoff whose music at times seems effortlessly beautiful and downright jubilant. Rather than leaning into the discordant with experimental excess, Bischoff remains an accessible classicist whose melodies are lifting and harmonic. In his 2012 release Composed, his melodies were sung by the likes of David Byrne and Caetano Veloso, amongst many other noted vocalists. I can only imagine how perfect his compositions will fly around the interior of the First Presbyterian Church: unexpected, unusual birds in flight.

Photo: Unknown, courtesy of the artist.
Treefort bio: Jherek Bischoff is a Los Angeles-based composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumental performer. In his 30-odd years, he has collaborated with the likes of Kronos Quartet, David Byrne, Neil Gaiman and Robert Wilson and has performed in venues and festivals around the globe, including Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Adelaide Festival and Tasmania’s MONA FOMA. His work as a composer has garnered commissions from Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center, and St Ann's Warehouse and has been performed by Seattle Symphony, Adelaide Art Orchestra, Wordless Music, Stargaze and yMusic.

His critically-acclaimed releases include Cistern, Composed, and a co-release with Amanda Palmer—Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute. In August of 2016, Bischoff was the artist in residence for Times Square’s Midnight Moment, where his video for "Cistern" was broadcast every night on Times Square's electronic billboards, culminating in two live performances in the middle of Times Square.

Bischoff’s work for film and television includes the documentary Thank You For Coming, Starz' Blunt Talk and Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Bischoff’s theater work includes Robert Wilson’s "Der Sandmann", "Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer" for Theater Basel and "Johnny Breitwieser" for Vienna’s Schauspielhaus. Currently, Bischoff is developing two theater productions, working on a collaborative release with Kronos Quartet, and is releasing new music via Patreon. He plays Treefort on Thursday, March 22, 2018, 8:20PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Bischoff’s compositions can be listened to on his Bandcamp page.


Photo: Unknown.
Dark Rooms / L.A.—Dramatic, at times frantic, music obsessed with haunting themes lends Dark Rooms' music a cinematic overlay that plays to the spectatorial mind. The songs are certainly written, performed and choreographed with the eye through a lens. Lead vocals are petlulant, sexy, and often soulfully forlorn and the beats offer opportunity for spiteful if spirited resistance.

Treefort bio: Dark Rooms is the name that Daniel Hart conjured up after years of touring and recording with bands like St. Vincent, Other Lives, The Rosebuds, Broken Social Scene, John Vanderslice, and The Polyphonic Spree. He became obsessed with photography, and wrote songs honoring that obsession. The band formed in Dallas, Texas, and now resides in Los Angeles, California.

Dark Rooms makes music influenced by their heroes, from Sigur Rós, to Four Tet, to Zapp, to The Delfonics.

Distraction Sickness is their newest album, following up their 2013 debut self-titled release. Distraction Sickness features “I Get Overwhelmed” from A24’s A Ghost Story. Their songs have been played on KCRW, KXT, The Adventure Club and various other radio stations and programs around the world. Dark Rooms play Treefort on Thursday, March 22, 2018, 10:00PM at the Neurolux. Distraction Sickness can be heard on Bandcamp.


Photo: Unknown.
De Lux / L.A.—As a child of the disco era, it's heartening to remember that some things—whether in or out of fashion—continue to exist despite critical or popular opinion. Such as, for example, young blood needing to hit a dance floor to work it all out. That never seems to get old, even though the young do. Even so, most of the songs on the latest album by De Lux, More Disco Songs About Love, get me up to dance and party smart. Forever.

Treefort bio: After establishing a sound on their debut Voyage and establishing an identity with the revelatory Generation, L.A. disco-not-disco duo De Lux took a moment to re-center and come back leaner, sharper, clearer and deeper on their new More Disco Songs About Love. Now that co-founders Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco know how to play and what to say, they’re ready to just get lost in the music. As the band puts it: “We like to say Voyage was our baby, Generation was our baby all grown up and More Disco Songs About Love thinks growing up sucks and just wants to party smart."

