Fists, rim shots and soul pipes

Mom scares the bros at Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom VIII (right), while Allen Maxwell of Knock Knock stirred the pad kee mao at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in Davis.

Mom scares the bros at Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom VIII (right), while Allen Maxwell of Knock Knock stirred the pad kee mao at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in Davis.

Photo By Becky Grunewald

Joanna Newsom’s drummer has sent you an e-mail:
Neal Morgan wrote his debut album, To the Breathing World, while touring as Joanna Newsom’s drummer in support of her Ys album. And when you hear the record, this makes sense. OK, I’m stretching things; it vaguely bears semblance to Newsom’s whispery ballads. But both Newsom and Morgan’s songs come at you in a haze: His feature blasts of vocalization, dashes of wild and stripped-bare drum breakbeats, and a line or two of spoken word, like on the opening track, “Birch Bark Boat in Space.”

Medúlla-era Björk and Hella comparisons—and even broader Nevada City-scene sound similarities, even though Morgan hails from Portland, Ore.—aren’t out of line. But what captures most about Morgan’s avant-garde styling is how his songs, what with their unwieldy harmonies and soft, colorful choral moments, grow into something ultimately very catchy.

The album’s seventh track, “Longingly” exhibits such: Morgan and Co. murmur longingly, then the vocals trickle off, leaving only a whir of crashes and rides and, eventually, a lonely tick-tack of rim shots and what appear to be hand cymbals. It’s hypnotic.

I’m really glad I read the e-mail with the subject line “ATTN New Music Review: Joanna Newsom’s drummer,” otherwise I probably wouldn’t have heard this great record. Morgan’s CD release show is this Tuesday, October, 13, at Luigi’s Fun Garden with Church and Alak (8 p.m., $5, all ages). (Nick Miller)

Adventures in the 530:
The eighth installment of Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom turned out to be one of the best.

The kids in G.Green were all dressed in black and looking good. Their enthusiasm was infectious and the music was buoyed by Julian Elorduy’s (of Mayyors) high, bouncy leads. These up-and-comers have a single out on Out of Order Records.

The Four Eyes were a last-minute addition to the bill, and they really took the freedom theme to heart by closing their set with a wonderfully terrible version of “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

As San Francisco’s the Mantles took the stage, darkness fell and a harvest moon and chilly, leaf-studded breeze made it seem as if the band had single-handedly brought on the fall season with haunting, droning songs.

The dark vibe continued when Mom crawled through the audience while a chirpy loop entreated her to “come out, come out.” Some people were dancing with her to the surf-rock tracks, but some bros in the audience were quite agitated by the flashes of bush interspersed with a literal blood bath that she doused on herself at the front of the stage. Deal with it, bros.

As O:RMF was winding down, a Cool as Folk-sponsored show was winding up at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in Davis. The criminally underrated Dreamdate busted out a full set of perfect pop gems. I guess beautiful harmonies and insanely catchy songs aren’t enough to get a band noticed these days?

Knock Knock was down a rhythm guitarist due to a knife (fighting) injury, so instead she sang and danced, kind of like Bez from Happy Mondays, but if Bez was pretty and actually talented. Knock Knock’s songs are so epic and stirring, if you aren’t moved to pump your fist while they’re playing, you just might be a zombie. That’s why God gave you fists! (Becky Grunewald)

Soul pipes:
I saw Ledisi a decade ago (!) during a benefit concert in Berkeley headlined by the Roots. The one thing that stood out was her warbling “Free your mind and fly away” in an annoying, slightly grating voice. Ledisi seemed like one of those “local” stars that never break out of their hometowns, unlike Martin Luther and Goapele, who also dominated Bay Area soul at the time. But, uh … I was wrong. Last year, Ledisi earned a “Best New Artist” Grammy nomination. In August, her latest album, Turn Me Loose, debuted in the Billboard top 20. Of course, she’s a much better singer now, although the most remarkable thing about Turn Me Loose isn’t the songs (which are so-so), but her magnificent pipes. No need to worry about off-tune warbling; Ledisi has come into her own. She peforms this Saturday, October 10, 6:30 p.m.; $25; at Avalon Nightclub, 805 15th Street. (Mosi Reeves)