: November 2001: Dahlia
they ain't the biggest fucking thing in Portland, then
tell me who
the hell is? The conglomeration of electronica wizards
known as Dahlia, is the closest thing to an international
Portland splash since the days of Dan Reed, Dharma Bums
or Nu Shooz. With its two most recognizable figures--keyboardist
Keith Schreiner and singer Jennifer Folker--treading the
light fantastic with the likes of Love & Rockets'
David J., Banco De Gaia, Nine Inch Nails' Chris Vrenna,
Jeff Trott and Sheryl Crow, there's little doubt that
Dahlia is something amazing that's blooming right here
at home. And Dahlia is a flower that's pushing up buds
all over. Schreiner, with his compact family of sequencers
and keyboards, works regularly around town as a freelance
composer, session man and as the one-man-show called Auditory
Sculpture. He's recently hooked up with Trott on a regular
basis, completed some session work on Crow's latest album,
and buried himself in writing a film score for a locally
produced documentary. Then, under the Auditory Sculpture
name, he gave birth to a phenomenal CD called That
Might Be You, But This Is Me. This heady little trip
elicits a flood of electronic icons, from Moby, Brian
Eno and Tangerine Dream to DJ Coldcut. Talk about resumés.
there's the lovely Miss Jennifer, who has racked up a
load of glittering highlights, including work on David
J's solo works (on the Internet), the ethereal Banco De
Gaia, and a recent EP by Vrenna that features an appearance
by art rock god David Sylvian. And when their worlds collide,
it gets damn interesting. On Keith's album, the stunning
"Hiding From You" reveals a classical side to the techno
whiz kid. But that song appears on Dahlia's explosive
first CD, Emotion Cycles, as well. Here, it's delicately
layered by Jennifer's vocals while the original Auditory
Sculpture version slides intact underneath.
think why Dahlia works so well is that the music stands
up well by itself," said Schreiner. "And with Jen on top,
it's just--fuckin' A-- that much more."
Cycles is in its third pressing now, having sold
out locally time and again. A recent national distribution
deal with Allegro will happily force them to press even
more. But there's still more to Dahlia than meets the
eye...and ear. Behind them at every show is soundman Jay
Bozich, who, according to Schreiner, "does the whole nine
yards: tweaking the sound, effects, lights and video."
"It's nice to be in with
Six Degrees Records. It's like having
a relationship with them without
the relationship: all the intercourse
you want without the commitment."
behind Bozich, Schreiner and Folker is a constant aesthetic
of improvising. Surprisingly little is set in stone in
their song structures: from Folker's otherworldly, on-the-spot
scat singing, Schreiner's awe-inspiring method of manipulating
and toying with his own loops and keyboard lines, to Bozich's
mystical manner of moving the entire direction of a song
from behind the soundboard like some sort of Wizard of
It really is improvisation on every level, isn't
It's improvising over a general theme. Jen knows what
I do. I know what Jen does. We all know what Jay does.
There's a general construct of what the song will do.
We know roughly what will happen, where it's going to
go, but we have no idea what's REALLY going to happen.
Sometimes Jen will take over as the leading force and
I'll follow. Other times I'll take over. We
don't even look at each other when we perform. We know
when someone feels the bug.
And every once in a while I'll take over.
Yeah, we'll hear Jay take over. He'll turn it up
louder than it's tasteful, and we can hear it. All of
a sudden my voice has, like, this effect. And I'll change
the approach at that point, because I'm, like, ooooo.....he'll
have this harmonizer on my voice. It'll get all creepy
and I'll play off that.
I've seen that happen when you make those sort of
and all of a sudden there'll be this echo surrounding
you, giving it that sub-marine thing.
It's sort of reflex now. I'll be trying to do something
else, then I'll hear that and I know I've got to go
hit that effect.
Jennifer, how did you get hooked up with national
people like David J., Banco and Vrenna?
Vrenna heard me on Banco De Gaia--who are both on Six
Degrees Records--at their offices, and he said, "Who
the fuck is this singer?" They said, "Well, we'd love
to hook you up." It's nice to be in with Six Degrees
Records. It's like having a relationship with them without
the relationship: all the intercourse you want without
the commitment. And David J. heard my old band, Imogene,
down in San Diego when my friend played it for him.
He was curious and I sent him a demo.
Do these other high-profile projects help in promoting
the band with the national distribution deal?
Yeah! But you go do these other things and it's still
great to come back. It strengthens the working relationship
with us. People go, "Well, you've worked with so-and-so,
why don't you keep working with him?...."
It's like, "But have you heard Dahlia?"
Yeah. More like, "But there's this fucking great project
Keith, you play a lot of didgeridoo. But you were
telling me once how that can have some stigma--you'll
sometimes join a jazz jam and the musicians will initially
ask, "what the fuck," until you win them over.
It's misrepresented so often. The aborigines don't
just drone and fart in the thing. That's boring as
hell. The more rhythmic approach is traditional. They
just rock it. I often feel like I have to go out and
prove, "Hey, you can rock this thing." It's not just
new age, hippie bullshit.
On the album, there's that song where the lyric
goes, "Show us your soul," called "Tour." It's sort
of a signature tune of yours, and it's a live version
that's on the album.
A lot of people who bought the Dahlia album at first
were bummed that it was so different from the live
shows. So we figured we'd put that on to give it a
taste of the live. It's raw. It's super raw, but it
gives a good taste.
Now, you once told me an interesting view on performing--how
you don't really like it.
Yeah, I'm not real big on performing live. I don't
think you can give an honest, true performance if
you play live, because inevitably the crowd
what you do. You have to focus on the energy, the
crowd, and that dictates your performance-- unless
your ego is THAT fucking big.
Is that a view that you both share? Or how do
you feel about that?
Oh, I'm not worried about him. He's got to pay the
bills. I agree with what he's saying, but I get
off on the feedback of the crowd and the energy
and what not. Although it has its painful nights
if you want to do soft stuff and
Some of our best material is deep ambient. But I
don't attempt it anymore, because when I try some
mellow shit all I hear is talking, and we watch
people walk off the dance floor. So we try to keep
not exactly a "music for the masses" concession
for the improvisational wizardry of Dahlia. More
like helping the audience out. Or throwing them
a bone...or a didgeridoo. *
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