Their 2014 debut Voyage revealed De Lux as an outfit matching post-punk sentiment and the-sociopolitical-is-personal perspective to joyfully indulgent analog synthesizer soundscapes and a deliriously transportive musical joy. 2015’s Generation added an almost-documentary aspect to their dance music, delivering clearly personal stories of anxiety and aspiration. And 2015 also saw their first major festival appearance at Bonnaroo, the prelude to their hotly tipped Coachella debut in 2016 and then sharing a bill with Arcade Fire at New York City’s Panorama fest.

Now More Disco Songs is a stream-of-consciousness tour through De Lux’s reality. (With New York City dance-punk legend Sal P. of Liquid Liquid and the Pop Group’s maniacal Mark Stewart as guests, of course.) Though the title might seem like some kind of clever reference, it’s really simple and direct. The disco is the sound—in the most innovative way, of course—and the love is the sentiment: “It's all literal to us but we realize that it might not be for others,” they say. “We like the idea of giving listeners something to question. But there's love in there.” De Lux plays Treefort on Saturday, March 24, 10:00PM at El Korah Shrine. Their music can be listened to at Bandcamp.


Photo: Marc Ollivier
Hanni El Khatib / L.A.—Even though I know myself pretty well, Hanni El Khatib's music still makes me want to act out. Raucous, driven, mordant, Hanni El Khatib's songs make me laugh and cringe, often at the same time. His undeniably catchy drum rhythms give me a chance to dance and figure it all fucking out. Particularly infectious is his "Paralyzed" from his latest album Savage Times.

Treefort bio: On his 2011 debut Will The Guns Come Out, Hanni El Khatib tried something he'd never tried before—making a bedroom-style recording of his then stripped-to-the-skeleton guitar-and-drums rock 'n' roll mostly for the sheer joy of making it. For his ferocious 2013 follow-up Head In The Dirt, he tried something new again, showing up at producer Dan Auerbach's analog-dreamland Nashville studio with nothing but the clothes on his back and an open mind.

But after Head In The Dirt's release and almost a year of relentless touring, Hanni knew he needed to go past "unpredictable" all the way to "unprecedented." He needed isolation, time and the chance to experiment. So after 30 days locked in hand-picked L.A. studio The Lair, the result is the album Moonlight—the rarest and most welcome kind of album, made at that perfect point in life where confidence, experience, and technique unite to help an artist do anything they want.

That's why it starts with a song that sounds like a Mobb Deep beat under a Suicide-style synth drone and ends with an ESG-meets-LCD Soundsystem gone italo-disco song about life and death. That's why it collides crushing crate-digger drumbeats that'd be right at home on a Can LP or an Eddie Bo 45 with bleeding distorto guitar, bent and broken barroom piano and hallucinatory analog flourishes. (In fact, some smart producer is going to sample the drums from this album and complete the circle of life.) And that's also why Moonlight feels like the album he's always wanted to make: "What would it sound like if RZA got in the studio with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits?" he asks. "I don't know! That was my approach on everything."

It's a personal album in the most primal sense, put together in any way that worked. Iggy Pop and David Bowie did this kind of thing on The Idiot, the Wu-Tang Clan did it on 36 Chambers and the Clash did it three times over on Sandinista. And now it's Hanni's turn, across 11 new lightning-struck songs, each written and recorded in its own flash of inspiration. It sounds like an album made by an endless list of collaborators, but really Moonlight was more like the first do-it-almost-all-yourself music Hanni ever made, except after six years recording and touring, he'd learned to do so much more. Hanni El Khatib performs at Treefort on Friday, March 23, 2018, 10:15PM at El Korah Shrine. His EP Savage Fix is available for listening at Bandcamp.


Photo: Unknown.
KOLARS / L.A.—Incorporating the novelty of a drummer tapdancing on her bass drum, KOLARS goes above and beyond in satisfying a need to comport one's body with the beat. As such, they are probably the main act in the Treefort line-up whose music will make me swing, sway and/or even swirl. Please, lay no bets. I am super excited, though, about hearing them play "One More Thrill" live.

