Now a retrospective festival rundown — Bottled Smoke 2007 in Los Angeles

Bottled Smoke logo

Which might seem a little strange, given three years have passed and all. But to explain:

A little over three years ago is when I first started the blog, but a little before that is when the original Bottled Smoke festival occurred at the Echo Curio (plus a side visit over to Mr. T’s in the Valley). It was also before I was on Twitter, before I could have even purchased an iPhone and might have even been before I was on Facebook, not entirely sure now. Everything really does blur up and blur together. In any event, for all these reasons I didn’t and couldn’t talk about that get-together the same way I’ve talked about the On Lands, the last Terrastock and so forth — this recognition of how things really have radically changed for me and a lot of others may be a little long in coming but there you go.

I was, however, happily on Flickr at the time and had been for two years, so I took a lot of photos of the event. I also wrote a review of it after the fact for Plan B online but I guess it’s not around anymore, though maybe I’m just looking in the wrong spots. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, though, in the midst of one of my periodic scrounges through (and clearing out) of old papers that I realized I had scribbled down a series of notes on a number of the performances.

These were essentially Twitter posts avant la lettre, really, or I could have seen myself posting them as such. Quick impressions, often hopelessly insular. I don’t really recall using any of these for the article but I could be wrong — I think I had some vague idea I was going to write something up for an ILM posting or similar.

Since I have a bit of time this week I figured I’d go ahead and create what would have been the kind of retrospective photo/’Twitter’ overview of the festival had all the factors I mentioned above been applicable back in May 2007. A random exercise, perhaps, but that way it’s all preserved a little more clearly. I think after having seen both the second Bottled Smoke earlier this year as well as On Land just the other week, both of which featured a number of acts who I saw for the first time at the original Bottled Smoke, it’s nice to look back a bit.

I’ll also preface this by saying that I cannot find notes for all the acts (apologies to Xela in particular!) and that there were a few performers I didn’t see at the time — friend JBR was having a small housewarming party down the road a bit so I cut out briefly for that — but it’s still pretty complete for what it is. Hope everyone enjoys!

Antique Brothers, Bottled Smoke

Antique Brothers — “…steady, slow but good interplay. Instrument swap, drone/acoustic plucking…touch of fluid spaceyness. Slow but great buildup, nicely blissed…excellent way to start. Settles into two acoustic guitar gentle ramble. Focused, with soft drone background…very accomplished, with roughness given space. Nice blend….Flute/recorder adds to it. “Black Bart’s Cave…just buy it from Grant.” Twin acoustic encore — short set, fired up crowd. Relaxed, communal. Ends with goof and laugh.”

Ilyas Ahmed, Bottled Smoke

Ilyas Ahmed — “…starts very gently, contemplative melody. Lovely. Effortless filigrees…Just sound, into an extended flow. Shifts regularly but (something unreadable) a new beauty. Like, in fact, a great dance or hip hop mix. New elements each time…His singing initially a lost ghost amid the whoosh of Sunset Blvd. traffic…A capella back into a stately descending melody. Perfect mix/control w/r/t vocal/guitar blend. Second piece more ‘conventional’ but still striking…very delicate. Third (song) for bro/mom. How nervous his fingers are!…Sudden big keen — amazing.”

The Sea Zombies, Bottled Smoke'

The Sea Zombies — “Brad (Rose), Xela, Jefre, G. Kowalsky…DARKTHRONE! Intro: ‘Shut the fuck up!’ Jefre on drums: ‘We’re gonna be shit!’ Loud, collage, random into drone…ad hoc! But not bad for all that. Increasingly goofed/chaotic…Too many cooks? No, there’s intent, but overlapping. Pedals raised, constant motion…Xela wails, the rest drone/blast/tweak. A mean is reached.”

Pocahaunted, Bottled Smoke

Pocahaunted — no notes. There’s space for notes on the paper but hey.

Metal Rouge, Bottled Smoke

Metal Rouge — “…dulcimer/guitar, both loaded with effects…Hot, sunny, nice difference…uptempo/loudness/noise…slow/sure burn. Screech/drone…quicker on the dulcimer, metal sheet howls…phases in/out, rhythm of zonk…e-bow dulcimer, bowed guitar…sudden static drop (unreadable)…switch to koto (?), tones cutting starkly through murk…huge high-pitched zone/drone…ear-piercing.”

