Outlander in the Emerald City: Helvetia (Artist Profile)

image

After the dissolution of the LA-based space rock band Duster, former drummer Jason Albertini moved up to Seattle and founded the experimental indie rock group, Helvetia.  Named after the female personification of Switzerland (Albertini’s childhood home), Helvetia’s music combines the reverb-drenched guitar effects of space rock with the percussions of a classy jazz outfit.  With a lineup seemingly stuck in eternal rotation, Helvetia’s music is anything but homogenous.  Albertini’s songwriting partners have included other former Duster members, bassist Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr., Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and many, many more.  The band’s breadth of songwriting ability and large music catalog is impressive: since their full-length debut A Clever North Wind dropped in 2006, Helvetia have released four other studio albums and three compilations, and continue to release new songs on their Facebook page about once a week. 

Due to the difficulties I would no doubt face attempting to summarize the full-blown Helvetia musical experience for you, I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites that I feel exhibit the most important themes.  Here goes nothing:

Old, New Bicycle”:  This was my first favorite, and continues to give me chills every time that tasty rolling tom fill introduces the song.  This track (like many others) can be categorized by its cohesive yet dueling nature.  The jazzy percussion hardly changes throughout the entire track, allowing a strong surface for the multiple guitar and vocal parts to “duke it out” on.  The rhythm guitar is smooth, unfolding easily into the lo-fi atmosphere the drums have created.  But before long, the lead guitar rips an off-kilter solo that builds with intensity and cuts out just when it was ready to burst, giving way to the higher-pitched vocal melody, both of which complement the lower tonality of the rhythm parts perfectly.  The lead guitar continues its competition for space throughout the song, challenging the other parts ferociously but intelligently conceding when the overlap would be too much.  This allows the song to ebb and flow intensely and gracefully, leaving the listener panting for more by its finish.  

RyBro”: From their latest album Nothing in Rambling (2012), this chunky alt-rock jam incorporates two rhythm guitars, this time working with the vocals in rhythmic stops.  Just as before, the theme of competition persists, with the lead ripping in once vocals drop out.  This track’s bridge part is entirely unique, taking cues from space rock predecessors in order to create a temporary dream-world for the listener to float around in for a little while.  The trance is broken with a classically intense (and fantastically groovy) solo to bring us all back down to earth.  

In Every Hour” [BONUS TRACK]: After an especially long day of drowning myself in spacey jams, I came upon this gem in the depths of the internet – a previously unreleased track from who knows when.  Unlike the others mentioned above, this song is as mellow as Helvetia’s music gets, featuring parts that actually work together for its entirety!  Although periodically interrupted by rhythmic blasts from the chorus, the lead is entirely complementary of the laid-back vibe this tune gives off.  Albertini’s vocal harmonies give a haunted hue, turning this dream into a wonderfully creepy nightmare. 

Although they haven’t toured in a while, Helvetia’s Facebook page and SoundCloud are fairly active, featuring rough demo releases once a week.  

image
Katie Hanford

Begin Again

Here’s an unusual post! No, this isn’t a post about a playlist for a gloomy day or the latest concert that happened in town. Neither is it a post about the freshest sound yet to be discovered worldwide. However, this post is about a movie called “Begin Again” which I recently watched.

John Carney does it again! The director of the musical romance movie, “Once” has yet again directed and written another musical romance movie. It stars the amazing Mark Ruffalo who acts as an out-of-the-job music producer who spends his days getting drunk and basically sucking at life. His life turns upside down when he meets a recently single woman named Gretta (Keira Knightley), strumming her guitar on stage and performing an original acoustic song of hers. He sees the talent in her and offers her the opportunity to record an album of all her original songs. They both set out working together to form an amazing band and recording an independent music album around the streets of New York.

Never would I have thought that Keira Knightley had the voice of an angel. She sings mostly acoustic guitar-ish kind of songs in the movie. Although the music may come off as kind of tacky, they are pretty addictive! With Keira Knightley’s surprisingly good voice, I was taken in by the soundtrack. 

Okay, I lied in the beginning. Here’s a video with the songs from the original soundtrack. Honestly, they’re not too bad!

Did I mention that the sexy Adam Levine is in the movie as well? All the more reason to give the movie a shot!

