Rocket Queen: Top-Flight Sound

Aviation Records salvages S as Jenn Ghetto reemerges.

Jenn Ghetto’s sadstyle will be reissued Oct. 27.

Jenn Ghetto’s sadstyle will be reissued Oct. 27.

I’ve said it many times before in this column, but it bears repeating: This is an insanely fruitful time for local metal. Seattle has always had a thriving underground of music fans with an insatiable appetite for all things hard or heavy, but looking around at venue calendars, it’s evident that it’s now possible to catch worthwhile shows of that ilk almost any night of the week. Clubs like the Comet, the Sunset, and the Bit have now made it a regular part of their programming, and though I often hear grumblings from regular showgoers that El Corazon is not high on the list of popular venues, it’s undeniable that booking agent and owner Dana Sims is a pivotal part of the local metal scene, as both a player and a promoter.

Sims’ band Plaster was one of several local bands at El Corazon last Friday in support of Jucifer. Despite all the talent on that lineup, I walked away from the show most impressed, surprisingly, by Sod Hauler, an elephantine-heavy trio equally informed by doom-driven down-tempo and sweeping stoner rock. They’ve been around for a while, but never seem to have gotten the attention they clearly deserve. Their songs are not suited for listeners with short attention spans, but anyone who prefers their sonic sludge cooked slow and low will be pleased. You can catch them live next Wednesday, Sept. 9 at the Rendezvous.

Though I know she has an appreciation for metal, preternaturally talented singer/songwriter Jenn Ghetto‘s music couldn’t be any further away from that genre than it already is. The typically soft-spoken guitar whiz first grabbed Seattle’s attention back in the mid-’90s as a member of Carissa’s Wierd, a much-beloved band renowned for their gorgeous chamber pop and delicate arrangements. After Carissa’s Wierd disbanded, Ghetto began a solo project under the name S, releasing a minimalist, guitar-based record entitled sadstyle that instantly won her a cult following among both CW fans and lo-fi aficionados. Ghetto’s utterly unpredictable, adventurous guitar style and raw, incisive lyrical tics make for a highly intimate, confessional listening experience that have earned her critical comparisons to Girly Soundera Liz Phair and a small but devoted local and national cache of fans.

The 12-song record went out of print in 2003; it was originally released on Brown Records, the now-defunct label of former CW bandmate (and current Grand Archives leader) Mat Brooke. Thankfully, Aviation Records owner and See Me River frontman Kerry Zettel refused to let S fade from memory, and will reissue sadstyle on October 27. “She was looking to start playing some shows again, and she recruited Joe Arnone [guitarist and keyboardist for See Me River] to play with her,” Zettel explains. “Mat Brooke quickly got wind and invited her to go on tour with Grand Archives in November.” It doesn’t make sense to tour without merchandise to sell, but since sadstyle was out of print, Ghetto approached Zettel for advice on how to handle a self-released reissue. “Before the conversation was over, we decided to release it on Aviation,” says Zettel.

Revisiting the album, he discovered it was still an incredibly strong piece of work, but would benefit from remixing and mastering. “I remember liking the album when I first heard it almost a decade ago,” he continues. “But then I realized that I hadn’t heard the album in a really long time, and I started to question what I had just gotten myself into. So I went home and spent some time with it—and it was still sick.” Sadstyle was recorded entirely on a four-track between 1997 and ’99; Ghetto ran her guitars straight into the tape machine and never professionally mastered the final product. “There was definitely a muddy quality to it that wasn’t uncommon for that genre in the late ’90s,” Zettel explains.

On the rerelease, Ghetto remixed herself with some minor aid from Ben Kersten, and had it mastered by renowned Seattle engineer Chris Hanzsek. “The mud has been washed clean,” Zettel says proudly. “The guitars are way more pronounced, giving me a new appreciation for Jenn’s guitar technique. It sounded like such a different album to me that while we were mastering it, I kept asking her ‘Was this song on the original release?’ It’s still super-lo-fi but aurally up-to-date.” Sadstyle‘s reissue date is fortuitous: “It just came as a coincidence that Ghetto needed merch on the 10th anniversary of the album’s initial release, but we decided that it was a milestone that needed to be celebrated.”

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