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(High Dive) Talk about a great matchup: Tempe's Lymbyc Systym and Helios (solo artist Keith Kenniff) are two of the strongest instrumental acts to emerge in recent years. As both Helios and piano-based side project Goldmund, Kenniff crafts some of the most achingly beautiful music this side of Iceland's weirdo sentimentalists. Lymbyc Systym, on the other hand, are unafraid to venture into more sonically aggressive terrain, as ably demonstrated on their latest release, Shutter Release. Taken together, these musicians represent an ideal expression of the range (emotionally, artistically, compositionally) inherent in ambient and instrumental music. Either one of these bands would be a strong draw on its own (Kenniff's a Decibel Festival favorite), so this pairing ought to inspire scores of audiophile wet dreams. JASON BAXTER
(Vera) It's not often you hear a name that matches a band's music as perfectly as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Armed with a cheap keyboard that provides sparse, elementary beats, Redwood City, California, native Owen Ashworth makes music that can bum out even the happiest of bastards. Since 1997, Ashworth has released five full-lengths and 14 EPs and singles (if only misery inspired all of us to be so productive). Be sure to show up early for the slightly more rocking, supremely fun youngsters Kids and Animals. KEVIN DIERS
(Re-bar) See Data Breaker.
(Rendezvous) Spider Trio (AFCGT/Climax Golden Twins guitarist Jeffery Taylor, vet sax firebrand Wally Shoup, and Diminished Men drummer Dave Abramson) play that scarifying free jazz your parents should've warned you about—but they were too busy nattering on about rap instead. Spider Trio ensnare you in dense fibers of high-end fierceness, in that holy-shit end of the spectrum where late-era Coltrane and Ayler dwell, while also eking out suspenseful, quiet moments, just to keep you even more unnerved. Seattle's Jon McMillion gained an international rep for his exemplary experimental techno on the sadly dormant Orac Records, but he's been known to explore weirder, more abstract composition. For this performance, McMillion's bringing a laptop, an analog synth, and maybe a guitar—plus his ultra-vivid imagination. History proves that this musician can't not be interesting. DAVE SEGAL See also The Score, page 30.
(Josephine) Haven't seen the Whore Moans yet? Really? The Seattle quartet plays out constantly, and their raunchy blend of garage-rock fire and bombastic punk makes them an even fit for nearly any rowdy rock bill. Case in point: Tonight they're teaming up with the gruff jangle of What What Now, the art rock of Armed with Legs, and the psych trip of the Mother's Anger. And while this brand of reckless musical blitzkrieg was born for dive bars, seeing the Whore Moans headline a set at the more enigmatic and esoteric Josephine performance space somehow makes sense, too. Expect a lot of sweat, spit, ringing ears, spilled beer, and, possibly, bloodshed. BRIAN COOK
(Triple Door) Country wunderkind Vince Mira made his name playing the music (and channeling the voice) of Johnny Cash, but tonight and tomorrow at the Triple Door, Mira's devoting himself to one of Cash's Sun Records peers: Elvis Presley, who would have turned 75 on January 8. To celebrate the King's birthday, Mira and guests will "romp through Presley's oeuvre" with musical performances, movie montages set to live accompaniment, and dance numbers orchestrated by the Can Can Cabaret's resident choreographer Rainbow Fletcher. (Expect a knockout multimedia rendition of "Jailhouse Rock.") DAVID SCHMADER
(Comet) Seattle quartet SHiPS write effusive psych-lite buoyed by breathy male vocals and billowy guitars. It's a robustly gauzy sound that goes down very easy. You will punch the air, gently, to their anthemic songs. Daniel G. Harmann & the Trouble Starts play very pleasant MOR indie rock of the sort that Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar records issues by the truckload. Mostly Dimes offer retiring, folksy amiability that strikes me as sonic warm milk; to you it may be the elixir of life. As for Erik Blood, I've said it before and I'll say it again: He is your top local dude for melodically beautiful, texturally interesting shoegaze rock. DAVE SEGAL
(Funhouse) The four members of NighTraiN (Rachael Ferguson, Taryn Dorsey, Selena Whitaker-Paquiet, Nicole Peoples) met in 2008 during the production of Hot Grits, a live theater project hosted by Re-bar. As actors playing characters in a band, they had to learn their respective instruments, and they ended up having such a blast that they decided to continue matching funk with punk in their own band after the show ended, creating songs that are equal parts James Brown and Bikini Kill. Songs like "Jean Penis" are as fierce as they are fun, and the sing-along chant "Chevy Chase all over my face" is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days. KEVIN DIERS
(Triple Door) See Friday.
