A Journal Of The Dark Arts

the ghost ease, voices, evyn oliver @ red & black cafe; 2.16.13


Evyn Oliver played like John Fahey @ a Mark Rothko exhibit. He played like sunlight upon the wall, like wind upon the water. Warm like old barnwood and just as cracked. He’s humble to a fault, just adding to his charm; a non-stop deluge of self deprecation, he throws off the challenge with a shrug. Blink and you’ll miss him, and that would be a mistake. Peer through the haze for two seconds, peel away the preconceptions of a man, a voice, a guitar, turn over a few stones and you’ll find mossy veins of pure poetry. Heart through mind, toppled out of fingers through steel strings. His execution was super, long fingers reaching far beyond sad old Dylan chords, reaching for a classical Americana, with a snarl and a bite and a kiss. Oliver’s music set the mood, light levels low to conceal the shivering, inviting you to lean in, alluring, enticing… if yr looking for touchstones, think Califone, Tom Waits, both Guthries, heartbreak and the changing of the seasons.

I’m hearing VOICES for the first time. Gillian Drum Fillian and LL Cool Cay summon a dyslexic marching band, with only two drummers, two voices. They have a hip-hop bounce to their marching band mayhem: think The Go! Team with Queen Latifah in a ritualistic percussion shop after hours. Gillian and K have a musical chemistry, loose as a slumber party but regimented as a drum-and-bugle corps. One of them holds down the tempo while the other goes off like Jack DeJohnette, filling in the holes, dancing like fireflies. They both play standing up, so their live set is like watching a choreographed dance routine, at times, with the two of them sharing drums, switching sides. Having fun. Both of them were dog tired before the show, but they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and played a killer set! They have the party-grrl vibes of Le Tigre, with the manic drum schizophrenia of Aa, with the attitude of a 5th-grade sleepover on pez and punch. They played ‘Elastic Superman’, (which sent shivers down my spine the first time i heard it), a legitimate HIT in the making. You remember hits, right? The kind that everybody knows? The kind that you look up on YouTube, cuz you can’t get it out of yr damn head? ‘Elastic Superman’ is one of those. It’s catchy, its moving, its weird and sad and romantic. Gillian and K’s voices go together like ball and glove, and they’re playing again tomorrow at Slabtown, with a special appearance by Fred Nemo, former dancer for Hazel.

I’ve seen The Ghost Ease a half-a-dozen times since i’ve been in Portland. They were even nice enough to play in my basement for my birthday last year. At the time, they sounded like Fela Kuti playing The Velvet Underground (i wish i could hear that!), but the next time i saw ’em , it was like Black Sabbath covering Pink Floyd. The first time i saw Jem, it was Grouper with a trip-hop beat. It just goes to show how much mutation has been going on, in a short amount of time. Jem Marie and Nsayi Matingou are a model Portland band, or any modern working band, for that matter. They book their own shows and do their own promotion; they play a lot. They’ve very humble about their music, but take it very seriously. They’re friendly and easy to talk to. Its been very cool to make Nsayi integrate into the band. When i first saw Jem, she was in the ultimate isolation of a one person looping project. She had to be everywhere, do everything. She was hella good at it, but is able to stretch out with a rhythm section. The music is much more organic, jammy and rocking. They stretch out like Neil Young on a coke bender, bright white lights and long shadows. You can really hear what both of them can do as instrumentalists. Jem’s a cool guitarist, sometimes sharp and atonal, sometimes fierce and growling. She seems to favor a spindly, trebletone guitar sound that occasionally obliterates her voice. (Somebody, please let these ladies play through a decent PA). Again with the obnoxious band comparisons (i’ve been listening to too much music lately)((blame music journalism)), but i was reminded of the twitchiness and minimalism of Young Marble Giants or The Feelies, with a flair for free-jazz freakouts. I’ve heard Nsayi criticized for being too loose, but i thought she fit perfectly. She is clearly in tune with The Ghost Ease’s beating heart.  The Ghost Ease have always sounded like witchcraft with a swamp beat, well-suited to the night life. They manage to sound confessional and slamming at the same time. Their music has always throbbed and pulsed, but now they can build, peak and crack, as well.

One of a kind; every time i see them i want to listen to them all the time! Luckily, they have a tape coming out in April. Stay peeled!

A barbed wire Angel of the lord was definitely amongst us, this evening. The Red & Black was a great place for the show, could drink a cup of coffee before the show, catch up with some old friends, make some new ones. It was a nice respite from the nonstop onslaught of watered-down taverns. The air was electric yet soft, taking the edge of February’s frazzled nerves. I finally felt like i was in the right line of work after all, remembered how special live music can be. Inspired all over again. Many thanks to everybody who played, and to the Red & Black for being a rad, collectively owned community space. They’re having a folk punk show tomorrow night, so if yr in the neighborhood…

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This entry was posted on February 17, 2013 by in pdx and tagged , , , , , .

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