Zarathustran PR

by Gina
Gina Altamura

—Venusian ritual

Try it at home - a ritual, via an excellent audiobook set I happened upon by an astrologist-psychologist named Caroline Casey - “Inner and Outer Space” on Sounds True…

Photo by Rose

Photo by Rose


“This ain’t rock’n’roll – this is genocide!”

So shouts The Greys’ frontman Birch Cooper to a crowded room, right before his band launches into the loudest, face-meltingly narcotized breed of rock’n’roll. It’s a special evening at Holocene – The Greys are opening up for noise legends Lightning Bolt. I remember being amused by Birch’s inaugural statement for their highest-profile set to date. It was Bowie who used those words to kick off his anthem “Diamond Dogs”, and while one can hardly hear a connection to the glam pop mega-star in The Greys’ hazy mass of reverb and layers of gorgeous noise, it seems oddly fitting. The Greys wear sunglasses inside. So long as the fog machine doesn’t get overzealous, one can often make out a gold sequined hat on Birch. Perhaps we’ll think of these details as tiny nods to the aggrandized spectacle of rock’n’roll….

The Greys ARE spectacular, but their type of spectacle is spiritually dense. This is music by conjurers, for conjurers. Let’s trade the word “spectacle” for “ritual”! The group is comprised of Birch Cooper and Barbara Kinzle, known for their haunting ambient surf project The Slaves (which I consider one of the most honest and gorgeous expressions of musical romance ever seen in this town) joined by Jed Bindeman, one of the busiest drummers in town (see also Eternal Tapestry, Operative). Their sound exists in the realm of Phil Spector’s wall of sound as co-opted by those Loveless ones, but The Greys sounds like real love to me.

What The Greys do best is play delightfully with the tension between a punk rock ferocity and the patience of ambient experimentalists. Face-melting yes, but you’re watching strips of skin fall softly, gracefully into your hand. Time is confused, foggy, you’re floating….yet you’re also being accosted, you want to thrash, to shout, to get the spirit.

At my first Greys experience, a flailing Birch flew off the stage and landed straight on his back in front of the audience, unfazed, content to gloriously shred and writhe on the ground…. a star expelling all of its matter, a sublime explosion which transported me along with it. His only comment on the matter afterwards was that he had “transcended physicality”.

This is, of course, always the way. To become transcendent actually just involves a decisive physical move, a move imbued with personal significance. Pen to paper, feet (or in Birch’s case, back) to concrete, written words made utterances, that stone moved from here to there. “I put this moment…here”, as witchy woman Kate Bush puts it. It is not so much that ritual is the expression of belief or spirituality. It is that spirituality/transcendence/religiosity is born from ritual. At this moment, there are no decent recordings of The Greys on any social media websites. There is no neat and tidy takeaway video. Problematic, yes, because all I can say is “trust me, go see them play!” But also reassuring, perfect, in its way – you have to meet these weirdo conjurers in their element. You have to engage in this ritual as a live experience, to enter into the proper arena and experience that heart-leap which allows really great rock’n’roll to grow a million times larger than itself.

- The Petite Zarathustran

3/4 “Balloons in the Basement”: No, Besties, Virgin Blood, Kotten Dik

Lots of soggy people packed into the basement of a house that opens into an alley between an empty storefront and an H&R Block. Lots more people in the drip of the porch smoking and tossing tall cans back. The basement’s insulated with cubicle wall, has a checkerboard of carpet samples, and that night there were lots of mint green and black balloons on the floor. The smack of balloon popping punctuated most of the night. No was up first. The two key components of local band Guidance Counselor along with a bass player. This is more than a side project to channel baser lyrical leanings (memorably the song “sex faggot” which seems to basically be screaming the biological components of a hermaphrodite). There’s the loose kinetic jangle of guidance counselor but the weight of a backbone’s all in the bass. The drumming here’s a mathy-high hat focused splash. Lead singer laying it on wild eyed and frantic strumming with just a slide in some whining open tuning. He breaks a string, makes absolutely no difference.

Everyone piles out, smokes, gets wetter, everyone piles in and Besties come out in bow ties that seem really contrary to how beach-y its about to get. It gets beachy in a really good candy sticky way. Tons of reverb on the vocals that melt into the organ-surf rock guitar. Melody lines played with summer pop sensibility, and the guitar strap hiked up as high as it will go for the lead singer/guitar player to drive. Bass running harmony lines around the guitar knocking your knees more than thumping your pelvis. Really good. Weird public apology shout out to the lead singer’s other bandmate in Orca Team? More tall cans come out of my bike bag. There’s weed Rice Crispy treats. There’s people you’re glad to see and people you always can’t help but see. Everyone smashes back out and glass is more often getting broken than into the recycling bins that sit at the center of a very awkward “u” of porches.