(Tractor) See Stranger Suggests.
(Funhouse) Our Love Will Destroy the World is the latest project by New Zealand's Campbell Kneale. If you dig his work in Birchville Cat Motel (radiant drone symphonies) and Black Boned Angel (stern sludge metal for short-haired guys; a Kiwi counterpart to Earth), you'll probably embrace OLWDTW, which encapsulates elements of both. His latest release under that moniker, Fucking Dracula Clouds, commingles anguished drones with hellish noise squalls and conflates nihilism with exhilaration. Honestly. Great Falls (Shane Mehling and Demian Johnston) erect noise-rock ordeals full of heavy, corrosive guitar tangle and asylum-scream vocals. Dull Knife metabolize the aural viruses of Story of Rats' Garek Druss and Du Hexen Hase's Adam Svenson, generating spores of diseased drones and desolate whirs that infiltrate your pores and wreak havoc with your sense of orientation and well-being. Have them play your next (condemned) house party. AFCGT have one of 2010's best albums in the can, and it's ready for world domination via Sub Pop on January 26. DAVE SEGAL
(Josephine) If you're in the right kind of mood—and it's winter in Seattle, in the middle of a very unexciting couple of weeks, so you're probably in the right kind of mood—Terror Bird make the kind of sound that will pluck your heart like a guitar string. This is the perfect time for a shoegaze band to run all over you, and Nikki Nevver's female-Robert-Smith-style vocals will leave you begging for a good trampling. Sometimes she sounds petulant and mopey, but other times she lets out with this mournful moan that sounds just like you sound on the inside at this time of year: beautiful and frustrated and bored and a little sad for no reason at all. PAUL CONSTANT
(Chop Suey) SHIM have a reputation for live shows that bring stadium-sized rock into more modestly sized venues, with the band doing its damnedest to make it feel like every crowd is 50,000 strong rather than 50. Their fans are not legion, but they're very dedicated. It'd be one thing if all SHIM brought were sideburns, big hair, charismatic stage presence, smoke machines, and strobe lights, but these dudes deliver their heavy guitar rock with skill and dexterity. Virgin Islands are the latest project from Mike Jaworski of the Cops (RIP). Opening act Virgin (no relation) mine similar territory to SHIM and have recently added John Wokas (Sunday Night Blackout) on second guitar and Justin Cronk (Vendetta Red, With Friends Like These) on bass. GRANT BRISSEY
(Josephine) Founded in 2006 by Ben Robertson and Andrew Senna, local indie Aphonia Recordings specializes in "experimental music, sound art, & the more bizarre aspects of pop music." Tonight it hosts a triumvirate of Northwest acts. Lube Fondue (Casey Jones, aka noisepoetnobody, and Briana Jones) have a disgusting name and a predilection for stoic drones and forlorn sound collage/musique concrète. They give off :zoviet*france:/Hafler Trio vibes while also summoning the unsettling aura of Gil Mellé's Andromeda Strain soundtrack. The two guitarists (Pearson Wallace-Hoyt and Evan Gilman) and violinist (Jackie An) of New Red Sun purvey deep, resonant drones within an orchestral post-rock framework, resulting in a paradox: expansively introverted music that could double as an alternate, less-grandiose soundtrack for Kubrick's 2001. Portland duo Mangled Bohemians have a multipart piece titled "Into the Abyss." Truth in advertising. They evoke deep space's eeriness with deft minimalism. DAVE SEGAL
(ToST) As much as I want to support Deepsleep Narcotics Co., a local triphop group, I just can't. Two reasons for this: One, I wish they put more dub into their downbeat tunes. Indeed, this is precisely what made Dragonfly's Timestream a local triphop classic—the tunes were either just above or in the depths of dub. Triphop without dub sounds like... it sounds not like triphop. Two, the hiphop element in Deepsleep's beats is just not heavy or cruel enough. Each track has a sweetness to it, and the songwriting is fine, but we need more concrete, more urban chaos, more rebar in the cement. But maybe it's not fair to impose on others my madness for and my love of hiphop realism and dub deliriums. CHARLES MUDEDE
