Sound Advice: Sitar, mandolin and bad politics

Mantic poets: According to Irish folklore, there were these poets who specifically sought out nature in order to create stream-of-consciousness poetry. Through ritual, they would become known as “mantic poets.”

That, along with other Celtic tales, forms the inspiration for Lasher Keen’s new record, Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy. The fascinating, other-worldly band plays a record-release show on Saturday, June 14, at Shine (1400 E Street).

“Medieval psychedelic folk” isn’t a terrible description of Lasher Keen’s sound, but it also doesn’t quite do it justice. I wouldn’t really call Lasher Keen a band, either. It’s more of an art project. Multi-instrumentalists Dylan Sheets and Bluebird Gaia make high-concept, ambitious albums with intricate artwork and storytelling.

Clocking in at 95 minutes, the group’s fifth album is an incredible feat—and recorded in just six days. Two songs are 23 minutes each—epics grander than Lasher Keen has ever attempted before. But the new songs are also less dark and frenzied than in the past—perhaps more accessible to casual listeners.

“This album is a little more grounded,” Sheets says. “We’re growing into our full potential, taking more risks and exploring new sound categories. … I got a sitar in the mail and played it the studio the next day.”

Learning to play the sitar that quickly was, apparently, not a huge deal. It makes sense, considering all the other instruments on the record: Medieval gut-string harp, cello, violin, viola, guitar, bodhran, penny whistle, bass, piano, pump organ, psaltery, bouzouki, Autoharp, elk-skin frame drum, doumbek, glockenspiel, tabla, harmonium, war horns, orchestral bells, vibraphone, etc.

The record itself is a double-colored vinyl, gatefold, with a booklet full of lyrics, original artwork and photograph—the cover is based on an oil painting by Gaia. It’s also dedicated to the memory of Broughty Cole, Lasher Keen’s drummer who unexpectedly disappeared in March and was later found in the Sacramento River.

“It was amazing playing with Broughty. He was such a talented drummer,” Sheets says. “He said it was a dream come true to drum on a real record. I’m just glad he was able to achieve some amazing highs before he went.”

New kids: Last week was mighty eventful for local musician Noah Clark.

He’s probably best known as the drummer with prog-punk band Brilliant Red Lights, though he’s also worked with big names like Cake and Chk Chk Chk (!!!) in some capacity.

In that one week, a family member died, and a couple days later, Clark celebrated his birthday, then a couple days after that, he unveiled his brand-new band. In impressive numbers, Clark’s friends showed serious support at Witch Room last Friday night.

The evening began with Foxtails Brigade, a lovely chamber-pop outfit from the Bay Area. Laura Weinbach’s voice was beautiful and just a little strange, matching the Victorian-era, storybook imagery of Foxtails Brigade’s album art. With Anton Patzner, an exceptional violinist known for his string metal band Judgment Day and for often touring with Bright Eyes, Weinbach’s songs took on whimsical, delightful highs.

The crowd got off their seats and sped toward the stage once Noah Clark and the Homewrecking Crew began.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Clark said. “Thank you for being here for it.”

The five-piece included keys and, occasionally, a mandolin. Clark stayed behind the drums and sang with a slight Americana edge. And overall, the band seemed ridiculously polished with a seamlessly flowing set, considering this was its debut.

The band’s soon-to-be officially released EP Feel Free exhibits melodic indie rock for easy listening, but those songs were played live with a bigger, rock ’n’ roll energy. In other words, the “Bad Company” cover matched the vibe.

Watch for bigger things soon. Clark already has a gig on June 25, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, opening up for North Carolina’s Southern Culture on the Skids.

Sorry, political people: The Black Keys announced additional tour dates last week and whoa! The rock duo is actually stopping in Sacramento.

Of course, there is a caveat. The band plays Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday, November 4. Election night. Potentially thousands of fans will need to work that evening, or at least feel obligated to engage in election-night drinking games.

Though I’m not actually feeling that apologetic—with tickets going for $45-$85, I can’t go either.