Changeling, Bottled Smoke

Changeling — “…solo drone/pedal…people love facing away!…Miles Davis approaches here…more a show of change in the details, but they are great details.”

Mike Tamburo/Matt McDowell, Bottled Smoke

Mike Tamburo with Matt McDowell — “…guitar and dulcimer? more delicate and rolling, Matt w/shading, then into combined (unreadable)…acoustic pluck turned into doom threat, twin guitar fun…twang overlay, then guitar/drums, then clarinet drone…huge wash, hammered guitar/tuning forks…singing/acoustic guitar/drums…slow build rise! very inspirational.”

Xela, Bottled Smoke

Xela — another one I have no notes for! Sorry about that, John!

Robedoor, Bottled Smoke

Robedoor — “…tent, crouched…one ups the ‘turn from audience’ gambit, good thick drone…everyone facing like an altar…nice self-mythmaking…tent shakes, drums are primal thump…really makes it an ominous invocation.”

Thousands, Bottled Smoke

Thousands — “…echoed slow build, vocal moan, a bit more jammy/twangy, but that makes for actual riffage, plus drum rolls…propulsive, in a way few of the acts have yet been…lots of murk, angst, groove…nice theatricality up front…some instrument switching for variety into soft freefloat loveliness, nice shift!…more chaotic calm exploration from there…short drone/howl to conclude.”

Ghosting, Bottled Smoke

Ghosting — “…solitary dark guitar and doom feedback drone/tone rhythm…grace fighting against the pit, rising above confusion…finger bells adding a light glaze…chatter sample, abrupt end!”

Starving Weirdos, Bottled Smoke

Starving Weirdos — “…theatrical! aims at immersive experience…candles, Lincoln, jungle/forest sounds, cries and howls…Atman/Vangelis dropkicked strange spinning rubberband thing…flowing composition (Spacious Mind?)…ZONK.”

Tarentel, Bottled Smoke

Tarentel — “…squeeze box, nefarious devices and more…slow calm start, soundbox drone…unfolding rapture of sound…and then just as glaring near silences…bowed cymbals = key.”

Heavy Winged, Bottled Smoke

Heavy Winged — again, no notes here but a great performance.

The Holy See, Bottled Smoke

The Holy See — “…two guitar drone f/Tarentel folks…pedals ‘n’ fun…overload but still good for a Sunday afternoon…echo rise…standard but handy. Additional vocal treatment from J…it’s a higher/heavier pitch…mic feedback adding chaos screech.”

White Rainbow, Bottled Smoke

White Rainbow — “…very serene start, guitar/pedals, shimmer up…adjusts, adds vocals…calm…v. calm…water bottle percussion start…Steve Roachish!…gong next and now the jam…back to guitar, beads, vocal chants, beats…all keeps adding and adding…guitar chime overlay then hit the sunrise moment.”

Valet, Bottled Smoke

Valet — “…vocal selection/drone, but more layered/echo…Fursaxaish, but not exactly…Arcanta, kinda…then down into guitar sustain/note…echoing flow…then almost nothing…it’s a neat change from the thick overflow…traffic and gentle strum/zone…you can hear the click of the pedals! soloing over calm loop…back to vocal…more unsettled/tense then flows into beginning-style…and dive!”

Gregg Kowalsky, Bottled Smoke

Gregg Kowalsky — “…’tape chants’…tape decks around the room, Lucier/electroacoustic…tape overlay buzz resonating off walls/floor…Gregg sync? no. result…rise/fall that interacts/scrapes…tactile, scraggly, like something is walking/clawing…tape players range in size/volume, pacing is irregular. audience (baby! dog!) (unreadable)…a touch of Main? adjustments to pitc/volume emphasizing a scarier scraggle collapsing/shredding sound…then slowly something more peaceful/soothing…”

