An Appreciation of Bottomless Pit

bottomlesspitKEXP2014This week brought word that the Chicago-based quartet Bottomless Pit is on indefinite hiatus, so now is a good time for an appreciation of the band. Bottomless Pit began after the tragic death of Michael Dahlquist in 2005 ended the brilliant Silkworm. I could spend several paragraphs extolling what that band accomplished in its almost two decades, but you are better served by simply watching the documentary Couldn’t You Wait? if you are unfamiliar with the band and the men who made up the band. Without Michael, there could be no Silkworm.

Bottomless Pit continued the partnership of Silkworm songwriters Andy Cohen and Tim Midyett, who brought in Brian Orchard of .22 and Chris Manfrin of Seam for the new band. Tim had primarily played a Travis Bean bass in Silkworm; for the new band he shifted to an Electrical Guitar Company baritone guitar, leaving bass duties to Brian. This lineup produced a distinctive and wonderful sound, in which the low end of the bass and baritone provided some of the textures of early New Order while Andy (who had earned the nickname “the Hebrew Hendrix” years before) provided the high end. Bottomless Pit immediately found its own identity.

Over three albums and one EP, this lineup made uniformly excellent music. In particular, Tim’s writing reached a new level of excellence with the debut album Hammer of the Gods, eulogizing Michael with the gorgeous “Human Out of Me” and Tim’s writing continued to grow right through the epic “Felt a Little Left” (the closing song from 2013’s Shade Perennial). Andy alternately used the lineup for intricate textures (“Null Set,” “Dogtags”) or muscular, thunderous cacophony (“38 Souls,” “Fish Eyes”), continuing the impressionistic lyrical concerns he had developed in Silkworm. (A particular favorite of mine was 2013’s “Sacred Trench,” a rumination on the emotional fallout of a flood from one of the affected people.) I was fortunate enough to live in the Chicago area for much of Bottomless Pit’s career, and so I managed to see about ten shows over the years. Two constants informed those shows. First, the sets were always over too quickly (meaning some great songs were omitted). Second, it always seemed like they played one or two fantastic songs that had not yet shown up on a record. I learned to go into shows both anticipating great performances of songs I knew and also anticipate the unexpected.

The links below give good representations of Bottomless Pit. The first is a full set in a Memphis parking lot from 2012, and the second is a performance of four songs in the KEXP-FM Seattle studios from earlier this year. The complete discography is available from the band’s website, and not only do all of the records include brilliantly written and played songs, but the production is immaculate.

People interested in hearing Tim and Andy play live can attend either the Pittsburgh or Columbus Karl Hendricks benefits this August for solo sets.  I imagine both men will produce more great music in the future, and I hold out hope for a Wilma Pool triple album.

Thanks, guys.

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