Eugene Weekly : Music : 7.12.07

Wetland Visions

Some artists just can’t stand still. After mastering the flute, playing bluesy guitar, studying composition at the UO, founding the school’s 100th Monkey new music ensemble and performing in free-improv groups in Oregon and British Columbia, Eugene musician Daniel Heila still sought other vehicles for creative expression, leading to his recent work in video. He’s even writing poetic blog entries on the subject of one his current video projects: the West Eugene wetlands. His installation “Wetlands: Distant Progress,” now up at the DIVA center, includes a single-channel digital video piece, electro-acoustic sound design and framed still sequences depicting the sprawl-threatened natural areas. On Friday, Heila will screen excerpts from the “abstract documentary,” accompanied by structured improvisation on flute, guitar and voice-overs, abetted by modern electronics.

Heila’s music can range from melancholy to serene to urgent, effectively counterpointing the onscreen images. The imagery might include footage of the area’s wildlife and other natural features as well as nearby housing developments. According to Heila, the work “highlights the relationship between ‘right use’ of the preserve and the inevitability of development.”

“I tune into the depths of simple moments,” he writes. “Frequently, I employ scales of time that are challenging to the viewer — either lengthening or shortening temporal perceptions (often quite subtly) in an effort to encourage deeper listening and seeing.”

Never polemical, Daniel Heila’s intriguing musical and visual creations respond — obliquely yet insightfully — to our environment and our troubled relationship with it. Daniel Heila performs at 7 pm Friday, July 13, at DIVA. $5, $3 stu. — Brett Campbell



Grody to the Max

First impressions can be really confusing. Take a band like Murderland, for example. To begin with, they have the word “murder” in their name. Their MySpace quote commands you to “Hail Satan” and links to a gore-porn site that advertises itself with an image of a woman eating a human hand. Just when you start to wonder, “What could this enigmatic riddle of a band possibly be all about?” you scroll down a little further and see that, in fact, they live to “dine on the flesh of nubile virgins and lap the blood of the innocent.” Oh, and play horror punk music. They apparently do that too, and if raging riffs marinated in pure evil appeal to you, you and your sicko friends can check them out at the Black Forest.

Murderland’s tongue-in-cheek slasher-shtick is, fortunately, not just a cover for some lame band that has to bite off rodent heads to keep an audience. Their EP Lights Out includes a variety of songs that are fun and frantic in addition to foul and frightening, featuring actual lyrics sung by an actual singer who can also growl and howl with punk-rock respectability. Horror drunks: You need to go see this band, if for no other reason than the brilliant little gem from their press release that claims, “Murderland takes the fun and the fright of classic splatter movies and 1950s horror comics, adds a healthy dose of punk rock and channels it through a Ouija board to create tunes perfect for any haunted house party or drive-in date.”

If the Country Fair has left you weary of fairies and hula hoops, indulge your taste for blood-and-guts mayhem with Murderland at 8 pm Tuesday, July 17, at the Black Forest. 21+ show. — Adrienne van der Valk


Lullaby for a Good Night

There’s really just one Matthew Winters song I want to tell you about. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the rest of the songs on his 2007 album …Under Your Skin Like Splinters; they’re confessional, slightly frantic midnight tirades that sound less like Winters wears his heart on his sleeve than like he has it in his fist and is holding it out for you to examine. Press material says “It’s been said that if Alkaline Trio and Conor Oberst had a child it would be Matthew Winters,” and on tracks like “Ridgely,” which falls all over itself with bitter enthusiasm, there’s some truth to that (at least if we’re talking early Oberst). Later, the summery, spring-in-your-step “Sun Beats Moon” sounds like The Good Life, exposed and wry, surprised at the appearance of happiness. Sometimes Winters’ self-deprecating lyrics and muted strumming veer into Dashboard Confessional territory, but without the slickness of a Dashboard ditty.

But this one song. It’s called “Miercoles (The Lullaby Song),” and you can listen to it on Winters’ MySpace page. It’s the kind of song that’s thick with magic and potential, the possibility settled between the simple, repetitive guitar melody and the percussive tones that sound like a broken music box or sticking keys on a tiny toy piano. At just over the two minute mark, the song stretches and thickens, shifts and turns — but just for a moment, as a resonant bass note appears, patiently pacing upwards, and Winters sings what sounds like “I cling to you like a sock to a sweater / and I don’t mind admitting I can think of nothing better.”

Then back to the sweet lullaby Winters goes, his voice hidden behind an effect that makes it sound as if the song is coming through a tinny little radio. It’s this song you need to hear. Matthew Winters and Paper Mache play at 7 pm Friday, July 13, at Cozmic Pizza. $5 — Molly Templeton


Start Playing Cole Porter

Sultry, poppy, jazzy, like a younger Tori Amos with less focus on sex and more on words, Shannon Curtis inspires more adjectives and adverbs than good writing manuals allow us to put in the paper. The L.A. Times apparently called her “the love child of Fiona Apple and Norah Jones,” which seems a bit over the top yet close to the target. Curtis’ piano playing and her torchy voice make songs like “Wasted” a risky proposition during the workday (much less during a workout): One listen, and you’ll want to be lounging at Luna or Davis’, shot glass in hand and air of sophisticated desperation emanating from your too, too realistic dissipation. “My good sense is wasted when it comes to you,” she sings. OK, perhaps a hotel bar after an assignation comes to mind more than a Eugene jazz club. Now to go out and find someone to waste good sense on … wait, snap out of it! It’s just a song. A compelling song.

Curtis, like so many of us, started playing the piano as a youngster. Her teacher told her she played like a boy, which doesn’t seem like the best way to start a career in the piano — 7-year-old boys aren’t exactly known for their finesse at the keyboard. But Curtis persisted and developed polish and the kind of lyrical touch that comes from perhaps a bit too much Norton anthology reading. (Note to Shannon: It’s not a crime to capitalize words in your lyrics, really.) She started writing these languidly anguished songs after the breakup of her marriage (to a pastor, no less — one wonders what he thinks of the results of all that pain) and, sorry Shannon, but listeners are all the better for your dark days. Clearly talented, Curtis is a warm-voiced young woman whose musical hooks sit pleasantly with her words of regret and longing. “Watch your step as you cross this threshhold / cause I recall last april had you sold on goodbye,” she writes in “Boomerangs and Seasaws,” the title song of her debut album, released this month. Snag the album or listen to a few songs online, and then satisfy that whisky craving at 8:30 pm Thursday, July 19, at Luna. Nick Bearden opens, and John Shipe is playing in there somewhere as well. 21+ show. A steal at $5 (though the alcohol will put you back a bit more, as might the resulting affairs). — Suzi Steffen