Virgin Blood plays with their sets of synthesisers, they restart some songs, but generally goth it up in a good way. A roommate shouts in between songs that this is their favorite” the new one” and it is my favorite of their set. More drum machine beats, and a weird dark change in the vocal line. We’re just not in the beach, we’re in the dark and that’s a strange transition to make. Then Kotten Dik plays and sorry, but even though the lead singer is wearing a teal sparkling onesy, and the bass player is kind of killing it in the way that he’s reminding me of my yoga tape advising to “ground your pelvis into the floor to let your hips become loose”, I find a bottle of Makers Mark in the bathroom and don’t really pay attention to much from then on out. -RAH


I recently had the opportunity to host How to Dress Well at Holocene. His aching, spectral R&B masterpiece Love Remains was far and beyond one of my favorite records of last year. There’s swagger here, and sex, too – a record that sets the heart throbbing, that tantalizes and thrills. There’s also profound despair, hymns of love and loss that move me to the core.

While I had looked forward to the event for a while, I would never have guessed what a powerful, spiritually rejuvenating day it would turn out to be. I spent the day taking Tom Krell, the man behind How to Dress Well, around town with my dear friend Pete Swanson, whose own ultra-textural noise music carries a similar level of intense emotion. They are both men with music that could be labeled “bedroom projects” - were it not that the courageousness with which they explore their psyches via song, the exuberance with which they seem to stare into the abyss of their own reflections, renders them so spiritually huge as to seem more suited to an arena, an ampitheater, a….universe.

We stood in my friend Jared’s record shop and Tom pulled out a copy of Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors.

"This record!"

He was thrilled. I was too.

I remembered the way I bawled my eyes out as a teenager, in the front row at the Bright Eyes show. Hot salty tears streaming out of my eyes for literally hours.

Then, again, that night, I stood in the front row. I clutched my heart, butterflies in my stomach. Tom took the stage. Whether it was this memory barreling through my psyche, or the format of the live experience, I don’t know, but I was transported to teenage self. He stands alone on stage with a microphone, crooning, full of heart, no knobs to twiddle, no electronics to hide behind. The vulnerability and raw pop emotion was absolutely compelling. I felt the exhilaration that has been harder to find of late, as I see more and more bands, as my work as a talent buyer starts to just feel normal. I was so grateful for the busting up of these clouds…for the total joy, the stark naked blinding light of being moved to tears by the music. 

At a show like that, you fall in love a little, a lot even. You toss a little piece of your heart on stage and wear that little hole where it used to be like a badge all the way home. The good hurt. The sweet ache. The same sweet ache that you heard in this performer’s music in the first place, that you felt him feel, that brought you there.

- The Petite Zarathustran (illustration by RAH)

Video sync-up I made. How to Dress Well’s “Escape Before The Rain” over a scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s “Alphaville”.

- The Petite Zarathustran

Bright Eyes

—When the Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under Glass

When the Curious Girl Realizes She is Under Glass


…So croons that lovely sensual warrior, that exceptional pop weirdo, Kate Bush, in “Cloudbusting,” quite possibly my favorite song of all time. Living inside this song has treated us well – we’ve taken this message entirely to heart, and it has been GRAND.

We are two enthused musical spectators with a voracious appetite for the happenings in Portland, Oregon. I’m The Petite Zarathustran. I book bands at Holocene, promote artists for Marriage Records, and get teary-eyed reading Nietzsche. My cohort RAH makes comics and generally illustrates-it-off. We wax poetic on thrash-punk walking home in the rain at 1am with a box of Sour Patch Kids. Welcome to our world - we’ll do our best to update it bi-weekly.

This Kate Bush line seems a fitting statement of purpose for “No Clouds Allowed” - Get thrilled or get out! Wholeheartedly embrace the musical spectacle. Carry on with this work of promoting and chronicling music in our fair city. It is good work. And something good is gonna happen.

Even more fittingly -  Tom Krell, the man behind How to Dress Well, shares our deep attachment to this number, and he’ll be the subject of our first post tomorrow…

- The Petite Zarathustran (illustration by RAH)