Theo Angell, Bottled Smoke

Theo Angell — “…soundcheck? is its own performance, strum/clang/sing…mike on case?…into joint chord/jam flow…nice shifts in/out, sometimes Theo solo…Ilyas Ahmed waits at points (unintentional?)…very clean, no Ilyas pedals, a couple for Theo…like a barbed-wire hoedown at one point! if only briefly…grinding noise jam right after gentler plucking, sudden (unreadable) charge, both singing…Cat on suitcase!…second song more focused but just…conch shell! conch jam with Tim, very strange/wonderful…drumming in the sideroom…”

VxPxC, Bottled Smoke

VxPxC — “…melodica/pedal noise spike start…other elements float in…then the roaring starts. singing bits, collage, no loops much, but definite layering…more bass zonk, organized chaos with Grant adding guitar…shoegaze/epic scope, assembles very nicely…haunting feel, perhaps surprisingly goth/shoegaze!…there’s an epic collapse at work, remember Tim DJ’d This Mortal Coil!…almost a Spiritualized progression up! into calm keyboard/guitar Mogwaish section, contemplative! very epic, very nicely unexpected…accordion into more clattering jam…organ/drum machine echo/overload, ouch! into a stately screech…bowls, pipes, all in mix…screams and wails…”

Ajilvsga, Bottled Smoke

Ajilvsga — “…with Xela…drone shatter with vocal wails to start with…rapidly punishing in a trebly way…massively overdriver/distorted, earplugs necessary for sanity…no flow as such, it’s all scraping experience!”

Nick Castro, Bottled Smoke

Nick Castro — “…four piece, perfect comedown…guitar/bass/(unreadable)…casual and friendly with each other, delicate funny…nice bunch.”

On Land Festival 2010 — Saturday shows

Into the second half of the festival:

Le Revelateur, On Land

Le Révélateur — “Very serene start here especially with the projections, but with some faster spacerock bits…Some expected comparison points but done nicely — Harmonia, Gottsching, agog 70s electronics…Sound now starting to get very harshly pretty, rougher distorted edges coming out more. Good way to start the whole evening…Am also liking the shift to proto-Tron graphics as a bass loop begins. Very busy Tangerine Dream/Ash Ra arrangements now, but it also has something distinct to it. Hard to put my finger on…And over…but it turns out there’s another piece! A nice surprise, I’m used to set-long pieces at this stage. More treble now.”

Metal Rouge

Metal Rouge — “…soundchecking. It’s already ridiculously loud in the best way (those drums alone!)…Actual set starting off calmly, Andrew and Helga’s guitars in dank and beautiful interplay, Caitlin’s drums starting to rumble up…Helga’s vocals now starting as a new guitar line appears — this is one of the most entrancing times I’ve seen them yet. It’s slow burn but always focused rock epic buildup in their own vein, a nice equivalent to the previous performance…This is really turning spectacular now. A clear highlight of the whole festival. Arcing off into even more huge spacebound blasts. Every couple of minutes something new and bigger kicks in while the beat continues and ramps up. This is Neu! “Lila Engel” level…Only now shifting into the more freeform feedback/wail/drum clatter I’d expect from them but here it feels like exultant release.”

Grasslung, On Land

Grasslung — “…now kicking in — the drones are loud, deep and duly ominous, therefore perfect. Much less busy than the previous acts but builds well, understated melodic tones, shifts to bigger/louder keyboard roars…Starting to really get mind-meltingly huge, in a weird way it almost synthesizes the previous two sets, electronic epic progression…Huge crackling in the monitors now. Happily it is intentional, and controllable.”

Date Palms, On Land

Date Palms — “besides Mari and Gregg K there’s “trevor montgomery on bass and michael elrod on tanpura.” I’ve seen Marielle and Gregg separately now so seeing them together = should be really great…Tanpura setting an initial rhythm followed by the bass as Marielle and Gregg kick in. She’s on violin, he’s got nefarious devices…Performance is very deliberate and measured, setting a calm tone blending old and new discreetly. Gregg K’s work is the subtlest…After a pause into a new song sans Elrod. Gregg’s got a couple of stringed instruments hooked up to the gear and both are kicking in…The slow deliberation continues — I like it quite a bit, the performance clearly aims for a steady, unhurried control…Lovely blending of Gregg’s drones and Mari’s violin parts now. A free-floating haze, suddenly punctuated by bass…A quickening of pace, a slow pulling back to a new swirling Gregg K drone part, some of Mari’s violin returns.”

