Courtesy of the artist

Broken Spear’s ‘True’ Stretches Pop Into Pointillism

Redmond-native Seb Choe’s latest is a musical salad worth picking apart.

This Thanksgiving let’s try and give thanks for something. If you’re into local music, how about the city of Redmond? The Eastside suburb has quietly meted out cool sounds for 20 years now, with its epicenter the Redmond Fire House teen center. From that world, Broken Spear’s True (out Tues., Nov. 15) is the latest album worth exploring.

Broken Spear is the chosen alias of Seb Choe, a Fire House-forged artist who makes films and many different types of music, and who also spent lots of time in Seattle’s DIY all-ages spaces—before it closed, you could find him obsessively video-recording shows at Capitol Hill’s Cairo. True peaks with two great dance-pop singles. The other 14 tracks are jarring experiments chopping up skater metal, Top-40 radio, and hokey family-TV samples. It’s a trip. In a way, the whole project vaguely resembles a rap mixtape: postmodern music, a few “real” songs, and a bunch of informal musical tangents. But up is down and down is up. Instead of a chopped and screwed version, we get the inverse-helium edition—a sped-up, nightcore version of True for advanced listeners will be simultaneously released by Pedicure Records.

Some may know Choe’s rock-music history as a guitar player. His latest band, Cool Void, sounds a lot like Olympia’s Naomi Punk, whose producer, Dylan Wall, was Choe’s mentor. True is completely different. For one, it’s computer-driven, and its frame of reference feels individual. How else do you end up sampling Metallica, Avril Lavigne, and the show One Tree Hill?

Weirdness aside, the dance-pop singles straightforwardly rule. The eponymous “True” has an ’80s twee melancholy flavor, with Maria Ivanova, a friend Choe made in St. Petersburg while studying abroad, singing affectless and precise melodies in a high soprano. Work on the album actually began in Russia, and was finished on summer vacation in Redmond.

“Julius” continues the sad-sounding dance party, with low singing from Julius Metal, whom I assume to be Choe himself. The music has a beat that moves your feet. The singing has a depressed greaser feel. It’s a unique and well-executed concept, something Morrissey could break-dance to.

As for the 14 experiments, they are pretty and grating. Sounds are stretched to the point of abstraction or made into a kind of overwhelming pointillism. Some of us will headbang. Others will recoil. It depends on your tolerance for hyper-aggressive music salads. Chances are if you’ve ever felt any type of way—literally any type of way—about the music of Jojo, Ariana Grande, or Jordin Sparks, then Choe will have tapped into some part of your memory bank.

My feeling is you have to respect music like this, which comes from a real place and takes the form of an unstable compound, causing all kinds of potential reactions. This album didn’t come to make friends. Perhaps that’s one benefit of being from Redmond? Everyone thinks you’re uncool anyway. It’s a strong position to accept that—to do your art and decide you don’t necessarily need to be liked.

soundcloud.com/brokenspear

More in Music

Eddie Vedder at an earlier 2018 Pearl Jam show. Photo by Raph_PH/Flickr
Pearl Jam As Rock Archivists

The Home Shows at Safeco Field weren’t about the band’s legacy, but that of the genre as a whole.

Photo by Josh Kelety
City Council Passes Temporary Historic Protection for The Showbox

With a lively crowd on hand, the Council unanimously voted to delay any demolition of the venue by 10 months.

The 10 Best Moments From SPF30

A look back at the high points of Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary blowout.

30 For (Sub Pop’s) 30

To celebrate the record label’s 30th anniversary, we attempt to pick the best song from every year of its existance.

Back to the Heart of It All

Now, Now lost its way for years, unexpectedly building a ravenous pop rock fanbase in absentia.

Capitol Hill Block Party 2018 Photo Recap

A look back at the urban music fest’s weekend action.

Alvvays brings its dreamy Canadian indie pop to the Capitol Hill Block Party Main Stage. Photo by Arden Wray
Capitol Hill Block Party 2018 Picks

Who to see at this year’s edition of Seattle’s urban music fest.

Wimps isn’t trash. Photo by Kelly O
Wimps’ Renewable Punk Energy

The Seattle trio isn’t afraid to get dirty on its new album, ‘Garbage People.’

Can Upstream Fest Be Fixed?

In it’s current form, the Pioneer Square music festival lacks energy and identity. (Plus, a photo recap of last weekend’s action.)

The sun shines on Sasquatch!.
Sasquatch! Music Festival 2018 Photo Recap

From big bands to casual hangs, we take a look back at all the action over Memorial Day weekend at The Gorge.

Curtis Harding
The Faces of Sasquatch! Music Festival 2018

Behind-the-scenes portraits with the some the fest’s best acts.

David Byrne
The Attention-Grabbers of Sasquatch! Music Festival 2018

A look back on the weekend’s musical festivities in terms of captivation.