Photos By: David Phillipich
By: Corey McComb
It’s Friday night at the Casbah and Seattle’s indie-folk legend Damien Jurado is here promoting his new album, Visions Of Us On The Land.
Released earlier this year, it’s the final installment of his Maraqopa album trilogy, in which Jurado left behind acoustic ballads for mythical storytelling and textured psychedelic rock.
Produced by Richard Swift and recorded up in the Oregon mountains, the trilogy began with 2012’s Maraqopa and was followed up with 2014’s Brother and Sisters of the Eternal Son. The highly conceptualized albums are based off a dream Jurado had where an unnamed character embarks on an existential odyssey after surviving a car crash, and wanders into a fictitious commune. The spiritual journey culminates with Visions as the character leaves the commune with a female companion. Jurado says, “It’s about a guy who disappears on a search, if you will, for himself and never goes home.”
While his cult following may be looking forward to old favorites from a prolific discography that spans 20 years, Jurado is here tonight to unravel the saga of Maraqopa.
Ben Abraham, Australian crooner and Secretly Canadian label mate to Jurado, opens the show with warm melodies and a humble stage presence. As he finishes, a crowded back patio barely notices Jurado sneak onto the stage. He immediately sits down on the stool already waiting for him and summons the crowd in with the opening chords of “Silver Timothy”; the starting point of his character’s journey.
With his full band, The Heavy Light, around him, Jurado squints forward almost absently. His fingers curl up on a acoustic guitar and start the folkloric finger picking of “Magic Number”. A tapestry of eeriness is sent out by the keyboardist/sound engineer sitting next to him. Jurado howls through an echo chambered voice, “It’s my turn to confuse.”
Jurado’s hymns ring out in an esoteric purgatory somewhere between haunting and humming. He narrates with a wandering ghostliness on Visions first two singles, “Exit 33” and “QACHINA”, as the band meets him at the rural intersections of myth, self-actualization, and dream-weaving instrumentation.
The guitarist to his right wields psychedelic riffs with the same rawness heard on the album, while eccentric drum fills hit with the power and vibration of falling timber. By the time “TAQOMA” is played, the Casbah’s landscape has become an Oregon forrest. Distorted basslines shovel into the ground and turn over soil.
The pages of Jurado’s odyssey continue to turn with the rhythmic funk of “Walrus”, a song about escaping the commune, before leading into Maraqopa’s opener “Nothing is the News”. The pace is slowed and the night is ended with “Working Titles“.
Through a cinematic performance of hypnotic words and wailing walls of sound, Jurado and The Heavy Light put us all in the story tonight.
Floating in his geodesic eyes, the crowd is still rapt. He is still on his stool.