Xela, On Land

Xela/Zelienople — “…as I suggested, Xela takes the stage in his contemporary Iron Maiden shirt. Good man…Should also say that Zelienople has been soundchecking as well — hmm, epic jam session?…And as Jefre has announced, Mike from Zelienople will back Xela, who in turn will join Zelienople without a break between sets. Nice!…So John begins with various low tones while some fucked up Crusader horror movie clip runs. Of course! Movie apparently called The Blind Dead, Spanish film. Seems about right. Mike now adding cymbal parts to the echoed tones…

Xela and the Blind Dead, On Land

…Xela’s got a central whooshing/rising tone loop, heavily echoed, that he’s manipulating as he goes. The film gets trashier. Spanish muttonchop man with big polkadotted bathing towel + this performance = already a show for the ages…Xela now adding treble-pitched vocal parts, also heavily treated. Ghosts in caverns plus strange machinery. The film has meanwhile become a train set exploration of swarthy men and seventies backpackers with convent school visions…Mike now full out on drums, Xela’s mix an increasing electronic howl. Music builds to a climax and then zones out further, new windhowls entering. Film has actress wandering around evil ruins. Mike laying down a slow, steady beat, John again singing, female film character settling in for a night’s haunting…

Xela and Zelienople, On Land

…The rest of Zelienople now takes the stage as Xela cuts back to a crumbling flow of sound. Guitars start to ease in over it. All very gazey at the start for Zelionople, works for me! Not just that sonic quality to be sure — good use of space and mood setting, sudden changes in volume, drum parts setting pace…Film still going BTW — thank you black ashened ghosts on horses. Music now making me think of early Codeine a bit. The contrast of the moody music and singing and the film is even more o_0 now. Xela adding vocals…Movie just shifted from slow motion horseback chases by ghosts to smoothies at a coastal resort. The song then ends…And into a new one, more of a big epic sound, while green leisure suited men argue on screen. This really is a wonderful set…Spanish actors in green and orange argue in ruins near a bloody body while the musicians play on. Do they know?…Music = a big if still melancholy chug and blast. Movie = sleazy mustachioed men with seventies haircuts. Oh and more bodies…New song now. Zelienople being the most traditional rock band on the bill serves them as they still fit into the On Land aesthetic of drone. But for them it’s more implied in the slow burn of the performance and the crushing volume. (Film: mannequins, sleazos, blood.)…And a new twist in the film, we got zombies killing men playing with frogs! Music: feedback zone gone beautiful…Film now featuring cameo by the young Leon Trotsky. Xela adding in vocal textures, Zelienople creating beautiful rumble…And into a quieter arrangement while a zombie kills a redhead in a mannequin warehouse. This all makes sense in a dreamworld. No I take it back, it’s the zombie getting killed. These details are important. Song: a lovely, mournful piece…Skronky guitar heroics while the Spanish Michael Landon confronts the Spanish Sonny Bono. Let there be rock! Big blasting grind and stomp now, another Pink Floyd tribute in a way but now circa 1979. The movie is now indescribable…Xela confirmed after the set that the movie was his choice. He wanted something ‘macabre yet mundane.'”

The Alps, On Land

The Alps — “And with a Johnny Rotten quote from Jefre, into the Alps set to close out the evening…As suits the backing films of sunrises and slow dawns, a very gentle, nicely mysterious start, tanpura, guitars and more…Big shift via bass then drums into a blasting rumble, feedback on high, while background zoneout continues…Extended drones while something gets talked out among the band, then Jefre returns to acoustic guitar and things get blissed again. And the gong now gets played! But not in a loud way, more understated reverberation with the keyboard drones. Jefre back to electric…Okay, gong parts now much louder! But fitting the bigger, fraying edges of the performance now…Arrangement now focused on tanpura again, calming down again for the moment though the bass just kicked in again…Building to a big ending, a pause, cutting back to bass, then a nicely monstrous, majestic arrangement. Bardo Pond would approve.”