Music News

Head Games

Dave Einmo, the main mind behind Seattle's Head Like a Kite, is parked on the shoulder of Interstate 90 in rural Montana, and no matter where he moves inside his vehicle, he can't get decent cell-phone reception. So he steps onto the roadside and is immediately transfixed. "Wow," he says. "There's a really interesting-sounding bird out here."

This reaction is typical of Einmo, who loves noises of every description -- the more natural, the better. As evidence, open an ear to Random Portraits of the Home Movie, the latest Kite release on Pattern 25 Records, an imprint he co-founded and helps operate. As implied by its title, the disc utilizes sonics culled from decades-old Super-8 footage shot by Einmo's father. "The quality of the sound, in some cases, wasn't the best," he concedes. "I had to do a lot of EQ-ing of things; it was kind of painstaking. But in some ways, the lo-fi-ness of it was just what I needed against the high-fidelity sounds of a drum track or a cello. It turned out really cool."

Most of these samples are subsumed into the electro-acoustic mix that Einmo applies to his sometimes rocking, sometimes popping, always intriguing material. On other occasions, though, the snippets take a more prominent role, as on the oddly melancholy "Scenes From the World Trade Center 1979," which incorporates the senior Einmo's semi-stentorian narration as he pointed his lens through an upper-floor window of the WTC more than a quarter-century ago. When he was writing the tune, Einmo says, "I thought, I hope this doesn't come out feeling like I'm trying to explain what happened on 9/11, or that I'm using it for my own advantage. But I'm glad I used it, because it gives some nice breadth alongside some of the more upbeat parts."

Like, for example, the propulsive "Injecting 10ccs of Temptation," which incorporates audio from a sequence shot amid a long-ago Hawaiian vacation. "My dad is filming my mother running down the beach, when all of a sudden he zooms in on this woman who's sunbathing without a top on," Einmo notes, laughing. In contrast, the vocoder-fueled "Your Butt Crack Smile" focuses on a different area -- his dad's caboose, as seen during a crab-catching visit to Puget Sound. "This was before it was fashionable to show your butt cleavage," Einmo points out, "so he was ahead of his time."

In concert, Kite (whose touring lineup includes multi-instrumentalist Trent Moorman) screens the films in conjunction with the ditties they inspired. Einmo was understandably concerned about how his parents would react to this juxtaposition, but they recently attended a Seattle show and "really enjoyed it," he says. "I think it was cool for them to see all these people watching things from their honeymoon and all this other stuff."

The personal aspects of his latest project are pleasurable for Einmo, too. "It's fun to be playing music to strangers I've never met before, and then I see my dad bending over a crab cage," he says. "How great is that?"

Just as great as that bird chirruping in Middle of Nowhere, Montana.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts