I first encountered the music of Olympia, Washington’s Clayface during the summer of 2016. At an early show show at the long since shuttered Obsidian bar to, be precise. The music moved me for sure, but it was more of a gentle sway, and not the kind of elegant goth in black lace with a raven’s nest of hair sway, but just a “Hey, this sad music is pretty alright. I’m fucking old and my back hurts and how come it’s so hard to go anywhere in this town without feeling like a thousand eyes are on you?” sway. In fairness to Clayface, my inability to properly goth-sway had nothing to do their music, and everything to do with the sunlight creeping in through the door. You see, dear darklings, these gloomiest of gloomsters, the heirs to 40 years of darkness and forgotten bedroom recordings with the feeling of a cold grave in autumn (in the best way!) simply had the rotten luck of opening the gig just after the 7:30 door time. ‘Round the Pacific Northwest in the summer, well the sun doesn’t go down until 9:00. We were stuck watching music I would later affectionately come to refer to as “Like if Robert Smith had way less money, and way more genuine misery” while the sun was still up, and goddamn if it wasn’t hard to feel the darkness a little less in the presence of the sun. Creatures of the night don’t stalk the streets during the light of day, and I can all but gurantee you Peter Murphy would throw an absolute prima donna shitfit if Bauhaus had ever been asked to play a gig beneath the burning day-moon.
Somewhere in the years that followed ( I don’t remember when, because so many gray days long since blurred together and I always joked that every year spent in Olympia aged my pretty face twice that.) I came to actually know the music of Clayface and call Jacob a friend. I couldn’t tell you when, but I’m pretty sure I was standing on the back table next to the devil statue at Cryptatropa watching the band absolutely scorch through Sister Is Dead, the title track of their sole LP when I just sorta got it. The story behind the record is not mine to tell, but I will say this: Lots of people experience tragedy. Sometimes its hard to not feel like life is just a series of reprieves between the tragedies that define us. I can also say that I know few people who people who have come out the other side of their tragedies making art as painfully honest, vulnerable and beautiful as Sister Is Dead. It remains one of my favorite records to come out of Olympia. A quiet and sadly dignified, criminally overlooked slab of wax sulking in the shadows between your RVIVR’s and your G.L.O.S.S’s and your Wolves In The Throne Room’s.
I was lucky enough to go on tour with Clayface and Harsh R, an equally beloved project making fucked up abyssal noise in the dank and dark venues of Olympia. To this day, I count that week traveling up and down the west coast just at the end of a dry summer, heavy with wildfire smoke lugging heavy ass equipment and boxes of records as the highlight of my 2018, if not the entirety of my time in Olympia. Last spring when I left for an extended absence, my last night in town, I went to see Clayface play and stood at the soundboard next to Avi laughing and crying all at once. Thinking “Goddamn, if this song doesn’t just rip my heart out every time, and I love that Avi is all grins anyway.” A perfect sendoff from a town I loved and hated to drive three thousand miles through the rain into uncertainty. I wore my Clayface shirt the whole drive.
The morning was already hot and dry this July when Jacob and I caught up at a vegan restaurant on Capitol Avenue. I was sad to hear him say he was thinking of retiring the Clayface moniker for something fresher, maybe a little less heavy. I was relieved to hear him say the project already had a name and was beginning to play gigs. Only recordings so far are a nightmarish soundtrack to a short flim made by Jacob. I haven’t seen the film, but after listening to this, I fear the images that might haunt me in my sleep when I inevitably pass out as soon as I’m done typing this mess. The first track is deceptively soothing, drawing the listener in, lulling them to a false sense of rest before the nightmares move in. My first thought was how much this too short of a recording reminded me of the Hellraiser Themes by Coil without sounding derivative. I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. I’d like to think John Balance and Peter Christopherson are smiling from whatever acid-laced glitched out afterlife they inhabit.