Treefort bio: KOLARS is a band of two members. Rob Kolar sings and strums his rollicking guitar, Lauren Brown uses her whole body as a percussive instrument. KOLARS has created a sonic world that straddles self-described genres such as Desert Disco, R&Beyond, Space Blues, and Glam-a-billy. Rob produces, mixes, and writes the material. His studio experimentation is incorporated into the live show. Lauren has invented her own drumming style. She tap dances rhythms with her feet atop a bass drum while simultaneously playing a stand-up kit. She uses this dance to transform beats into natural extensions of her movement. The two perform with energy, sweat, and excitement, thrilling audiences with their unabashed exuberance.

As members of glam-folk band He's My Brother She's My Sister, Rob and Lauren toured the U.S. and Europe extensively and sold out venues in every major city across the states, playing Bonnaroo, Summerfest, Voodoo, Firefly, Secret Garden Party, and Austin City Limits, and performed on late night television (Craig Ferguson). The band has taken their influences and experiences into a new futuristic realm with KOLARS. KOLARS plays Treefort on Friday night, March 23, 2018, 'round midnight. KOLARS can be listened to on Bandcamp.


Photo: Unknown.
La Louma / L.A.—Queer solidarity has just entered the room. I'm one of those gay guys who has listened to lesbian music since my early twenties, beginning with Holly Near. So I'm always excited by strong advances in representation. There's a strong First Nation vibe to La Louma, hinting at a warrior standing her feminine ground.

Treefort bio: For Lauren Ross, it took multiple breakdowns, lots of physical therapy, anti-depressants, and a move across the country before the clouds began to part, the music began to come, and La Louma emerged. On her debut, Let The World Be Flooded Out, she explores heavy subject matter in an upbeat atmosphere, merging her classical training with her DIY queer punk ethos.

Meticulously handcrafted over hundreds of hours of solitude, La Louma’s palette includes thickly melodic woodwinds and brass, electric guitar and bass, impatient drums, tremolo vocal undercurrents, and metaphor-laden lyrics. The LP’s tone repeatedly shifts unexpectedly from dramatic desperation to quiet contemplation, from a determined sprint to utter immobilization. Musically mirroring La Louma’s vagabond mind, each of the album’s richly transportive scenes are colored by carefully chosen modalities, timbres, instrumentations, and arrangements.

The opening track “The Decline of Nations” crashes through as a fist-raising call to “stay until you try to make things right”. As La Louma’s voice wails and breaks into a pointed and beautiful howl, it feels as though she could be singing to government officials, movement leaders, or even herself. Falling drum sticks and a slinking clarinet introduce "Candy", a mythology-driven song in which she vows to protect a narcissist from drowning in their own reflection—no matter the cost—while the more straightforward storytelling of the subtly Middle Eastern tinged "Just Wanna Love You" culminates in symphonic catharsis. The album's sonic anchor, "Tin Roof Now", makes use of nearly every instrument in La Louma's studio as she pleads for the simple sound of a heavy rain to "drown out [her] senses" and "let the world be flooded out". This album is a thematic whirlwind with a musical hurricane to match, but isn’t that what life often feels like? La Louma plays Treefort on Friday, March 23, 2018, 9:00PM at Boise All-ages Movement Project. La Louma's debut Let The World Be Flooded Out is available for listening on Bandcamp.


Photo: Unknown.,
raener / L.A.—It's vocals front and center for me with raener. These young men's high voices are committed to desultory tunes that seem at times ambient and other times like very sophisticated jazz.

Treefort bio: raener is Daniel Fox, Will van Boldrik, Zach Bilson, and Daniel Vanchieri. raener began in 2015 as an experiment in a dewey garage in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles when the boys decided to make music with their hands and voices. Drawing on a number of influences across genres, raener puts their foot in the door of uncharted sonic territory. raener plays Treefort on Sunday, March 25, 2018, 9:00PM at Boise All-ages Movement Project. raener's music can be listened to at Bandcamp.


Photo: Unknown.
The Regrettes / L.A.—This mainly all-girl (+ 1 guy) punk group deliver sass, spite, and admirable punches of reflexive humor. They banter with sexual expectation, and play out the fantasies they don't feel compelled to fulfill. Most of all, they rock!

Treefort bio: Perfectly imperfect—that’s one way to describe LA based punk act, The Regrettes. Writing songs that proudly bear a brazen and unabashed attitude in the vein of acts Courtney Barnett or Karen O—with a pop aesthetic reminiscent of 50’s and 60’s acts a la the Temptations or Buddy Holly—the LA based four piece create infectious, punk driven tracks.

