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EERDERE EDITIES | 2006 | MUZIEK | 31KNOTS


Biography

Tragic is the glad-handing on the bandwagon and fortunate are the few who have witnessed the constant evolution of Portland’s 31Knots. 'Talk Like Blood' heralds the advent of the new 31Knots. Having released a string of critically acclaimed albums on Michigan-based label 54º40´ or Fight!, 31Knots return with arguably their finest and most challenging album to date. Recorded by Jay Pellicci (Erase Errata, Deerhoof) and Scott Solter (Spoon, Okkervil River).

Critics were amazed by the technical prowess displayed not only by the band’s rhythm section but also by Haege’s frenetic guitar playing.

 

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Although hailed for its technicality, it was the albums’ imperfections that truly reflected the band’s aesthetic for creating music. For each unclean hit of the snare or the occasional flubbed guitar, one could hear the trio’s love for the natural progression of music in their endeavors to emulate the complexity of classical and jazz musicians. This was not a band merely trying to imitate their indie rock contemporaries.

With 'It Was High Time to Escape' the band’s songwriting process shifted to a more song-oriented, less piece-meal approach resulting in songs that were more developed with stronger melody.

 

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In Fall 2004, having parted ways with 54°40' or Fight!, 31Knots released The Curse of the Longest Day EP in Europe (Own Records), in Japan (Sliff Slack) and only later (July 2005) in the USA (Polyvinyl). Filled with atmospheric grooves and various instrumentations, The Curse of the Longest Day separated itself drastically from previous 31Knots' releases as something new and exciting lurked in the outer peripheries of the EP’s songs.

The band has played shows with Enon, Liars, Deerhoof, Modest Mouse, Califone, Owls and most recently toured Europe with Q and Not U and Japan winning fans over at a sold out show in Tokyo.

 

Discography

-) 2001 : "The Rehearsal Dinner EP" on 54°40' or Fight!

Emoisdead's point of view :

The Knots are three geniusses from Portland, proving that you may know your instrument despite playing indie rock. Tricky, eccentric, jazzy, stuck-up indie rock, to become more specific. These guys know how to play, and they miss no opportunity to show it. It´s unsurpassed wealth of ideas and joy of playing pumping out of my stereo.

website.

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-) 2002 : "A Word Is Also a Picture of a Word" on 54°40' or Fight!

Popmatters' point of view :

They say first impressions are always important. I say first impressions are bogus. At least in this music business. For one could take a listen to 31 Knots' latest album A Word Is Also a Picture of a Word and say, "That's nothing. Take it off, now." Such first impressions may even be warranted if the listener was not the adventurous type who wasn't into discovering new and interesting sounds. But a second impression, that's where the truth often lies. Play the album again. There's something inexplicable about the way the guitars bounce off the bass bouncing off the drums. The way those vocals just click and dig their heels in permanently as well as any Top 40 chart blazer you'd care to name. The way the whole thing sounds so strange yet so very and enjoyably familiar.
This is 31 Knots from Portland, Oregon. This is their sound. This is them telling you to ditch your first impressions and to just let their album play. Yeah, there are going to be odd spots along the way. Moments in the songs that sound like they shouldn't work, but do. Those moments leading into a purely pop space that also feels jarring, but sounds wonderful. A clean sound, a tight production, a trio of musicians who know what the hell they're doing and don't mind showing off those talents.

Joe Haege. He's the guitartist and vocalist. Listen to his finger knotting structures snap and pop along every moment of the tantalizing "E For Alpha" or the acoustic instrumental "Flight of the Moron" that allows the tender folkie types to stand along at the side watching their own guitars go down in flames. Joe's technique works well alongside that of Jay Winebrenner's, the bassist and vocalist of 31 Knots. It's not every day that you hear a bassist like this. Every so often a guy comes along with the instrument and redefines it. He plays in a way that is mind-boggling but very accessible. He reminds you of how good a really great bass line can sound if put in the proper hands. That's what Jay does. He plays his bass. He works in conjunction with Joe and together the two create micro bursts of intense music that are carried off by more traditional forms of composition that in turn dissolve into something a bit more abstract. But the notes are never one part talent to two parts bullshit. This is not guitar and bass wanking as a show of bravado. This is some damn fine music.

Propelling them along is drummer Joe Kelly. His flawless fills, punctuating pounding, and equation-defying timekeeping are something to hear. Is this jazz? Is it indie rock? Is it merely something new? It's all these things, but Kelly keeps things where they belong, in a tightly focused space that keeps the 31 Knots engines firing fully at all times. And these three men when playing together create some of the most beautiful sounds to ever come from a trio of musicians who ever dared to expand the boundaries of the indie rock landscape.

The vocals at times sounds like that of Rivers Cuomo, but the lyrics are nothing near the Weezer notebooks. "Frozen Found Fire" may just be the highlight of the album, in both music and lyrics. Hearing it is like delving into some madman's genius writings that can only make you want to write as well. "Frozen found fire fucking desire / But liquid was quick with a kiss to the air / Though solid is stern it's still subject to burns / Lust is still laughing in the face of despair". Too good. A well-kept secret. 31 Knots are the men to watch.

Along the way are such blistering moments as every minute of "Breathe To Please Them" and the majesty of "Era of Artillery". A Word Is Also a Picture of a Word is as intricately fascinating as its own title. To pigeonhole this group as another progressive or math rock outfit would be a crime. This band is beyond those genres. And better, too. To fully experience the greatness of 31 Knots, one must only play this album. And whatever you do, don't go by the first impressions. Even if the first time around is one of awe, play this one again and again to increase that feeling and to realize just what great music is really all about and how rare an animal it truly is lately.

