Posted November 8, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Fall of Electricity’s ‘The Grunge Era’

By Cassandra Johnson-Villalobos

Let’s start out this review out by making some bold generalizations, and we’ll get to the subtleties later. First, any music critic worth their snuff knows genres are meant to be broken. And second, art is the only accessible form of time travel humanity has right now.

When I attended my first Fall of Electricity show—maybe the first Fall of Electricity show ever—in the winter of 2008 at the now-defunct Artisan’s Cafe, I was most intrigued in the surprising prospect of Ross Cowman and Andrew Dorsett playing lyricless and fiercely electric math rock. I lived in Olympia as a show-going 18-year-old for four months at that point and had already seen Cowman perform with his acoustic project, June Madrona, countless times. In addition to overhearing a few Greta Jane Quartet shows hanging out downtown, I had also heard Dorsett’s work in LAKE on a few of the band’s K Records recordings.

When I look back on the evening from the present, my clearest memory is of Cowman explaining the band’s name to me. He was living at a house that wasn’t able to pay utilities one summer, but enough money arrived with the change of season to restore the house’s electricity. The season was then dubbed the “fall of electricity.” Without that knowledge, the band’s name can sound more apocalyptic than celebratory.

In the case of the band’s new release The Grunge Era, the misconception maintains some utility. The perfection of looking back on the Seattle’s mythical past from a distance of 20 years, 60 miles, and several genres away is astounding. Dorsett’s precise, cascading drumming and Cowman’s vocal, energetic guitar work act as tour guides through math rock’s inevitable time signature changes. Without words, the setting of the album’s consecutive scenes remains the same: wet concrete, dark floating skyscrapers, passing flashes of old leather boots and wisps Chris Cornell’s hair.

Figures of grunge-era Seattle pass in and out of the song titles as well. “Fell on Chris Cornell”, “Smells like 759758”, and “Wind Whispers Eddie” refer to the three leading men of grunge, Cornell, Cobain, and Vedder, while conjuring bits of well-known Seattle radio hits (“Wind Cries Mary” by Hendrix, for example) or simply giving you a preview of the tempo changes to come, as in “759758.”

Recommending tracks for a first listen just creates an assemblage identical to the album’s song listing, so take the band’s advice and listen to the first track they released in late August: The Grunge Era’s first track “Infinite Sadness.” Queue it up on their bandcamp page, and listen to a few after it. Once you’ve let the album run its course and if you’ve decided you like it, consider buying the album. It comes with a custom-made story game, created by Cowman’s former bandmate Jackson Tegu (June Madrona). To anyone asking the question “what is a story game?”, my only advice is “Google it!”

To end the story I started: that night in 2008, I went home to my studio room at the former Black Front Gallery with a different impression than I’d started the evening with. I was fully convinced of both musicians’ abilities to alternate raw power with frenetic bliss or lyrical prowess at will. The musical dynamic between Dorsett and Cowman was, at once, fiery and friendly. Coming away from my first full sitting with The Grunge Era this fall, I felt pleasantly blind-sided again at witnessing the new sweeping territory Fall of Electricity has staked out in Northwest music. Similar to the Puget Sound’s ‘90s legacy—it happened again but this time it’s different.