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Three Bands from the Past, Two for the Future: Zookeeper & Bottomless Pit [9/11/2007 12:45:00 AM]:
Okay, so this is a little weird. When I was a wee musical tadpole back in college, there were a handful of bands that really smacked me sideways, music-wise, and made me realize that hey, maybe there really was all this incredibly cool music out there on the edges where the radio didn't go. Superhunk, Jawbox, Belle & Sebastian, My Blood Valentine -- they totally remade my world.

Also on the list were a band of proto-emo guys from Austin who called themselves Mineral, a dark, urgent, and thankfully non-grunge Seattle indie-rock band called Silkworm, and a patiently surging slocore band called Seam, who also happened to be the first band I ever saw at Emo's (playing with Don Caballero, if memory serves (which, come to think of it, it might not)).

Years went by, and I followed all three bands along, album after album. Mineral died after a handful of 7"s and two stellar full-lengths, then morphed into The Gloria Record, who played what was possibly the most atmospheric, best-sounding show I ever saw at the former Mary Jane's/Fat Cat's. Silkworm fought the good fight in the indie underworld for something like fifteen years, releasing albums that were excellent, good, and okay in varying numbers. Then they lost drummer Michael Dahlquist to a tragic, horrific car wreck in 2005 and, unable to continue without Mike, called the band over.

Seam, for its part, combined folks from both the Chapel Hill and Chicago indie scenes; soon-to-be Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan actually played drums in the band for a year or so back at the start. The band released albums until '99 or so, when they split up and members went their separate ways (to Ee and Poem Rocket, I think, for two). One by one, the bands either crumbled or drifted off into the ether.

Flash forward a few years, and it seems the people in the bands above couldn't keep away from their instruments forever. So, lo and behold, we now have Zookeeper and Bottomless Pit, complete with sample tracks. Enjoy...

Zookeeper - "Snow in Berlin"
Zookeeper is Chris Simpson of Mineral & The Gloria Record (along with cohorts from Zykos, Sad Accordions, & a few other outfits), whose songwriting talents have taken a decidedly non-"emo" turn this time 'round. I dunno if the whole album, Becoming All Things (out on Belle City Pop), is like this one song, but "Snow in Berlin" is jaunty and swinging, with nicely chaotic instruments and a front-porch hoedown feel to it; despite the Germanic subject matter, this is about as far from cold, Teutonic electro-rock as you can get, don't worry. Think harmonicas, barroom pianos, drums just this side of the Black Crowes, and countrified yelp-along vocals. It's a far cry from Simpson's past work, whether in The Gloria Record or Mineral...and I'm guessing that's kind of the point. But hell, it's still very, very good; can't wait to hear the full-length.

Bottomless Pit - "The Cardinal Movements"
Bottomless Pit, on the other hand, consists of Silkworm members Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen, ex-Seam drummer Chris Manfrin, and Brian Orchard, formerly of .22. This one, off of the band's debut, Hammer of the Gods (due out on Comedy Minus One), comes as a bit less of a surprise -- the guitars are murk and chimey like on the best Silkworm tracks, always with a hint of discordant despair lurking behind the notes, and the vocals (not sure whether they're by Midgett or Cohen; I cringe to admit it, but the only Silkworm-er I could ever tell apart vocally was Joel Phelps) have a detached-yet-threatening tone to 'em, like some kind of inevitable crash is coming near. At first I'm a little bit "eh," probably due in part to me yearning to hear Michael Dahlquist back behind the drum kit, but after a listen or two the track starts to dig in like a wire slowly being tightened across my wrist (but in a good way, of course).

I have to say, it's nice to see that even though things do indeed change, they still manage to come back around in some new form.

Unfortunately, Bottomless Pit isn't coming to town anytime real soon, but Zookeeper (and Simpson) will be in H-town this coming Sunday, September 17th, playing at newbie(?) venue Boondocks (1417 Westheimer) with tourmates Umbrellas.

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