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House Of Tudor 

Documenting DeviantRhythms, Dead Low Tide's Devil-ish charm, and the elusive Jesse Sykes

Wednesday, May 22 2002
In the documentary DeviantRhythms, Joel Fuller attempts to explore the relationship between musical traditions and evolving musical technology, by way of interviews with and performance footage of more than 30 musicians, DJs, radio personalities, music writers, and music educators from the Bay Area. Time-honored artists such as master sitar player Ustad Habib Khan, Latin jazz educator and multi-instrumentalist John Santos, and West African drumming master C.K. Ladzekpo share frames with electronic artists such as Balanceman, Shing02, and Jonah Sharpe, as well as "earth music" fusionists such as Cheb i Sabbah, Beth Custer, and DJ Sep. They all offer opinions on heritage, history, innovation, and musical self-reliance in the digital age, but, while the video presents a colorful and audible overview of the Bay Area's musical diversity, it makes only a small dent in the discussion at hand, a fact that Fuller promptly admits, directing us to DeviantRhythms' ever-growing Web site, Here, we are offered a labyrinth of links under the title "Artists Gallery," which "demystifies" the participating artists and their cultures, as well as a "World Remix Station," which instructs listeners on making their own music, and the "Guerrilla Filmmakers Guide," which charts Fuller's own experience in producing his first video. The premiere of DeviantRhythms will be accompanied by featured artists Cat Five and DJs Fluid, Sifu, and Sep on Thursday, May 23, at Galia (2565 Mission at 22nd Street) at 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $6-7; call 970-9777.

It's impossible not to recognize the startled and rusty horror-show howl of former Murder City Devils frontman Spencer Moody or the minor-key hypnosis of Nate Manny's guitar and the lurking squall of Coady Willis' drums in the newly released songs "Ill Eagle" and "Lazer Lazer Lazer Love." But these aren't the tunes of the Murder City Devils; they're by Dead Low Tide, which is, in fact, Murder City Devils sans guitarist Dan Galluci, with the addition of former Enemymine/godheadsilo bassist Mike Kunka. Devils fans won't be disappointed, though: The group makes up for the loss of one guitar by the fierce presence of Kunka, whose former bands contained no axe-work whatever, and whose ample gasping room gives the new numbers room to breathe. Dead Low Tide opens for the Melvins on Friday, May 24, at Slim's at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $13; call 255-0333.

The sound of Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter has caused music critics throughout the Pacific Northwest to stumble across their typewriters like old men sputtering through beer-foam mustaches at the sight of a lovely girl. Scribes have described Sykes' voice as a husky alto and as a clear soprano, while making allusions to indie stalwarts Cat Power and Mojave 3, as well as to elder stateswomen Emmylou Harris and Sandy Denny. While all the descriptions are close, none is quite right. The sparse beauty and deepsome simplicity of both Sykes and her songs are difficult to capture. Uncommon and oddly out of time, the tunes are still somehow utterly familiar, like the lingering residue of a winter dream. This elusive material, recently collected on the full-length Reckless Burning, was born from a love affair between Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher, as both were emerging from emotional and creative convalescence -- Sykes from her marriage and the breakup of her band, Hominy, and Wandscher from the turbulent dissolution of altcountry icons Whiskeytown. One night, as the new lovers were caught, utterly disoriented and deeply in love, in a torrent on a logging road, Sykes wondered at the ready willingness of a heart so well-versed in loss. Soon after, she wrote the record's title song, a gentle lamentation that curls from Sykes' lips like smoke, wrapping around Wandscher's guitar shudders and distorted sighs. The majority of the songs on the couple's debut -- the forlorn folkloric tale of "Doralee," the secluded travelogue captured in "Lonely Still," the gentle reassurances of "Your Side Now," the fully unwound honky-tonk of "Don't Let Me Go," the rich, full-bodied requests of "Love Me, Someday" -- were written outdoors, on the banks of the rivers where Wandscher fishes. The numbers bear the marks of inky skies, cool water, dappling sunlight, dusky campfires, gnarled tree stumps, and dark, damp earth, all embodied by Sykes' voice and Wandscher's haunting tones. The subtle rustlings and roadhouse palpitations of drummer Kevin Warner, the cushioned rhythm of upright bass player Bill Herzog, and the eerie whispers of violinist Anne Marie Wandscher wonderfully augment the already magnificent tunes. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter open for Virgil Shaw and Jay Bennett & Edward Bunch on Saturday, May 25, at Cafe Du Nord at 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $10; call 861-5016.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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