Although the movie, not as great as John Carney’s “Once”, it was still captivating. Maybe I’m only giving it praises because I’m a sucker for romance movies and musicals. But hey, RottenTomatoes gave it an 83% and as far as I know, RottenTomatoes has never let me down before.

image
Ellisha “I had a pretty shitty week so I decided to stay in and watch love movies” Rosli

Album Anniversaries: 1994 Edition

image

If the large number of Rolling Stone/NME/Mojo special anniversary editions on sale recently is any indicator, there’s been quite a few 20th anniversaries of album releases this year. It seems that 1994 was a pretty good year, musically. So, for those who may have missed them the first time around, let’s take a look at a few of those albums and see how they hold up. As Stephen Malkmus sings on “Gold Soundz,” let’s “go back, to those gold sounds…”

Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Pavement’s second album is arguably their most accessible one, and it did yield the band its highest-charting single, the infectious “Cut Your Hair.” It’s a mystery why weren’t other hits from the album—”Elevate Me Later” is a jam in a similar vein to “Cut Your Hair,” and the appropriately-named “Gold Soundz” is another fine piece of pop. There’s also “Unfair,” a (possibly sarcastic) ode to California that makes me want to cruise through the Golden State “with my credit card in the air,” as the song goes. Some moments on the album are a bit weirder (like the instrumental “5-4=Unity”, a tribute to jazz artist Dave Brubeck), and, as always, Stephen Malkmus’ lyrics are kind of out there (“Charge it like a puzzle/Hit me wearing muzzles”). But such strangeness only adds to the album’s charm. Long story short: if you’ve ever wanted a good introduction to the world of Pavement, or if you’re just looking for a good listen, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’s your album.

Weezer – Weezer
Weezer’s self-titled debut, also known as The Blue Album, is probably the most well-known album on this list. It’s gone triple platinum in the U.S., and even if that means nothing to you, it’s likely that you’ve heard “Buddy Holly” before. And, of course, Weezer are a pretty established act these days. Nonetheless, I’m including the album here anyway because there has to be someone out there who hasn’t listened to the entire thing. And to that someone, I say, you should. The singles, like the aforementioned “Buddy Holly” and the almost comically pathos-laden “Undone – The Sweater Song,” are all well and good, but the album tracks are certainly worth listen to as well. “Surf Wax America,” for example, is a ode to surfing that’s on par with “Buddy Holly” in pure euphoria, and the closing track, “Only In Dreams” is an eight-minute-long power pop epic, concluding with a soaring guitar solo. It’s a fine way to close a fine album.

Blur – Parklife
Though Blur didn’t catch on too well in the U.S. charts (aside from their ubiquitous single “Song 2”), their third album, Parklife, has gone quadruple platinum in the U.K. Perhaps this difference in popularity is due to the band’s overwhelming Britishness, of which the title track is a prime example, with its bewildering opening line of “
Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as parklife.” Cultural gaps aside, Parklife is just a great pop album. Good songs to start with are the disco-inflected “Girls & Boys” (though its chorus can get a bit confusing to sing along to), the swooning “To the End” (which features Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier singing in French), and the new-wavey “Trouble in the Message Centre” (no comments here… it’s just really catchy). The best track is arguably the gorgeous “This is a Low.“ It involves Damon Albarn singing about Britain’s shipping forecast, of all things (again with the Britishness), but it’s actually kind of moving. Blur would go on to reach Pavement levels of weirdness on their later albums, but in 1994, they were the kings of Britpop.

To end, I’ll leave you with this ‘90s alt-rock vocal hook supercut, which includes song clips from all three of these albums. It might make you feel kind of nostalgic, even if you don’t remember the ‘90s at all. It did for me, at least.

image
LeAnn Nguyen

Rad Report: Experimental Label–Danger Collective Records–Expands to Seattle

There are very few times that a dream is captured and transformed into reality. So often we realize that we’ve aspired our whole lives toward one goal and never fully achieved it. This is clearly not the circumstance in the case of Danger Collective Records—an experimental record label started and based in Los Angeles—which was created on a brilliant principle of “by artists for artists” in January of 2014. A few old friends of mine from high school created this label—Reed Kanter is the original founder with help from Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Patrick Jewett, and Nolan Pearson. “When [Reed] started the label [he] was trying to put this idea of…‘talent without fans’…into motion” 

(Reed Kanter), and the dream seems to have come true. After growing up in a somewhat isolated area in the mountains surrounding the LA area where there wasn’t a strong market for small shows and live music, Reed gathered a group of his friends and changed that with a goal in mind “to bring people together over music and make a difference for bands” (Reed Kanter). He created a record label, which is now expanding across the country. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with Reed—who is currently living in New York, and I’ve also stayed close with Michael as we both made the move from LA to Seattle this past fall.

