KWVA's BETTERFEST: The Helio Sequence, Naomi Punk, Weed, Cascadia
On Saturday, May 18, KWVA's Betterfest Presents: The Helio Sequence with Naomi Punk, Weed and Cascadia
KWVA Eugene 88.1 FM turns 20 this year and is celebrating by throwing a week long music and media festival called BETTERFEST! KWVA wants to party with you May 13th - 18th! The festival culminates in three main stage concerts at the legendary WOW Hall featuring performances from your favorite college radio artists.
During the week leading up to the concerts enjoy a kick off party, record swap, hip-hop freestyle tournament, Small Howl local band showcase, unique radio programming, campus events, and participation of local businesses.
The three WOW Hall concerts will be completely free to all UO students. Thursday and Friday night shows will be $5 for non-students, and Saturday's show will be $8. Events earlier in the week leading up to the concerts will have cover charges. For $20, anyone can purchase a VIP pass that will guarantee them entrance into ANY Betterfest event or concert regardless of venue capacity.
Stay tuned to www.kwvaradio.org for more information concerning lineup announcements, event information, and how to get involved.
THE HELIO SEQUENCE
Negotiations, the fifth full-length album written, recorded and produced by The Helio Sequence, would sound different had it not been for a flood. In 2009, while touring in support of Keep Your Eyes Ahead, singer-guitarist Brandon Summers got an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. Back home in Portland, OR, the band's studio/practice space was under nearly a foot of water. Heavy rains had caused the building's plumbing to overflow like a geyser. But Summers and drummer-keyboardist Benjamin Weikel were lucky: All of their best equipment was either on tour with them, or racked high enough off the studio floor to be spared.
Still, the band needed a new home. After three months of searching, Summers and Weikel settled into a 1500-square-foot, former breakroom-cafeteria in an old warehouse. They no longer had to work their recording schedule around loud rehearsals by neighboring bands, but were free to create late into the night in uninterrupted seclusion. With twice the square footage, the space also had room for more gear, a lot more gear. They decided to use this opportunity to try something different.
Summers and Weikel, who started playing together in 1996 and self-produced their first EP in 1999, have always been gearheads. But it wasn't until the success of Keep Your Eyes Ahead that they could afford to step things up: the duo spent months (and many hard-earned dollars) retooling their studio. They left behind much of the cleaner-sounding modern digital studio equipment and instruments they'd always relied on, and embraced vintage gear that would color their recordings with a warmer, deeper sound: tape and analog delays, spring and plate reverbs, tube preamps, ribbon microphones and analog synths.
As the new studio came together, so did the songwriting. It proved to be the most spontaneous, open and varied writing process they had ever experienced. Weikel, who was listening to minimalist/ambient composers like Roedelius and Manuel Goettsching, had created dozens of abstract synth loops of chord progressions and arpeggios. The two would put a loop on and improvise together with Summers on guitar and Weikel on drums, recording one take of each jam. Other songs like “One More Time”, “October” and “The Measure” quickly formed from rough one-minute sketches by Summers, while the down tempo “Harvester of Souls” was completely improvised musically and lyrically in a single take.
Tempering the free form approach to writing was Summers and Weikel's meticulous attention to production and arrangement. Taking cues from the spaciousness, subtlety, and detail of Brian Eno and late-era Talk Talk records, they moved forward. Listening to the recorded live jam sessions, they set to work transforming the ditties into actual songs. “Open Letter”, “Silence on Silence”, “Downward Spiral” and the title track -- some of the spacier, mesmerizing songs on Negotiations -- came together in this way. Summers' one-minute demos were brought to life in collaboration by Weikel spending weeks working on sound treatments and synth landscapes to enhance the songs.
Lyrically, Summers affirmed the improvised ethos, working deep into the night ad-libbing alone in front of the mic, abandoning pre-written lyrics and instead preferring to create in the moment. His delivery was largely inspired by the starkness and understated romanticism of Sinatra's Capitol era “Suicide Albums”, imparting a more introspective and personal tone.
“I used to view a lyric as a statement,” he says. “Now, I see it more as a letter you're writing to yourself or a conversation with your subconscious.”
This collection of shimmering, reverb-heavy songs is a meditation on those inner dialogues (hence, Negotiations) with solitude, memory, misgivings, loss, atonement, acceptance and hope. Most of all, it's a record that serves as a testament to the beauty, blessing,and excitement of a fresh start.
Olympia/Seattle's Naomi Punk are at least partly inspired by their grunge forbearers. The genre's basic elements are well-represented: The sludgy erosion over the guitars, the drums blasting with machine-grade heaviness. Since the old formula goes, "one part metal, two parts punk, and one part psychedelic weirdness," it's not a stretch by any means to consider Naomi Punk a grunge band. And while they're clearly a part of a long lineage of bands taking their influence from the Seattle rock scene of the early 1990s, Naomi Punk's songs are not cheaply manufactured recreations of Soundgarden or even TAD.
The Feeling, originally released on vinyl and now being issued by Captured Tracks digitally and on CD, captures the trio studying the grunge rulebook just to tear it in half. Naomi Punk's approach to grunge is one of deconstruction and rebuilding in different places with fewer parts. Most of the album's songs change tempos at the drop of flannel, breaking into a dense wall of meticulously controlled chaos. Guitars are not delivered with a steady stream of chords -- they come in blasts along with the crash cymbal, often at irregular points in the song. There's almost a need to keep up with them rhythmically over the first few listens, because the phrasing of the chords and beats zig zag through a motley course, unintentionally using empty space as every bit the weapon their guitars and drums are.
Weed is a four-piece sludge pop band from Vancouver BC. They have self-released two 7" EPs over the last year on their own Cruising USA label. A new LP, Deserve, is forthcoming.
Weed has completed multiple North American tours with the likes of Naomi Punk, Babysitter and M. Women. Influences include Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr and early Weezer.
From Vancouver BC, Cascadia plays very heavy moody sad grunge music. The three members have released a mini-album on cassette-only Vancouver label Green Burrito, and has a forthcoming 7" EP on Cruising USA. The country is not ready.