Jason Thompson - website.

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-) 2003 : "It Was High Time to Escape" on 54°40' or Fight!

Fake Jazz's point of view :

When Girls Can Tell was released, suddenly it became known that Spoon was named after the Can song. Looking back to Telephono, it's hard to believe that such a straightforward retelling of Black Francis' fables would have anything to do with kraut rock. Considering the sound of Girls Can Tell, though, it makes for interesting and questionably timely trivia. While this is not the place to get into how succesfully Spoon brings Cannisms into the indie pop world, similar things are happening on 31 Knots new album It Was High Time to Escape, and the Portland, Oregon power trio is able to make a successful marriage of these two disparate styles. However, unlike Spoon, there's no romance to 31 Knots' pop music, as instead the music is more confrontational, reminiscent of post-punk bands like Shellac and Liars. Songs like "Darling, I" are pessimistic tell-offs, flavored with colorful language like "studies show more than half the time we move our mouths we're full of shit" (which does sound rather Albini-esque no matter how much singer Joe Haege's voice sounds like Rivers Cuomo). Of the power trio triptych, bassist Jay Winebrenner provides the most consistent and interesting sounds, and Haege relies on him a lot to carry the more minimal passages as his more inspired and more powerful guitarwork is used conservatively (likely to the music's benefit). Spoon probably has a tougher job bringing math and kraut rhythms into indie pop than 31 Knots does bringing pop hooks into math rock, but that doesn't make their math pop any less interesting or noteworthy, as It Was High Time to Escape is both as powerful and interesting as rhythmic math rock and as hard to put down as good indie pop.

Jim Steed - website.

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-) 2005 : "The Curse of the Longest Day" on Own Records.

Semtex's point of view :

31 Knots. The band was on my ‘to check’-list for at least a few months already, but even in these times of bits and bytes where music is mostly only a mouseclick away, I never came to the point where I actually sat down to listen to them. So I was happy to find this re-issued ep in my mailbox the other day. It’s called The Curse Of The Longest Day and was previously only available as a Japanese import. A few weeks ago Polyvinyl Record Co. re-released the record to now find it more widely available.

31 Knots is one of these bands that do the term ‘indie’ good. They’re a band that kicks against the heads of the rusted music industry, just when it was about to hole up and hibernate. Not by acting over the top arty, nor by fucking with every note of the octave, but by reconsidering what’s good already. The way this threesome plays with old-fashioned rock formulas is remarkable. The band’s not afraid to subtly experiment with sounds, rhythms and the most infectious choruses. The result is a progressive touch that wanders through the veins of every of these five songs and lifts them up to a higher level.

But The Curse Of The Longest Day is not a good album solely because of its progressive tendency. It’s most of all an album by a band of which the members know how to play their instrument. Joe Haege has a very catching and clear voice and the songs sound exciting to say the least. All different, but coherent in a way. I hear hints towards the experimental air of Fugazi, the steadiness of Slint, the warmth of Cursive and the catchiness of Pinback.

Mixed and mastered by Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, this is an ep that surprised me positively. If you’re lost in the mud of emo and indie bands trying to reinvent Fugazi, then make sure to pick up The Curse Of The Longest Day. It won’t overthrow your ideas about indie rock, but it will most likely put back your faith in it.

Bytte - website.

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-) 2005 :"Talk Like Blood" on Own Records.

Pitchfork's point of view :

Raise your hand if you've ever thumb-wrestled. Wow, everyone except you guys from the sawmill? Great. Take a smoke break. The rest of you might recall a little something known as "the sneaky finger." The sneaky finger is a real wild card. No one's quite sure how close to legal it actually is, but for my money the sneaky finger can't close the deal-- the index finger slips out of the grip, pulls down the opposing thumb just long enough to implement the official thumb-pin.
31Knots's third LP, Talk Like Blood, has a sneaky finger of its own. You're distracted by the thumb, i.e. the fat-bottomed emo-prog hooks, the twisted metal carcasses thundering down. But it's the little things that sneak out and grab you before the next cascade of unapologetically overwrought vocals polishes you off. It's the blocks of percussive static that the guitars slither around; the malfunctioning recordings of chamber music; the channel-switching effective glissando sawing the beginning of "Intuition Imperfected"; the highly pressurized drumming and compressed riffs wheezing to life on "Chain Reaction". But I'm not kidding about the dominant vocals-- Joe Haege has a huge voice and he's not afraid to let it all hang out. That's going to be a deal-breaker for some no matter how awesomely deformed yet melodic the licks are. Sometimes, like when Haege spleens "Hell hath no fury like me!" before the ripped throb of "Thousand Wars" drops in, or the spoken word rant at the beginning of the industrial music-box "City of Dust", it's too much.

Talk Like Blood is different than what we've previously heard from 31Knots, in ways desirable and less so-- their earlier work (specifically thinking of It Was High Time to Escape) hugged a tight border between spacious, intricately polished guitar rock, and chorus-busting emo, but now they've pushed further in both directions. So while the musical side of Talk Like Blood presents a more detailed field than ever before, the vocals and some of their attendant musical dynamics are flatter. Previously those heart-tugging emo hooks were the sneaky finger and the smart, propulsive musical compositions were the thumb, and if they haven't switched places yet, they're trending that way. I'm fine with it for now, but I hope it doesn't go much further.

Brian Howe - website.

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Audio

Some stuff to listen to here.

 

Web

-) Official site.
-) Myspace.
-) 54°40' Or Fight!.
-) Own Records.