You don’t need to be enlightened to go to the Illuminati Ball. The secret’s out so it’s time to contemplate costume options and get ready for a night of mind-altering melodies from two bands from Portland and one from Jersey.
“Dead Souls Sessions” is SeepeopleS’ latest release, and it’s a double album bursting at the seams with 25 tracks. What they offer is musically diverse, but first a crash course in the band: SeepeopleS have been in existence for 15 years and at their epicenter is singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Will Bradford. They’ve played more than a thousand live shows, and guests on their five studio albums include members of Morphine, Dave Matthews Band, Spearhead and Parliament Funkadelic. Not too shabby.
Along with Bradford, the band includes drummer/singer Dan Capaldi, bassist/singer Ian Riley, guitarist/singer Brooke Binion, keys player/singer Frank Hopkins and guitarist/singer Doug Porter. Binion, who is married to Bradford, has been in the band since 2010. The rest of the musicians joined in either 2014 or earlier this year. In fact, Doug Porter just came on board in September.
Discography wise, “For the Good of the Nation” dropped in 2001, followed by “The Corn Syrup Conspiracy” in 2004, “Apocalypse Cow Vol. I” in 2006 and “Apocalypse Cow Vol. II” in 2009. Which brings us to the brand new one, “Dead Souls Sessions,” which has an amusing list of the song titles. It includes, “Coma Vacation Hostage,” “Gogol’s Tea Dance Dinner Mint,” “Second Worst Person in the World,” “Solitary Water Torture,” “Invincibility Complex” and “Test Lake Baby 4.” I mean seriously, who thinks up this stuff?
Curiosity about the song titles quickly gave way to curiosity about the actual music.
It starts with the stunning instrumental “Solitary Water Torture.” There is a cinematic feel to it, like it’s the kind of music that would accompany a documentary about the discovery of ancient underwater ruins.
Then the record takes a sharp turn on “Waltz of the Damned” with Bradford’s vocals sounding like he’s singing from outer space with something saw-like scraping back and forth. But there’s also piano and guitar, and when all the pieces are put together, the end result is a melodic, trippy song. “You’re not supposed to notice, the rug being pulled from your feet/because you grew up in a circus, your transformation’s complete,” sings Bradford at the high end of his register. “Fall in Rome” is a weird, bouncy song; so is “Invincibility Complex.” “Test Lake Baby 4” is more straight-forward alternative rock while “Downstairs” is a slower track with fuzzy, textured guitars and fantastic drums. There are eight more songs on this disc.
Side Two of “Dead Souls Sessions” opens with “Gogol’s Tea Dance Dinner Mint,” an instrumental wall of layered sounds that is dark and mesmerizing.
It’s followed by “Sight for Sore Eyes,” a psychedelic tune that floated – then stomped – into my ears on a bed of keys. Skipping ahead a few tracks, “Hide and Seek” is a synth-heavy tune in which Bradford sings about searching for the one he’s being haunted by. Or something along those lines. “Ready or not, I’m coming to get you …”
Over the last two weeks I’ve spend a good amount of time with this album, and I still can’t wrap my head around all of it. And that is a compliment. There’s so much going on, and many genre lines are crossed.
Together, the 25 songs of “Dead Souls Sessions” are a trip down a road paved with psychedelic rock, but they also color way outside those lines.
As for why the show is being called The Illuminati Ball, I asked Bradford’s longtime friend and the band’s marketing director Victoria Karol what the deal was, and her response was spectacular: “The eye of Horus is a symbol of the Illuminati and since it was SeepeopleS and Five of the Eyes, we figured, eye theme! And then it reminded me of the eye in the Illuminati pyramid (like on a dollar bill) and I was reminded of photos of a real Illuminati ball I saw online. And since they wore costumes and it’s Halloween, why not! Plus SeepeopleS has always been sort of political and railing against the ‘machine’ so I liked the irony of having a party whose theme is the ultra-rich and elite … in a town like Portland, where we’re all broke all the time.”
Take a listen to the song “Used”
By the way, Five of the Eyes is a recently formed Portland-based progressive rock band and In the Presence of Wolves is a four-piece progressive/experimental/alternative act out of Barrington, New Jersey.
Illuminati Halloween Ball with SeepeopleS, Five of the Eyes and In the Presence of Wolves. 10 p.m. Saturday. Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland, $10, 21-plus. portlandempire.com