PREVIEW Root Strata, the San Francisco-based avant/out music label co-owned by Jefre Cantu and Maxwell Croy, has released over 50 records since its inception. Its foundations and mission are humble, but after nearly five years of work, the label has seen fit to celebrate in a quietly extravagant way with the On Land Festival, a two-night event in the city where it initially, um, took root. "This is the first time we've collectively tried to do something on this scale," Cantu, Root Strata's founder and a member of Tarentel (who perform the first night of the festival) explains over the phone. Sure, On Land is relatively small compared to SF's other fall festivals, but it's a damned feast for the right audience. Ducktails and Keith Fullerton Whitman at Café Du Nord on the same night? Killer!
Although On Land is not a label showcase per se, nearly every artist on the 21-act weekend bill at Du Nord and the Swedish American Hall has put out at least one record with Root Strata, or will be doing so soon. The label began in late 2004 as a way for Cantu to release a solo CD-R prior to a Japanese tour with Tarentel, but it quickly snowballed into a wide-ranging outlet for artists local and distant, whether they be noisy, pretty, glitched-out, or all or none of the above. For instance, Root Strata recently released Common Eider, King Eider's Figs, Wasps, and Monotremes, in which core member Rob Fisk's viola, guitar, and piano meanderings coalesce into a frail, haunting song cycle.
The headliner of Sunday's bill at the Swedish American is Portland, Ore.-based Bay Area expat Grouper, a.k.a. Liz Harris, whose harmonic haze will dovetail beautifully alongside the sounds of the venerable Christina Carter, the Austin, Texas cofounder of drone-folk outfit Charalambides and superb visual and musical artist. Although a straight-up music festival in most senses, On Land also possesses some cool nonauditory aspects: Paul Clipson will be showing films to accompany several of the performances, and, according to Cantu, Joe Grimm has been generating music by placing contact mics on two 16mm projectors. A handful of other labels will vend their wares as well, including Eclipse Records and Last Visible Dog. Bring a few bucks and an open mind this is an ideal, totally stacked entrance to San Francisco's rich underground.
ON LAND FESTIVAL Sat/19Sun/20, various times. Café Du Nord and the Swedish American Music Hall, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016. www.onlandfestival.com