Ex-husband and wife musical duo, and sometime Elliott Smith backing band. To date, they have released three albums, "R&B Transmogrification", "Featuring Birds" and "Field Studies".

The instrument in question that so defines the Quasi sound is the Roxichord, an unusual and groovy electric keyboard.

The manufacturers of the Roxichord must construct them to be fairly sturdy, because Sam treats his Roxi rather shabbily, and it still seems to work pretty well...

Quasi is the sound of the atom: the balance between the forces that pull together and the forces that push apart is so fine that a slight push in the direction of attraction or repulsion would be enough to send all we know into calamity, despair, and ruin. Sam Coombes and Janet Weiss were married. Now they are not. A push towards attraction could easily have meant sappy, empty songs. A push towards repulsion could have meant the breakdown of everything. Instead, they stuck together, the emotional turmoil visible, palpable, driving everything.

"You only hurt the one you love" --
That may be true...
But better said,
"You only hurt the one who loves you"...

--Poison Well, from Featuring "Birds"

I know of few people wise or evocative enough to demonstrate the power and humanity of cynicism and bitterness. Quasi manages. Stripping down rock to some of its most simple elements -- drums, lyrics, two fisted organ or barre-chorded guitar -- the group juggles a host of contradictions that go beyond the struggles of Weiss and Coombes to survive each other. The songs are lyrical, melodic, and beg the audience to hear the words, and yet Sam is always pushing for more distortion and Janet never pulls back on a snare hit. The words speak of relationships lost, innocence shattered, but the vocal harmonies are never dissonant and most of the songs are quick, upbeat, and snappy.

Coombes used to play in Heatmiser with Elliot Smith; Weiss plays with Sleater-Kinney; the two have played occassionally as a backing band for Smith's solo work as well. And while the contributions of the two to all of those projects is high quality and worthwhile, it is clear, especially on seeing Quasi live, that their true creative genius lies in the intimacy and tension that bubbles and crackles between them.

I personally recommend Featuring "Birds" as the album to start with, though Field Studies is also very strong. The former, however, feels more alive to me, and I think it is a more direct product of their relationship with one another.

Discography:


Electricsound: I read today on a website that Sam's Roxichord broke down a couple years ago, and that he uses a synth of some sort with a decently Roxichord-esque patch. Last time I saw Quasi (last night, actually), whatever it was he was playing was left in a wooden shipping case, so I can't really say what he was playing on. It did look like it might be too small to hold a Roxi -- as I recall, that was moderately hefty instrument.

Qua"si (?). [L.]

As if; as though; as it were; in a manner sense or degree; having some resemblance to; qualified; -- used as an adjective, or a prefix with a noun or an adjective; as, a quasi contract, an implied contract, an obligation which has arisen from some act, as if from a contract; a quasi corporation, a body that has some, but not all, of the peculiar attributes of a corporation; a quasi argument, that which resembles, or is used as, an argument; quasi historical, apparently historical, seeming to be historical.

 

© Webster 1913.

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