On his third album for K Records, quirky Pacific Northwest troubadour Karl Blau further feels out the African-inspired sounds he has flirted with in the past. Zebra is full of languid guitar sprawl, entrenched basslines, and stuttered drums, never heading in a direction youd expect but never quite going astray. Blaus voice manifests itself as a heavy sigh, also heard on his pal Laura Veirs latest album. He has also produced several K releases in the past year, setting up shop at Calvin Johnsons longtime base studio, Dub Narcotic. Those credits include LAKEs new album, Lets Build a Roof, on which the all-caps Olympia six-piece (and sometimes more) refines the dreamy, ramshackle pop introduced on last years Oh, the Places Well Go. But not too much; the band still swaps lead singers and pieces together a sort of junkyard sound. Its just a smoother ride this time, exemplified on the bashfully sublime Madagascar and the harmony-lifted The Roof Caves In. Touring together will only deepen the connection between Blau and LAKEs color-smeared palettes, which begin to swirl into one after a few listens to each.
Half Handed Cloud opens.
Sun., Nov. 22, 9 p.m., 2009