Unlike 99.43 percent of working bands today, the Sea Donkeys wish to remain anonymous. "Anonymity is pertinent at this point for reasons that are numerous," reads a cryptic e-mail sent by a Sea Donkey who threatened to erase my hard drive if the band members' identities were revealed. "That was the intention at the outset and for the meantime [it's] the status quo. I think it just generates more interest that way."
My curiosity thus piqued, I caught a recent Sea Donkeys gig at Re-bar. Consisting of five Seattleites given to donning donkey masks onstage, the band's three women and two men used bowed saw, harmonium, accordion, metal percussion, electric violin, clarinet, and gourds to launch a transporting drone embellished by gastric-distress chants and ritualistic leaf shredding. For 30 minutes on a Wednesday night, the crowd experienced the disturbing spectacle of a tarnished deity's disciples attempting to play their way back into her favor. Well, said deity was unavailable for comment, but the crowd—consisting mostly of counterculture vultures with an aversion to shaving—dug it and proceeded to drink the bar empty.
This Sea Donkeys live performance differed from the group's lone recorded document, Volume 1, which Sun City Girls' Abduction label just issued on limited-edition vinyl. (Dis)graced with old-timey bestiality illustrations, the album is a peculiar ordeal of psychodramatic vocalizing and creepily nautical tunes that will give audiophiles ulcers. With a cantankerous scorn for predictability, the Sea Donkeys also put demented spins on primitive garage rock in the Fugs/Godz vein, farcical Appalachian folk, smoldering cool-jazz reveries, and sentimental balladry wallowing in insincere (or is it?) nostalgia. The truculent male vocalist sounds like Captain Beefheart gargling Tom Waits's tobacco juice. The female vocalist is prone to the shakes and flat, appealingly creamy tones. You'll like her better.
Whether their music is doomed for long-term dollar-bin moldering or destined for a lucrative afterlife on eBay auctions, the Sea Donkeys' place in the Seattle scene's crowded pantheon of eccentrics—and the sanctity of my blessed hard drive—is firstname.lastname@example.org