Beverly Crusher, “Scab” (Freakout Records)
A Seattle band that's been grinding since 2014, Beverly Crusher play powerful, no-bullshit rock that bears traces of punk and grunge. You have probably heard a lot of music like this before, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest. But, against great odds at this late date, Beverly Crusher make you think that these styles haven't been totally exhausted. The trio—Cozell Wilson (guitar, vocals), Sam Stiles (drums), Max Stiles (bass)—deliver their heavy and speedy songs in a passionate whirlwind, and their hooks hit hard and from non-obvious angles. They sound hungry as hell, but they don't seem to be pandering at all for the commercial breakthrough that they genuinely deserve. This is rare and admirable.
The first taster from Beverly Crusher's new album, Waste of Waves (out August 12 on Seattle's Freakout Records), “Scab” busts out of the gate with urgency and alien, helter-skeltered guitar tones before charging into breakneck chugging mode, topped with Wilson's Mark Arm-like bellows. (The Bandcamp artwork for the single parodies the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind, with the money on a hook swapped out for a bloody bandage.) “Scab” was inspired by a stroke that Wilson suffered in 2017, and it revolves around the concepts of mortality and the tedium of recovering the skills one loses from a debilitating affliction. Sam Stiles said, “We all feel like we've been ripped off in life at some point or another, whether it be by the fucked-up world we live in, or by our own self-destructive behavior... 'Scab' embodies that realization.”
The careening dynamics and swarm of burly guitar and bass on “Scab” add up to an exhilarating experience. Based on the evidence of this song alone, Beverly Crusher make a convincing argument that they should open for Mudhoney on their next world tour.
Beverly Crusher perform at Ballard Seafood Fest on July 16 and play their record-release show Aug. 13 at the Tractor Tavern.
Lisa Bella Donna, “Inner Space” (Self-Released)
Somehow, Lisa Bella Donna eluded my radar until I found out that she's going to be one of the headliners at Velocity (August 27 at Substation), a festival organized by the Patchwerks synthesizer shop and the Modular Seattle crew. Thankfully, her Bandcamp is full of outstanding releases, so it's easy to catch up on her far-out yet rigorous brand of analog-synth-powered ambient composition. Bella Donna's arsenal includes some of the most glorious-sounding instruments in the electronic-music spectrum: ARP 2600, ARP String Ensemble, Moog One, and Moog Modular System. From her base of operations in the Appalachian Mountains, she optimizes the potential of these coveted synths.
Bella Donna's 2022 release, Electronic Voyages 2, explores the deep interstellar zones reminiscent of the work of sonic illuminati such as Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese, and Ralph Lundsten. Four long pieces create the illusion of infinite spaces and inscrutable mysteries which whirl through your simple headphone mind. Their expansive drones wax and wane and arpeggiate and recede with elegance, enabling a lofty sort of escapism. All of it sounds as if it could soundtrack a big-budget, existential sci-fi film.
The shortest work here at a whisker under eight minutes, “Inner Space” is the album's most dynamic and interesting track. With radiant tone clusters shooting off in unpredictable directions, pulsations that signal peril, and surprising chord progressions, “Inner Space” is a peak lysergic excursion into its titular realm. This is some ultimate dropping-acid-at-the-planetarium business; there is almost no higher compliment.
Lisa Bella Donna performs at the Velocity festival Aug. 27 at Substation.