Archives for category: Live

Dear faithful devoted blog readers,

The passage of time between blog posts is just a matter of reality at this point. I do not intend to make blogging a more central part of my life. Lately the purpose of keeping a blog has become more apparent to me – to fill in the gaps with what I do not have a chance to say on Decoder or what might not be appropriate in other avenues.


2014 has been a great year for finding new music releases. I have blogged before about Owls’ self-title record (Jade Tree, 2001), and so the reformation announcement was pretty exciting to me. Good news is that the new record really hits my buttons. It’s a strange thing, though – I would call it more “middle of the road” indie rock and certainly not as immediately striking (and probably also will not be as influential, ultimately) as its predecessor. But the hooks are bigger and mathy arrangements are less impenetrable. I have this secret hope that “I’m Surprised” becomes popular enough that I could slip it on in a Friday evening setting and not completely freak out the general public. I’ve spent a lot of time with TWO so far, and I am so pleased that it’s met my (very high) expectations, in its own little way.

Piedmont Apocrypha

Another really special record that I’ve been appreciating this year has been Horseback’s Piedmont Apocrypha, which was released on Three Lobed Recordings in March. Horseback is led by Jenks Miller, an astoundingly talented and versatile guitarist who finds himself recording and collaborating across styles, from noise to folk to black metal and back. Apocrypha sounds a little bit more mellow than some of its older siblings under the Horseback name, but that doesn’t mean it’s less compelling. Particularly gorgeous is the 10-minute-plus ambient second track. Apocrypha is a mix of dynamics, beauty, and exploration that I can only highly recommend to fans of vision quests in the woods, or other Miller projects. I attempted to write a review of the record in greater detail, but I realized I don’t actually understand the tradition of psychedelic music from which it has descended, and quite honestly, the review written alongside the Three Lobed release is just perfect.

Cian NugentI’m still going to shows. Above is a particularly artsy (and accidental) photo I took of Cian Nugent, who played with his band, The Cosmos (No Quarter Records), here in Berlin a few weeks back. It was an aurally rich, complex, and consonant folk-rock blowout orchestra. The droning organ and violin bowing, coupled with the driving rhythm section, created the dense bed of warm sound, over which the Irish guitarist could work in dreamy licks and dustbowl landscape painting. There is really not enough praise for Mr. Nugent and his troupe of open-hearted explorers.

Who knows when I’ll post again on the blog, but maybe someone at some point will find something new in this post. Umbrellas into the future,


On a weekend trip to Leipzig, I stumbled into a Julia Holter show unexpectedly at UT Connewitz. My friend Laura took some nice photos and I got a setlist after the show. I parlayed this into another feature for Decoder Magazine. It was a great show and a lot of fun to put this concert review together.

Though the set certainly focused on The Loud City Song material, Holter also threw in a healthy dose of 2012’s Ekstasis. At one point in the evening, she revealed that it was the first time she was playing her keyboard – probably the result of the not-so-glamorous life of touring. “I shouldn’t have told you that,” she laughed. “It’s not bad… I just need to tame it.”

So that’s just a little taste of the feature. Even if my contributions aren’t your cup of tea, Decoder has some great writing that is very worth checking out.


Set list:
1. “Green Wild”
2. “Maxims I”
3. “Horns Surrounding Me”
4. “Marienbad”
5. “Four Gardens”
6. “City Appearing”
7. “This is a True Heart”
8. “Maxims II”
9. “In the Same Room”
10. “Goddess Eyes” (Encore)
[Photos by Laura Figueroa]

Hello all,

ghost trees is my often dormant music-related blog where I gush about my recent music obsessions, concerts attended, and dump a whole lot of “who cares” onto the world. I had considered completely abandoning it (several times), but out of the blue, I recently got a strangely genuine comment of appreciation. So I decided that I might as well continue slinging words about stuff people don’t care about into the ether.

Xi Hammer at SubMission in San Francisco June 8, 2013

Xi Hammer at SubMission in San Francisco June 8, 2013

What have I been up to? Well I actually have tested the waters of “being a musician” with some friends. We started Xi Hammer, a noisy, psychedelic, slowmo, heavy rock band and played a couple of shows this past spring. Many pieces of the loose collective have moved away from the Bay Area (myself included), so I’m not sure exactly what will happen, but we did spend some time in the studio. We intended to put out some music. Hopefully that’ll happen soon. Of course I’ll promote myself all over my blog, naturally, when that happens.

I also did some traveling, went to some shows, listened to some great music. My favorites from this year, surprisingly aren’t super obscure. I really like the new Appleseed Cast, The National, Wooden Wand, and Aidan Baker albums, and I was completely bowled over by Thurston Moore’s “cosmic glam-distorto psych” band, Chelsea Light Moving’s performance in Seattle in March.

