Hello blogosphere,

Once again I’m on the move. On Thursday I move to Berlin (again). I’m really excited about it, but I figured I would take a moment and share with the world some music I’ve been paying attention to this summer.


  • Between Two Worlds – Danny Paul Grody – Three Lobed Recordings (review) – I saw Danny perform a lot of this material when he opened for Grouper at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, and it was quite beautiful. A great moment at the show was when the soft-spoken, gentle, former Tarentel-er asked to turn the air conditioning off because it was distracting him and his gliding dreamy work.
  • Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma – Songs: Ohia – Paper Cup – incredibly energetic, crushing, moody live (cobbled from several?) performance(s) by Molina and his Songs band near the peak (or depths?) of their brand of abyssal folk haunted dirges. RIP, Jason Molina. Glad I discovered this, although it’s sad that it took me until these unfortunate circumstances to discover it.
  • Cat Mask at Huggie Temple – Desert Heat – MIE (review) – some awesome dust bowl open-highway psychedelia scratching my Six Organs of Admittance, Sun City Girl,s and even Chris Forsyth itch.

I’ll be doing a lot less reviewing moving forward (since I’m not going to be at KZSU at all in the foreseeable future), but maybe I’ll find a new college radio-type community soon in Berlin? I’ll continue to take photos occasionally at shows. I’m excited about seeing S at the Soda Bar in San Diego on Monday. First time I’ll be able to see one of my heroes (proof I’m a Jenn Ghetto fanboy). In any case, take care, my friends and talk soon.



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 time for my end-of-year list. I really didn’t listen to as much new stuff this year as I did in 2011, so the list is cut to 20. Generally tried to limit to one album per label, but I didn’t really follow that rule (go 12k!?). Anyway, maybe I’ll add some comments at some point. Really beautiful stuff, and I look forward to diving into some other great albums based on other year-end recommendations soon.

Like I said last year, if you are struggling to find out more information about a specific release, let me know and I can possibly direct you in the correct direction. But for the most part, I would recommend searching for these fantastic labels and their online websites.

1 Swans The Seer Young God Records
2 Gareth Dickson Quite A Way Away 12k
3 Nuojuva Valot Kaukaa Preservation Records
4 Deep Listening Band Great Howl At Town Haul Important Records
5 En Already Gone Students of Decay
6 Fire! With Oren Ambarchi In The Mouth – A Hand Rune Grammofon
7 Steve Peters + Steve Roden Not A Leaf Remains As It Was 12k
8 Strategy Strategy Peak Oil
9 Hakobune The Cowboy Across the River Constellation Tatsu
10 From the Mouth of the Sun Woven Tide Experimedia
11 Gabriel Saloman Adhere Miasmah Recordings
12 Sujo + Sun Hammer Fistula Inam Records
13 Neptune msg rcvd Northern-Spy Records
14 Electric Bird Noise Live at the Basement Silber Records
15 Brian Eno Lux Warp Records
16 Mount Eerie Ocean Roar P. W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.
17 Sharon Van Etten Tramp Jagjaguwar
18 Thee Oh Sees Putrifiers II In The Red Records
19 Gultskra Artikler Abtu/Anet Miasmah Recordings
20 White Hills Frying On This Rock Thrill Jockey Records

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 last.fm

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!