Musician and cartoonist Geneviève Elverum—the wife of Anacortes songwriter Phil Elverum—was unexpectedly diagnosed with inoperable cancer just months after giving birth to the couple’s first child in 2015. Then, in July of last year, she passed away at the young age of 35. Elverum’s new critically acclaimed album under his performing name Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me, was recorded in their house, in the room where she died. From everything I’ve read, it is a brutally honest distillation of the confusion and sorrow Elverum has experienced since her passing, and the few songs I’ve managed to listen to, like “Real Death,” and “Ravens,” confirm that. But to be honest, even though Elverum is a personal hero of mine, I haven’t been able to bring myself to sit down and contend with that despair yet—at least not all 11 tracks of it. Things, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are pretty heavy in general right now. If you’re prepared to dive into A Crow Looked at Me, I commend you, and I’m sure you’ll be rewarded with Elverum’s insightful, plain-spoken wisdom as he grapples with the stark reality of death. But there’s also something important about remembering to dream and imagine a better world. The best local records I heard this month were the ones that helped me take a much-needed mental trip out of the gray mass of winter—I hope they help you too.
De Mim, Pra Você
You need to listen to the new Sango on a real soundsystem. Your laptop speakers or your $10 Walgreens earbuds aren’t going to cut it with this one. After a brief sonic departure for his record with fellow local Dave B, the South Seattle producer has released De Mim, Pra Você, the title of which translates in Portuguese to “From Me, To You.” The album marks a return to his trademark tonal fusion—funk carioca spliced with a hip-hop beat-maker’s sensibility—and right out of the gate, on album opener “Vista da Gávea,” Sango shows you how brilliantly he’s woven those strands into a seamless tapestry. The bass here rumbles like a rap banger should, but it’s paired with the favela-flavored backing—all Brazilian funk beatboxing and clattering wooden percussion—as the thunderous bass morphs into what feels like a giant hand drum. The unique timbral blend is going to make the most sense booming out of some proper speakers, as will the album’s incredibly rich layers of detail and rhythm. Picking apart where the trapped-out snares and congas begin and end, a particularly tricky task on “Conte a Todos” is half the fun on here—the other half being that this album is up 100 percent of the time. Even though he cops the style, Sango isn’t Brazilian—he grew up in Seattle and Grand Rapids, Michigan—but after the completely dismal winter we just suffered through, we should be thankful that Sango’s bringing some sonic sunshine on De Mim, Pra Você. Tunes like “Engenho da Rainha” are effortlessly steamy—you don’t even have to try to dance to it, because your body will intuitively know how. Also of note is “Faz Tempo,” one of the more melody-driven tracks Sango’s done, which almost sounds like he’s channeling vaporwave—sax solos, elevator music vibes, and all. I’ll ride this elevator wherever it goes. sango.bandcamp.com
Throw 300 pounds of reverb and delay on anything now and folks will call it “dreamy.” As a musical descriptor, “dreamy” has almost become as meaningless as “indie” in 2017, decades after Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine popularized the vibe. When Seattle’s Natasha El-Sergany, who performs as somesurprises, named her new record serious dreams, she wasn’t kidding—this record takes the art of dreaminess very seriously, conjuring not just a tone but a feeling. Unlike the hordes of folks using cavernous, cathedral-like washes to hide their poor core musicianship, serious dreams uses texture and atmosphere as the starting point, not as a means to an end. “all my failures,” languorously drifts through the ether, its beautiful lilting tremolos, guitar slides and ghostly harmonicas evoking a trans-dimensional country saloon, while “low on sleep” is fittingly hypnagogic—a gorgeous, delicately composed drone trip that doesn’t waste a single time-warped note over its eight minute run time. Like a real dream, serious dreams draws you deep into its surreal, expansive world, shows you what seems like bottomless depth, and then ends before you know what happened. Not one of the five tracks runs under five minutes—closing track “21st century cigarette” is almost 10—but the record flits by surprisingly, almost upsettingly fast. You know when you have an especially nice dream and you wake up right before the good part, so you try to go back to sleep and pick up where you left off? serious dreams is like that. But the best part is, unlike a real dream, you can easily put a record on repeat. eiderdownrecords.bandcamp.com
Discussion of Interests
The secondnature techno collective, originally formed down in Tacoma, has shot a lot of life into Seattle’s electronic scene over the past few years. The crew’s sound tends toward the darker, harder end of the spectrum, in some ways a reflection of the gloomier parts of the local landscape—but Simic’s Discussion of Interests, the latest release on the collective’s new label, is a welcome change-up in that regard. There’s a lithe lightness to the smattering of tracks here—tempered by some palpable gloom, for sure—but there’s enough Vitamin D to balance things out. The lead-off eponymous track is consistently punctuated by some dramatic synth hits, but the heavenly choral washes and the squiggling, insistent bass line (whose groove burrows its way into your brain after just one listen) keep things loose, limber, and sanguine. The dubbed-out atmospherics on “Saturn” float into an unapologetically posi-plane. The track glimmers like a dust mote in a sunbeam, complete with the occasional new agey crystalline synth flourish—fertile terrain Simic started to explore on “Expressway” from his EP, CORO-7B, released in January. “Export Agreements” is the spookiest track here with its faint “Lost Woods” melodies (if Link and Skull Kid went to the club, this is what would play). But the gloaming is a supple one, buoyed onto the dance floor by some choice bongo rolls. Discussion of Interests seems to nod toward the reality of the darkness around us—be it political or meteorological—while also acknowledging the potential for lightness and joy in each of us. It serves as a welcome reminder. secondnature.bandcamp.com