Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Repulsion” by Quasi from the 2010 album American Gong on Kill Rock Stars.
I’m guessing that most of KEXP’s listeners are at least somewhat familiar with Quasi. I’m basing this guess on the fact that founding members Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes are pretty frickin’ well known up here in the Northwest and -- well, let’s face it -- pretty much everywhere else too. But in case you missed them (I miss so much, so don’t feel bad. Seriously, I discovered The Cure in like 2001. Ouch.), here’s a brief rundown:
Coomes and Weiss both grew up in Southern California, eventually moving to Portland to play music, get married and divorced, possibly not in that order. (I’ve always been foggy on when these two were actually husband and wife -- seems like they’ve been amicable ex’s forever.) Between the two of them, Coomes and Weiss took part in a multitude of influential Northwest music projects prior to the formation of Quasi, most notably Heatmiser (late-comer Coomes on bass w/ Elliott Smith, Tony Lash and Neil Gust) and Sleater-Kinney (Weiss on drums, duh, with Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker). In the years since its formation in 1993, Quasi has released eight or so full length albums, a live CD and several singles on a variety of labels including Seattle’s own Up Records, Domino and Touch & Go. If my math is correct, American Gong (out Feb. 23) represents the group’s ninth LP and first for Olympia’s seminal Kill Rock Stars label.
This new album is a clear demarcation for the band, from avant-garde drum-centric keyboard pop with guitars to guitar-centric sludge pop with keyboards. Of the album’s increasingly guitar-heavy sound Coomes points to the addition of bassist Joanna Bolme (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Calamity Jane, The Minders) as a major influence: “One of the reasons why we did keyboards over the years as a two-piece was to cover the whole sonic spectrum – but now with a bass guitar covering the low-end, playing guitar is just more fun.” Gong’s first single “Repulsion” is a clear indicator of just how much fun Quasi as a three piece is now enjoying. Always unshakeable, Janet Weiss’s beats feel freer with the addition of Bolme’s thick bass. A little less weight on my shoulders? Well, I’m going to hit a little harder now... be a little riskier with my fills, etc. Perhaps it’s the track title, but “Repulsion” reminds me of an early Dinosaur Jr. prior to the departure of Lou Barlow. Messy and dark-sounding sonically -- this thickness is a far cry from the delicate busyness of R&B Transmogrification. Thankfully, my favorite part of Quasi, the voices of Weiss and Coomes, which sound lovely together, have remained intact. Even though the band has never really stopped releasing records, American Gong feels like a freshly awakened bear at the business end of a long slumber. Hungry.
After a brief stint in Japan, Quasi will begin their U.S. tour at the beginning of March. Oddly, there’s no Seattle date listed on either the band’s website or MySpace page, but hopefully they’ll drop a spot right after their Portland show on March 27. And if there weren’t a better reason to put your name in now for the new album, KRS is offering a free live DVD of Quasi’s 2009 New Year’s Eve set of Who covers with all American Gong pre-orders. Yay!
For now, here’s a very special moment from over a decade ago: Quasi backed by Elliott Smith covering The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”: