Title: I Never Want to See You Again
Album: Featuring "Birds"
I've been watching a lot of Portlandia lately, whisking through the third season on Netflix. So it only seems appropriate to serve up some Portland, ORgan music from Sam Coomes and his bandmate, drummer Janet Weiss, who together make up the band Quasi. You'd be forgiven if you've never heard of them even as they celebrate the recent release of their 11th LP. But Coomes (formerly of Heatmiser and The Donner Party) and Weiss (formerly of Sleater-Kinney) have managed to outlast their associated acts and survive a divorce from one another on their way to twenty consecutive years of working together.
I first heard Quasi when they opened for and served as backing band for Elliott Smith on his XO tour in 1998. Years before White Stripes and Mates of State, Quasi was exploring the sonic possibilities of the rock duo, a rarity prior to the emergence of these acts. Sounding a bit like Built to Spill (Coomes is a guest keyboardist on almost every one of their albums), their sound is very much in line with the "Northwestern sound" of the late 90s acts that emanated from Washington, Oregon, and northern California.
I chose the song "I Never Want to See You Again" because I think it's a great example of the musical complexity that can be achieved with just two players. Layers of keyboard sounds, including clavinet, organ, acoustic piano and an electric piano played both clean and through a distortion box, provide a range of colors that would rival a much larger band. (I realize there are likely overdubs on this recording but, according to the liner notes, no bass guitar(!) and Quasi are the only performers.) The way Coomes and Weiss work together rhythmically is impressive and I ascribe most of the credit to Weiss, who drums with originality and economy. Coomes does not have the kind of voice that is going to land him on pop radio but it works here and is especially nice when layered with Weiss's vibrato-less alto. (Check out "Tomorrow You'll Hide" for a lead vocal from Weiss.)
Finally, I think the song is pretty interesting and may appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Across nearly four minutes, it progresses through an assortment of styles, tempos and meters on the way to its dramatic conclusion.