Inspired by Sufi poetry, their obsessions with writing, and limitation, Benjamin Verdoes and Nathan Quiroga, the creative masters behind Iska Dhaaf (a Somali phrase which roughly translates to “let it go”), have been collaborating for the past couple of years with impressive results. At first glance, Quiroga (A.K.A. Buffalo Madonna), affiliated with the infamous Mad Rad, a hip-hop group which has been banned from Neumos, King Cobra, Havana, The Saint, The War Room, and Chop Suey, and Verdoes, frontman for the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and singer-songwriter, seem like an unlikely duo, but are, in fact, making strides in the Seattle music scene. Since July 2013, they have released two singles All The Kids, Happiness, and their debut album Even the Sun Will Burn off the Seattle-based Brick Lane Records. In order to effectively band together for their new project, Quiroga had to learn guitar, bass, and keys, and Verdoes, all while working toward a Master’s Degree in Teaching English, nailed the difficult combination of drums and keys. The output of their recent creative energies is a layered, harmonic album dealing with songs of detachment, disconnection, and presence, all while echoing ’60s-style baroque-pop sounds with a punk twist.
As you can tell from the photos of KEXP’s Hood To Hood Celebration, their noisy, inspirited set swayed the swelling crowd into stomping, bobbing, and grooving. Following the release of Even the Sun Will Burn, Iska Dhaaf got wild at Sasquatch! Music Festival, channeling the same ebullience today that they possessed on the Narwhal Stage. Playing his MicroKorg with one hand and devising complex patterns on his fully-equipped drum set with the other, Verdoes kept the tempo without breaking a sweat while also singing back-up vocals for the majority of their songs. Opening with “Happiness,” they set the resplendent bar high, and only surpassed it over the duration of their performance. Later on in the show, Quiroga incorporated a retro, 60’s Farfsia Combo Electric Organ for their track “Moonless Night” which added to the duo’s lush sound. Unfiltered by a production room, Iska Dhaaf’s tunes sprawled out comfortably in the Hilliard’s Beer Taproom. They finished the live broadcast with “Same Indifference,” ending the track with a flurry of microphone feedback, guitar fuzz, and drum-ruckus so loud, I swear I saw the pallets of Hilliard’s beer behind them shake.
The duo are heading out on a national tour this summer — see full tour dates at their Facebook page, and see them live if you have the chance.