Shellac with Shannon Wright
On Friday, July 10, the Community Center for the Performing Arts and University of Oregon Campus Radio 88.1 FM KWVA proudly welcome Shellac back to the WOW Hall along with special guest Shannon Wright.
Last here in October 2011, self-described “minimalist rock trio” Shellac is back; they are touring within a year of releasing their fifth LP, Dude Incredible. Yes, we know this show is during the Oregon Country Fair. What could they be thinking? Are they crazy?
Well, the three members of Shellac – Steve Albini (guitar), Todd Trainer (drums) and Bob Weston (bass) really don’t care what people think of them, or even if they come to the show. After all, they all have real jobs and write music, play, record and tour only because they enjoy doing so. They know that their fans will come out to hear them, no matter what. Are you one of them?
Dude Incredible was recorded sporadically over the past few years at Steve's Electrical Audio studios in Chicago and mastered by Steve Rooke at Abbey Road. Both the CD and LP version of Dude Incredible come packaged in a chipboard album jacket with two glossy, full-color monkeys on the front cover. The LP includes a CD of the full album.
QC Audio quality is paramount, as always, with Shellac. The LP was mastered entirely in the analog domain, using the DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) process. The LPs are being manufactured at RTI in Camarillo, CA, using their HQ-180 system. The pressings are 180 gram audiophile quality.
As is tradition for the band, this record was released with no formal promotion: no advertisements, no press or radio promotion, no e-promotion, no promotional or review copies, no promotional gimmick items, and otherwise no free lunch. The band continues to play shows and tour at the same sporadic and relaxed pace as always. There is no correlation between shows and record releases.
Shellac formed in Chicago in 1992 as an informal collaboration between guitarist Steve Albini and drummer Todd Trainer. Bob Weston, formerly of Boston's Volcano Suns, joined one song later.
Shellac has a distinctive, minimalist sound based on asymmetric time signatures, repetitive heavy rhythms, an angular guitar sound, and both Albini's and Weston's surreal, bitingly sarcastic lyrics. Songs typically do not have traditional verse/chorus/verse structure and the arrangements are sparse, to the point where some describe them as "amelodic". Shellac's signature sound is often associated with their enthusiasm for vintage Travis Bean guitars, a rare brand of aluminium-based instruments, and the Interfax "Harmonic Percolator" distortion pedal. Albini is also known to use copper plectrums and unusual guitar straps that fit around the waist rather than over the shoulder. The band prefers the intimacy of smaller clubs.
Both Weston and Albini are recording engineers. They prefer a sparse, analog recording sound with little or no overdubbing, and are meticulous about microphone placement and choice of equipment. Mid-set in many live performances Shellac take the time for one or more "question and answer" sessions, where members of the band respond in an off-the-cuff and, at times, jocular manner to questions shouted out by fans and hecklers alike.
“This record is nine songs of mercilessly lean rock spat out in a half hour and change,” says Pitchfork. Reminding us that this is Shellac’s first album in seven years, following another seven-year gap between their prior two records, Pitchfork states, “What’s most impressive here, and what ties Shellac to their former peers who are either long gone at this point or grinding through the reunion treadmill, is the level of commitment involved… It’s like they took a look at what they were doing and pulled everything apart, rediscovering the level of discomfort that drives them, and working out why they really need to be doing this in the process. Prior records often contained a track or two that were lost somewhere between inspiration, endurance tests, and technical feats, but there’s none of that here. Instead, Shellac go straight for your throat and don't loosen their grip until the bitter end.”
The New York Times says, "Shannon Wright is an example of that shocking, spooky thing: a natural.”
After thirteen years and seven LP's as a solo artist, Shannon Wright has returned with what could be her fiercest record to date, In Film Sound. Crashing out of the gates with the aptly titled "Noise Parade" Wright immediately reintroduces listeners to her trademark cutting guitars with a distinctive bittersweet fury that jumps from the speakers.
In Film Sound bursts with urgent immediacy, a kind of direct intention-into-thought that's as raw as it is focused. It's an album where your favorite track can change with each listen, be it the easy sway of "The Caustic Light" that thrusts into a chaotic attack of atonal guitar and rhythm, or the gorgeous piano dirge of "Bleed" overflowing with chest pounding wonder and loss. The album features an esteemed rhythm section consisting of Shipping News members Kyle Crabtree (drums) and Todd Cook (bass) and was recorded in Louisville by Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Maserati) and mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Services. It is Wright's first new LP for Brooklyn's Ernest Jenning Record Co. after a decade of work with esteemed Chicago imprint Touch and Go Records and a self-released 2010 LP.
Wright has been out of the spotlight in America since her long time label shuttered, but in that time she has been active overseas where an adoring European audience has supported her from the start, and collaborations with cult composer Yann Tiersen have only increased her international profile. France's Vicious Circle will also be releasing the album in Europe.
Wright's songwriting has always been unflinchingly honest while untainted by the whims of current trends and her legendary guitar playing continues to shine through, often heavier than ever. The intensity of her voice refuses to let up these days either, and her sense of harmonic movement and rhythmic patterns often hint at something unsettling going on, a dangerous and explosive feeling that shrouds and ultimately defines In Film Sound.
Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 at the door. Doors open at 8:00 pm and showtime is 9:00.