Photos by Kelly O
Cellist Lori Goldston can be a raging classical virtuoso, the live score to an art movie about wolves, improviser for the dead inside a columbarium, or backup to the world's biggest grunge band. Or she can open for Paul Krugman. At Krugman's recent talk at the Sorrento Hotel, Goldston and vocalist Jessika Kenney are told to provide "peace and serenity"—tinkling Muzak—while people take seats. Instead, they wait for showtime and, to a spellbound crowd, perform an improvised Persian-influenced duet. Goldston's vision of music is vast, which is why her gigs range from ceremonial (Krugman) to Latin rock (El Pegaso) to drone doom (Earth). "I'm extremely, pretty radically undogmatic," she says. "I'm from the suburbs—the town on Long Island next to Levittown" (the first-ever mass-produced bedroom community). "I really have an idea that it's not good for things to be hemmed in."
Even the pet rabbit in her Ballard home is sitting outside its cage rather than inside it. In conversation, Goldston is highly distractable. Restlessness is a great quality for a musician, maybe an inherently musical quality. As a kid, Goldston studied every form of music she could find: chorus, orchestra, band, jazz band, cello and guitar lessons. She dropped out of Bennington College after studying music for a couple years ("restless"), and in 1986, came to Seattle to be close to the ocean ("I didn't look closely enough at a map"). Hustling for money, she met an artist who owned a chimney sweep company, and became, very briefly, a chimney sweep. The connection, improbably, led to a phone call from Krist Novoselic and touring with Nirvana. "Then I just went back to playing in some free improvised gallery." Now she's in demand by everyone, everywhere, for everything. JEN GRAVES
When Caucasians take inspiration from other cultures' musical vocabularies, the results are usually ridiculous. But when the Caucasians in Seattle group Master Musicians of Bukkake siphon influences from other cultures' sonic vernaculars, the results are sublime and arcane. The group's handle is a self-deprecating goof on Moroccan trance-music legends Master Musicians of Jajouka. Deploying a grotesque form of Japanese porn in their name reminds band members never to take themselves too seriously.
Over the last seven years, MMOB have been assimilating elements from northern African trance music, Indonesian gamelan, Tibetan monk rituals, and krautrock to form a distinctive brand of global-music subversion. Live, MMOB favor unpredictability, dramatic lighting, and dry ice. Dressed in medieval clergymen robes and beekeeper headgear, MMOB strive to remove "self from the performance and make it an experience that transforms the space for us and the audience," with the aim of sabotaging "the trappings of a standard rock band and the distracting focus of rampant individuality onstage," explains keyboardist/producer Randall Dunn.
Thus swathed in mystery, MMOB let their music do the talking, in many exotic tongues. MMOB have created a strange, uncompromising body of work that somehow appeals to heavy-metal fans, psych-rock aficionados, and avant-gardists. Their early days were marked by an undisciplined raucousness, but changes in personnel and a shift in priorities spearheaded by Dunn have resulted in a core group of players whose dexterity and diversity match their adventurousness.
Their most recent project is a trilogy called Totem, which is alternately eerie, euphoric, psychedelic, and grave—sometimes terrifying, sometimes spiritually uplifting, always intriguing. Their next two albums—an all-synthesizer opus and an all-acoustic, Popol Vuh–like work—could be their most genius moves yet. DAVE SEGAL
Photo by David Belisle
In 2008, THEESatisfaction came out of the blue with a richly original rap style—rich for its connections to a wide variety of black American musical sources (blues, soul, jazz, rock, funk, funkadelic, sonic fiction) and original for the odd and often unexpected ways these elements were recombined. Their debut, Snow Motion, expressed a gift for making beats that were low-tech but catchy, funky but without any reliance on traditional song structures or hooks. There is never a beginning, chorus, middle, chorus, end in their work. With THEESatisfaction, you enter a track in the middle and leave in the middle.
"Everything we put out is about progression. That's what matters to us—getting better at what we do," explains Stasia Irons, sitting next to her collaborator, Catherine Harris-White. "When we started, we didn't know anything about music, about computer programs—nothing. So when we made a track, it was like: What can we do at this time? What can we make with what we know and what we got? And as we got more and more involved, the sound of our music progressed." Their second album, awE naturalE, produced by Erik Blood and released by Sub Pop, made clear to everyone that Snow Motion was not a fluke. True, the records have different production values (awE sounds bigger and fuller), but they share the same experimental, lyrical, and melodic brilliance. If you have any doubts about their genius, then check out the video for "QueenS." As with the track, it begins somewhere in the middle of an amazing party. CHARLES MUDEDE