Too much text is always bad news. So I’ll leave you virtual friends with a photo of the traditional/modern/world/improv group Agadetah, that I saw in June. Cool to see these instruments and it was a beautiful setting in Tzfat.Agadetah

Tune in, wash out.DoN

It’s been a while. I’m going to chalk it up to my new, non-music radio show that I started, Green Grid Radio. It has occupied a lot of my free time of late.

Since then I haven’t done much. I’m back at KZSU doing a short music show regularly again. There’s been some good music I’ve been listening to as of late. In some kind of comical response to my own twisted question, yes, I fell for Cap’n Jazz after Owls. I fell hard. And I can almost telegraph now that I’ll be writing on here in a few months that I’m a sucker for Joan of Arc. The other things that have been scratching that itch lately– new Swans (oh my god, that is all I will say), Rella the Woodcutter‘s I Know When It’s Time To Get the Fuck Away EP (gorgeous freaky folk noise, see my review), and Neptune‘s msg rcvd (fantastic music that  sounds like it was made on drugs in a factory)

I decided to post some photos from a recent live performance on KZSU. We were lucky to have Evan Caminiti (of Barn Owl, Higuma, and his own fame) and Vestals (aka Lisa McGee, also of Higuma) perform on Wednesday Night Live. As is the case with everyone else I meet in the bay area music scene, Evan and Lisa were great folks to chat with. Oh yeah, they also play the most beautiful music.

Lisa McGee’s music is as ghostly and dreamy as the apparent effect on this photograph, thanks to the old studio windows at KZSU. Her album Forever Falling Toward the Sky was released on local legendary label Root Strata and received a lot of attention here at KZSU over the summer. Though seeing her perform this in person was a whole new thing. Just warm blankets of bliss.

Caminiti, fresh off the release of 2012’s guitar-driven Dreamless Sleep, followed Vestals on a whole new setup. Lisa told me that he planned to utilize a brand new modular synthesizer in the performance, but troubles in the mail prevented this, and Caminiti shifted his set to incorporate this setup of pedals, effects, laptop, and keys. It was cool stuff. Brand new, dark, dreary, and beautiful. We’re really fortunate to have hosted. Again, college radio has the honor to unleash the best new music to listeners.

That’s it for self-promotional time for now. Have a nice rest of your month of November!


Earlier this summer I made it to a couple of noise shows and since then, I’ve eased off the gas. A couple of albums have grown on me in the meantime, and I also made it to a Lightning Bolt concert. Here’s an end-of-summer recap:

Eluvium – Similes – Temporary Residence – 2010

This is an album that I remember had a tepid response (at least on the internet) when it was released, because it famously was the first Eluvium release in which Matthew Cooper employed percussion, verse-chorus structure, and even singing. My response was similar- I liked the dreamy music still, but nothing could touch some of his previous works, we thought (my favorite description I saw once likened 2005’s droney epic Talk Amongst the Trees to “weepcore”). But my most reliable music tastemaker raved about it. KZSU’s Your Imaginary Friend (broken link? uh-oh) had very positive things to say about it, comparing it to Eno, which was not the first and will not be the last time the comparison is drawn. I played it a few times on the radio, but it wasn’t droney enough for me, or a useful cog for sound layering at the time.

Thanks to my spring trainee DJ Away (your next KZSU star), who called in a Similes request one night, I reexamined and relistened to the record a bit this summer. Both YIF and DJ Away are spot on in their praise (I wish the general populace was as privy to the impeccable curatorial tastes of Your Imaginary Friend as I am privileged to be). Cooper took four years in between Copia and Similes seemingly to develop this sound. These songs and pieces are fully formed; they’re near perfect and stunningly beautiful when you let them under your skin. The lyrics are wonderful, too, something I did not pay attention to the first time around: abstract yet grounded in human questions and emotions. It wasn’t until listening to “The Motion Makes Me Last” while drunkenly riding a bus home one night did I realize how meaningful the album was to me. The waves of melodic washes buoy the blissful frame, while every word, every piano asecent, and every echoey chordal descent helped me make sense of the world. If it’s been a while since you’ve listened to Similes, I recommend revisiting it.

Owls – Owls – Jade Tree Records – (2002)

I don’t know what it is but I am a sucker for team (Mike) Kinsella. Owen has officially claimed the throne to my last.fmCap’n Jazz has these great melodic moments, but their sound is a little bit frenetic, angular, and shouty for me. I’m glad I’ve given them a shot and I recognize the band’s importance. American Football had, like, the greatest melodic rock album of ’99 (not unlike that Eluvium record I just mentioned in terms of fully-formed, intricate, commanding perfection). So I guess in some sort of attempt at completion-ism, I tracked down the Owls record (on which Mike K drums and Tim K sings, and the rest of the original Cap’n J lineup returns) that I had read about so often over the years.