I, myself, have enjoyed jamming to the indie rock/garage punk music that I’ve experienced at the Danger Collective shows down in LA; but what really caught my attention was when I heard from Michael that Danger Collective is no longer solely concentrated in LA—and is actually expanding to both New York (courtesy of Reed) and Seattle (courtesy of Michael)! The moment I heard this, my excitement grew—just knowing that I might soon have the opportunity to jam out to the awesome tunes being produced by this innovative label whether I’m in LA, my home town; Seattle, my true love and current home; or New York, just visiting.

When I heard about the expansion, I naturally had tons of questions for Michael and Reed about this big move up north and back east. So I set up a time to meet with Michael in hopes that he could give me some inside information on the extension of the label in our very own backyard; I later was able to contact Reed as well to hear about how the expansion is progressing in New York.

Michael is now the CFO, and is mainly in control of the money and distribution in the newly forming Seattle branch. I asked him what inspired him to expand the label further north and he explained that it was mostly a mix of the convenience of being able to go to an awesome school like UW and being able to further develop the label in a remarkable city such as Seattle with such an established music scene.


The Collective’s punk bands duel it out at INSIDELANDS 2014

Danger Collective generally signs bands with a very ‘Los Angeles-esque’ sound, but the label has been really good about not boxing itself into any group of specific genres or subgenres. Danger Collective actually signs bands on an extremely wide spectrum of categories—examples of these varieties include “garage rock/post punk (Slow Hollows and Bobby T and The Slackers), Punk (Cool Runnings and P.H.F of New Zealand) psychedelic rock (Casinos and Te Amo), ambient trap (Polo Club and Best Friend, experimental (Nirvanus), singer song writer (Salmon), pop punk (Rexx), and more,” according to Reed Kanter.

However, when I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Michael, he noted that “eventually the Seattle sound, the really weird, like…electronic-y thing will…seep” into the label’s unique mix of music that they represent, which I’m really looking forward to. Despite being open-minded to the idea of letting in new genres and moods of music, Michael admitted to me that “LA had a really big influence on [the label] because that’s what [the creators of the label] were used to [listening to their whole] lives.” It seems that these LA vibes are making their way up to Seattle as Michael has gotten Danger Collective’s “releases into several record stores” in the Seattle area (according to Reed Kanter).

Reed currently does a lot for the label in addition to being the original founder; despite his role in “[managing] artists, [booking] shows, [promoting] bands, [contacting] pressing factories for vinyl, [pressing] cassette tapes, [reviewing] submitted demos, …[managing] the social media, and [taking a role in] anything else that needs to be done,” he humbly told me that he “can’t take all the credit” for the label’s success, and he is very grateful for his friends’ help and support.

He is currently busy in New York getting shows together and spreading word of Danger Collective to the east coast. There’s actually already been a New York show presented by Danger Collective in which Reed took a different approach than the label usually does as he “went for a more electronic genre. Nirvanus opened and he was followed by Best Friend, Eaves, Tele/Visions, then Young Ejecta who headlined.” It sounds like it was a fucking rad show, and I seriously recommend checking out all of these artists. It made me wish I could’ve been in New York for it, but got me extremely enthusiastic about the future potential Danger Collective has right here in the amazing city we live in.

Michael let me know that once a couple more Danger Collective representatives make their way up to Washington, he hopes to have the resources to begin signing local Seattle artists and putting together shows—so keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information on that! In the meantime, get a taste of Danger Collective’s artists in a video playlist from the New Radio presentation, Battle Show IV:

Currently involved in the label are Reed Kanter, Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Nolan Pearson, Patrick Jewett, Dylan Thinnes, Franklin Newby, and Nick Fenjves. The label has come a long way in just a year, with their expansion spanning across the country. According to Reed, “Danger Collective Records now has music in stores across the country and [the label has their] artists featured on iTunes and Spotify.” I’m obviously thrilled about what’s to come for the Seattle branch of Danger Collective Records, and can’t wait to see where all divisions of the label go in the future. Be sure to follow Danger Collective Records at dangercollectiverecords.com and on Facebook, and keep an eye out for upcoming shows presented by Danger Collective Records in the Seattle area (or in LA/New York if you’re ever stopping by)!

image
Rad Rebs