Lead by outspoken frontwoman, Lydia Night, and comprised of Genessa Gariano on guitar, Sage Chavis on bass and drummer Maxx Morando, the group have left the LA rock scene floored, managing to capture the hearts of jaded rock critics while opening for acts like Kate Nash, Jack Off Jill, Bleached, Pins, Deep Vally and more. With nothing but demos available online, the group are already beginning to generate hype, from outlets like NPR, and with NYLON already heralding them them as a “punk act you should be listening to”.

From the opening moments on a track by The Regrettes, we’re greeted with a wall of guitars, infectious melodies and a wistful nostalgia that continues right until the final notes. Taking cues from acts like Hinds and Hole, there’s a wistful sense of youth and vulnerability that lies at the heart of each song.

A song by The Regrettes is, essentially, a diary entry into Lydia’s life. “My music is a spectrum of every emotion that I have felt in the last year, and you can hear that when you hear the songs. Everything that is happening in my life influences me. It’s everything from boys, to friends, to being pissed off at people, to being really sad. Just everything.”

The most intoxicating draw of The Regrettes is their bashful, heart-on-your-sleeve temperament—writing urgent and fast-paced pop songs with a punk rock mentality. “The way that we write, it’s all based on honesty,” muses Lydia on the group’s punk aesthetic. “If I finish a song, I’ll just leave it—I won’t really go back to it. I like things to feel in the moment and I don’t want it to be perfect. If I work on something too much I lose it and get bored and I want to do the next one.”

Lydia’s not afraid to have her feelings on display. “I am not scared of anyone judging me, I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck if someone doesn’t like what I have to say. For every person that likes you, there’s a person that doesn’t like you. No matter what, if people can relate to the music then it’s worth it. That’s what is cool for me.” And at the end of the day, isn’t that what punk music is all about? The Regrettes play Treefort on Friday, March 23, 2018, 11:00PM, at Boise All-ages Movement Project. You can listen to The Regrettes on Soundcloud.


Photo: Unknown.
Sego / L.A.—I really dig the slack, bad-boy vibe in Sego's infectiously pop songs. Their last three singles alone have risen right up to my listening queues, especially last September's "Whatever Forever" and it's truly sexy video (offered below). Hearing that tune live will be a Treefort dream come true.

Treefort bio: Sego's Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll were both birthed in the burgeoning Provo, Utah music scene. However, finding inspiration in the dissonance that the towering structures and bustling city offers over the mountains and relative quiet of Provo, both relocated to an old pasta factory in downtown LA. Through various projects together, both founding members uncovered their distinct sound: lazy, grungy guitars with digital overlays and refreshingly honest lyrics. The band’s debut album surprises with angular guitars, complex arrangements and musings from an 80’s kid contemplating the void left from the misguided hope of our youth. Sego plays Treefort on Friday, March 23, 2018, 8:20PM at The Knitting Factory (Main Room). You can listen to Sego's music at their Bandcamp page.


Photo courtesy of the artist.
Dave Stringer / L.A.—Of course music is not always about driving beats, catchy riffs or angry vocals. Stringer's music incorporates Eastern modalities to complicate his songs of spiritual belief, which come across sincere, heartfelt and often soothing.

Treefort bio: Dave Stringer is a Grammy®-nominated producer, singer, composer, writer, and teacher who has been widely profiled as one of the most innovative artists of the modern Yoga movement. Stringer’s sound connects the transcendent mysticism of traditional Indian instruments with the exuberant, groove-oriented sensibility of American Gospel and the ringing harmonies of Appalachia. His work engages the traditions of yoga philosophy, chanting, and meditation with the language and methods of neuroscience, translating them into modern participatory theatre, open to a multiplicity of interpretations and accessible to all. Dave is an articulate and inspiring public speaker, and is featured in the upcoming film Mantra: Sounds Into Silence. He has toured extensively, leading concerts, workshops and retreats all over the world. Dave Stringer plays Treefort on Thursday, March 22, 2018, 5:30PM at the First Presbyterian Church. His music is available on Bandcamp.


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