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Medicine of anger

Nana Grizol explores catharsis on an intimate and global scale

Nana Grizol shares ties with Elephant 6, even beyond the horns and verbose folk. Photo credit: Sandra Rek

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It's a funny thing, in music, for certain bands and sounds to be stamped with a label that will forever tie them to a time and scene. This labeling can come from without, or within, as observers might sometimes be more qualified to identify the qualities that bands share with each other, even if those bands can't see it. A classic example of this is the subgenre that became known as C86 - beginning as a cassette compilation from NME in 1986, C86 came to be a shorthand to describe the type of band that would have been included on that comp (jangly, light indie rock, generally speaking). It's a tenuous designation, to be sure, but C86 - like many witheringly obscure subgenres - is sort of like pornography, in that you know it when you see it.

An example of an overarching sound being formed from within, though, emerged out of Athens, Georgia (by way of Denver, Colorado) with the Elephant 6 collective. In the ‘90s, likeminded, artistic weirdos joined forces to collaborate and to inspire each other in the making of psychedelic indie rock that drew from the ‘60s, while also spinning kaleidoscopically into many different directions. Notable bands that came out of Elephant 6 include titans like Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, the Apples in Stereo, Elf Power, and the Olivia Tremor Control. Though Elephant 6 is no longer a going concern, its name still invokes a certain amount of weight and can immediately conjure an image in one's mind of how a band bearing its brand might sound.

Nana Grizol, though not technically an Elephant 6 band, does hail from Athens and shares members with Elephant 6 alums Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, and the Music Tapes. Beyond those connections, though, Nana Grizol might be confused for an Elephant 6 band, based on sound alone.

Nana Grizol has a shifting lineup, though, remains consistent with Theo Hilton as its front man. Their winsome, clean, verbose folk that get subsumed in fuzzy guitars and bombastic horns immediately calls to mind the work of Jeff Mangum, even if Hilton doesn't fly as close to the sun in unhinged vision as Mangum did.

On their recently released album, Ursa Minor, Nana Grizol deliver a nourishing dose of intimate connection and cosmic projection, blowing up universal truths just as easily as whispered secrets across tin can telephones. The lo-fi tendencies/necessities of Elephant 6 are replaced by a warmth and assuredness that guides you seamlessly across all 12 songs in an instant. Swells of organs churn in the background, horns lie in wait around the edges, and Hilton marches forward with guitars and drums in tow. When the other instruments stand up to join the party, after a minute or two of build-up, there's nothing more cathartic than bursting that bubble of comfort to be encompassed in cacophony.

While Hilton's lyrical interests seem mostly occupied by small-scale dramas, there's at least one notable exception to be found on Ursa Minor, and it's a locally relevant one. "Tacoma Center 1600" is all about our city's notorious detention center, which is regarded as grossly inhumane, housing prisoners under dubious charges. Nana Grizol's song about the facility feels almost like a throwback protest song, targeting one specific symptom of a larger problem, creating a poppy tune that lets the medicine of anger and disbelief go down a little easier.

Whether exploring man's inhumanity to man in service of profit, or exploring the ways in which we relate to each other in more nuanced circumstances, Nana Grizol is an observant band that funnels life's experiences through a richly fleshed-out palette. Surging from restraint to eruption is something that comes as easily to them as rolling down a treacherously steep hill.

Nana Grizol, w/ Your Heart Breaks, Wizard Apprentice, Erica Freas, 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, Obsidian, 414 4th Ave. E., Olympia, $7-$10, 360.890.4425,

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