(Funhouse) Nobunny is a guy who wears a bunny mask (and usually very little else) and who, with his rotating cast of musicians, belts out infectiously poppy garage fuzz, excellent stuff for hopping around like... you know. Spurm are a local band fronted by one Jordan T. Adams, a lanky cartoon of a frontman, all glam-punk glitter and campy Rocky Horror theatrics, who charges into crowds, grabs beers, shouts in ears, generally gets Spurm all up in your face, and makes a spectacle out of what would otherwise be just some fine gonzo pop-rock songs. T.V. Coahran plays keys, Partman Parthorse's Gary Smith plays bass, and there are saxophone solos. Butts are a new duo from PMPH's Rachel Ratner and Katharine Hepburn's Voice's Shannon Perry, and their demos sound totally blown-out and bratty and stupid fun. ERIC GRANDY
(Chop Suey) Cars & Trains, the stage alias of Portland musician Tom Filepp, is a pretty textbook example of what some folks (regrettably) refer to as "indietronica": indie-rock songs dressed up with dainty electronic touches, or laptop jams fleshed out with acoustic instrumentation—too often this stuff is an excuse for beautiful but boring texturalism (hey, Album Leaf) or inane elfin tinkering (looking at you, Múm). Cars & Trains strikes a good balance, though—his arrangements (plucked strings, wheezing melodica, tinkling glockenspiel, stuttering little beats and scrapes and shudders) are pretty without being too precious, and his songwriting, which has something of Why?'s glum mumble to it, is strong enough to stand on its own, no matter how it's dressed up. ERIC GRANDY
(Showbox at the Market) Confession one: I harbor a prejudice against Christian bands. It's not Christianity I have gripes with. I don't even hold a grudge against musicians with faith (Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Mangum are some of my favorites). But when the qualifier of "Christian" becomes a crucial component of an artist's marketing, it seems like the motivations must be either evangelical or monetary. Is conversion more important than art? Or is it merely a ploy to tap into that enormous and lucrative market for parent-friendly, church-approved music modeled after heathen rock 'n' roll? Either way, it's suspect. Confession two: Christian rock act Switchfoot crafted a nugget of radio-friendly pop-rock perfection with their song "Oh! Gravity." Their motives may be pure, but I wish their capital-C faith didn't have to be part of their sales pitch. BRIAN COOK
(Vera) Hockey's new album might have an awful name—was Mind Chaos really the best you could come up with, boys?—but it kicks 2010 off to a spirited, glittery start. Listen to "Learn to Lose," a disco anthem that will have you pogoing with your fists pounding at the air by the time it slams to a finish. And the jerky rap-singing of "3am Spanish" evokes the very best of the Waitresses. Not unlike the Scissor Sisters, but with deeper, more soulful vocals, Hockey make vigorous synth beats and heavily textured retro sounds that suggest the band always keeps the future in mind. The major-label-backed band is on the verge of a huge tour of Japan and Australia, and they'll probably conquer the world after that, but before they get too big, you should show up at the Vera Project and dance your ass off. PAUL CONSTANT
(Comet) Full disclosure: Rad Touch guitarist/vocalist Jeff Kirby contributes to The Stranger. With that out of the way, let's talk about the Descendents. Sure, they're best known for their upbeat pop-punk songs—"Bikeage," "Clean Sheets," "Wendy," etc.—but there are some deep cuts on All where the band explores some really strange and heavy territory, almost as if some of those instrumental Black Flag records rubbed off on them. Well, Rad Touch sound a little like some of those more obscure, riff-driven Descendents tunes—melodic, gnarly, and not afraid to show off some chops. Add some D.C. post hardcore, Southern metal, and Gainesville punk to the mix and you have a close approximation of the brainy, brawny sound of Rad Touch. BRIAN COOK