It’s impenetrable at first- really mathy stuff that twists and jerks around interesting guitar work, but there are hints of anthemic melodic bits. Those teases brought me back for more and I slowly embraced all of it. I’ve been on a freaking kick and I’m trying to not get burnt on the album because I’ve been listening to it so much in the last week or two. It kind of makes me want to put more time into Cap’n Jazz, if the brief moments of greatness expand to encapsulate the whole thing.

It’s kind of weird that Owls reformed, and I’m not sure what to expect when the album is out… But what’s next for me, Joan of Arc?

Lightning Bolt live, courtesy

That Lightning Bolt show was fun at the Rock ‘N Roll Hotel on Aug 21st. As I expected they were quite loud. The duo played for about an hour before calling it quits on this tour supporting (I believe) an upcoming rarities release on Load Records. Brian Chippendale is certainly the main attraction as he hammers the drums all night while screaming into his “face,” a mic’d Elmo mask on our Tuesday night performance. I’m glad I got to see Lightning Bolt finally, but I’m not sure I’ll make a trip to see them again- their performance is not a gimmick, but a lot of songs sounded similar. The opening act was an Animal Collective-aping Hume, equipped with hipster Asian guitarist and two drummers providing ‘dem tribal beats. It was okay music to nod along to. I read positive reviews of the first act, Les Rhinoceros about something krautrock or another, but I was at the show for a friend’s birthday, so the bar was more of a destination for us at the time.

So that’s that. I will aim for brevity next time. Happy Labor Day?

I’m sure anyone who blogs must go through the phase where you ask the question, “is any of this worth it? Do people really care?” I think I’ve arrived at the point where even if no one gets anything out of this, it’s at least a documentation of my own journey through musical appreciation. I can look back, read my thoughts about things, be reminded of exactly how I felt/thought at a certain time, and find something worthwhile in my growth, my process. Sort of like a public diary, I guess.

So I went back to CD Cellar this past Tuesday night for a wonderful evening of ambient / noise / experimental goodness. This time there was a significant turnout at the record store, which gave me more hope than last time. I schmoozed a bit, but this time, the performance schedule was prompt and the first of four acts came on at about 8:05pm. I don’t remember the names of the two of them, but it was a piano and bass duo. It seemed that they improvised mostly for 15-20 minutes. The pianist had a good sense of abstract, free jazz-esque spurting and twinkling, while the bassist produced very interesting textures. I distinctly remember him playing the strings in a circular manner, ranging from aggressive, sharp tones, to smoother, longer pitches. My favorite part of their performance was probably at the midway point when feedback produced by the mic’ing of the keyboard created a deep drone, and added a whole new accidental texture, to this already interesting performance.

The next performance was pretty incredible. Perhaps it was the highlight; it’s hard to say because the whole evening was such an impressive show. Jeff Barsky (of Insect Factory and Plums) and Jason Mullinax (Pilesar) played an apparently improvised set. Barsky’s guitar work was so unique, muscular, and deliberate. The use of effects, loops, and textures was inspiring. Mullinax pounded the drums, creating driving polyrhythmic jams. I thought the middle of the set had too much kitchen-sink percussion and noodling around, but the bookend parts were incredible. I can’t wait to see these guys perform again, separately or together, and I can only pray that the recording from this show makes it up onto the District of Noise website.

In a somewhat unusual manner, the headliner Forsyth came on next. Janel and Anthony were to close out the evening after Forsyth’s performance. Chris Forsyth was a very pleasant guy. He calmly introduced all his pieces, explaining the inspiration behind each piece and talking a lot about the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, which clearly had a major role in shaping his new record, Kenzo Deluxe, out now on Northern-Spy Records. (Northern-Spy, by the way, is the best. Just thought I would mention that again. Really great people and always supportive of KZSU. Oh yeah, all their records are fantastic, too.) He started off with the self-titled song from Paranoid Cat, on Family Vineyard, and then proceeded to play the majority of his new album. I was really impressed. His playing reminded me of Sir Richard Bishop, Jon Porras, and Barn Owl, generally. The compositions were long, hypnotic, dreamy. I remember the last song he played was a slow-burn emotional tugger. Truly a great performance, and I consider myself lucky that I got to see him play in such an intimate setting.
Janel and Anthony closed out the night with a mix of improv and dreamy ambient-type stuff. The only negative I can point out was that the first piece’s distorted guitar sounded like a toy guitar amp. The distorted guitar was buried too low in the mix, and the effects were too simple. It really rubbed me the wrong way. The rest of the set sounded great; Janel bowed her cello, slowly and smoothly, and the orchestral duo were even joined by DC noise artist Violet (link also contains performance with Janel & Anthony). Violet came in to manipulate electronic equipment, tape decks, and the like. The last piece was definitely arty and weird improvised goodness.

That’ll do it for me for now. I’m a bit exhausted. Hope to make it out to some more musical performances this summer!