Marnie Stern, SISU, Qui

There’s little doubt that Marnie Stern lives up to her reputation as “the lady who shreds,” but for Marnie, shredding is not enough. After putting out three critically-acclaimed albums, Marnie could have gotten away with putting out another album filled with her richly layered sound, singular frenetic finger tapping and almost philosophical lyrics. However, as anyone who has given her last few albums a good listen can tell, Marnie is not one to stand still. Instead she attacks her musical evolution with full frontal bravado, reveling in musical risk instead of relaxing in the comforts of the known. For Marnie, musical possibility drives her ambition.

Her new album, The Chronicles of Marnia, finds Marnie not only working with a new drummer (Oneida’s Kid Millions), but also passionately subtracting from her normally dense song structures to craft a sound that is both familiar and wholly original. “I always gravitate towards interweaving and a more abrasive sound,” Marnie said about working on the new album. “I was working with Nicholas Vernhes from Rare Book Room Recording in Brooklyn, and he was the producer. He wanted my voice clearer and fewer guitar parts. I tried it because I wanted to try something different.”

Her trademark exuberant guitar work is still present, in fact, absent a few layers of grit, it’s even more evident. “We stripped away a lot of the layers and a lot of unnecessary interweaving guitar parts. There’s less clutter and more of staying on a part without adding too much instrumentation.” Through the subtractive production process, Marnie’s voice became more prominent, a fact that kind of concerns Marnie, “I get worried that I am coming across as someone who thinks they are a ‘singer,’ as opposed to my usual mishmash of voices that aren’t always in key,” she said about the album’s more pronounced vocals. “I grapple with that attitude because I think it’s important as a musician to try and be as proficient as possible, or try to put a lot of work into it. I suppose in my own way, I put a ton of time into singing and trying to find interesting melody ideas, I just never think of myself as having a ‘nice’ voice.” It’s an enervating change for an artist who in the past has always skillfully buried her vocals under the guitar and drum tracks.

The musical transformation evident on her new album isn’t entirely unexpected, as fans who have listened to both “For Ash” and “Every Single Line Means Something” in a single sitting know. That same slow progression can be seen between 2010’s self-titled album and the forthcoming The Chronicles of Marnia. Marnie can’t help but laugh when thinking back on her musical evolution. “I’m sure if I went from the first album to this one, I’d have a heart attack. Luckily it’s been gradual enough for me to enjoy the changes.” And there’s little doubt that her fans will too. Even as Marnie evolves from what Pitchfork called her “art-metal math-rock bubblegum pop” genre, fans will still find themselves jumping head first into the album and quickly bonding with the emotionally resonant material, cascading hooks and transcendental guitar riffs. Plus, the album shreds. She is Marnie Stern after all.

Many may know Sandra Vu as the face behind the kit for L.A.'s Dum Dum Girls, but that's all about to change. Back in 2009, following the dissolution of her band Midnight Movies, Sandra started writing and recording music under the name SISU (pronounced "see-soo") as a means of working through her disappointment and disillusionment. Since then, SISU has grown from a pet project to a bonafide band, with a lineup that includes guitarist Ryan Wood, drummer Nathanael Keefer, bassist Chris Stevens, and keyboardist/vocalist Jules Medeiros (also of Dum Dum Girls).

Listeners may be surprised to find that SISU offers a strikingly different sound and mood from Dum DumGirls: sparse electro beats, sinewy basslines, undulating synths, shimmering guitar, gossamer flute, and Vu's voice, floating vulnerable and breathy above it all. It's exquisite, devastating music.

The band recently wrapped up a string of East and West Coast dates opening up for Cat Power. Next week, SISU heads back out on the road with Widowspeak in support of their forthcoming EP Light Eyes, which will be released on vinyl via the newly-formed Mono Prism Records and on cassette by Burger Records on April 23.
In June, they unveil Blood Tears, their long-awaited full-length debut for Mono Prism.

According to Wikipedia, Qui was formed in 2000 in Los Angeles, CA, by drummer/vocalist Paul Christensen and guitarist/vocalist Matt Cronk.

Since their first performance in LA in early 2001 and the release of their first full-length CD, Baby Kisses, on the Minneapolis-based Heart of a Champion label in 2003, Qui (pronounced, “Qui,”) maintained a prodigious pace of both local performances and national tours. Their idiosyncratic blend of punk, noise, and rock punctuated with avant-garde weirdness, coupled with their advanced musical prowess earned them a reputation for intense and often-times antagonistic shows.

In late 2006, Qui had the serendipitous good fortune to collaborate with vocalist David Yow of The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid fame, first as a guest and eventually as a full-time member. Shortly thereafter, the trio released the single, "Today, Gestation" b/w "Freeze" on the Los Angeles-based Infrasonic Sound Recordings label. After a brief spring tour and two acclaimed performances at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin, TX, Qui partnered up with Mike Patton and Greg Werckman's Ipecac Recordings, for their second full-length release entitled, Love's Miracle, which was released on September 11, 2007. With it came a full tour of the US and Canada, followed by a trip to the UK and Europe.

After returning home from Europe in Dec of 2007, both Yow and Cronk were hospitalized with life-threatening medical conditions and were forced to cancel a planned Spring tour. The band spent the first half of 2008 licking its collective wounds and were back in action by August with a make-up tour of Europe.

In October of 2008 Qui played what would be their last two shows in the US for the next four years; at Spaceland in Los Angeles and Annie’s Social Club in San Francisco with The Heroine Sheiks. During the next six months they began recording the follow-up to “Love’s Miracle.” The sessions resulted in The Little Golden Blanket, a limited edition seven-inch featuring two new songs, released in May 2009 on Infrasonic Sound Recordings.

In 2009 Qui was invited to play at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, England, along with Devo, Sleep, HEALTH, Harvey Milk, and for the first time in ten years, The Jesus Lizard. The rest of the year had Yow’s calendar full with The Jesus Lizard’s highly anticipated reunion tour, during which time Christensen focused on two new musical projects; the rock band, Help, and his staggering country/jazz/bossa nova duo, Paulene. Cronk, following a generations-old family tradition, enlisted in the US Army and was deployed to Iraq where he would serve in an elite Special Forces unit until the end of his tour of duty in 2011.

Yow has kept busy since the conclusion of The Jesus Lizard reunion in 2010. In addition to a reunion tour of Scratch Acid in 2011, he has had several solo exhibitions of his paintings in the US and Europe, started his own custom portrait website, getfaced.net, and embarked on a successful career as an actor. Yow has been cast in several films, shorts, and music videos and has a feature-length film in production.

After a roadside car bomb nearly claimed his life, Cronk received a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge from the Army in the Spring of 2011. He returned home and began once again to play music with Christensen. With no real agenda, the duo spent the better part of a year writing new music. Yow was by then fully engrossed in his new career and unable to commit to playing full-time, so Qui elected to proceed as their original line-up, with future Yow collaborations an imminent possibility, schedules permitting.

In August 2012, Qui entered Entourage Studios with renowned engineer Toshi Kasai, and Melvins drummer Dale Crover in the producers’ chairs to record their third full-length release, Life, Water, Living... True to form, (or lack thereof) the new record is in many ways a departure from their earlier work, relying heavily on dual vocal harmonies and employing new instrumentation like bass guitar and keyboards. It is scheduled for release in 2013 on ORG Music. Touring and world domination will surely follow shortly thereafter.

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Marnie Stern, SISU, Qui

Tuesday, April 30 · Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Satellite