For a leader of a band without words, Melynda Jackson has plenty to say. "I'm kind of sick of listening to people talk. I talk too much. Everybody talks too much," the lead guitarist of local psychedelic rockers SubArachnoid Space announces. "What is there that I can say that has not already been said? Half the time when I listen to music, it's the vocalist that ruins it for me."
Jackson and her bandmates speak in effects-heavy instrumental tongues on Eight Bells, their first release since 2005's The Red Veil. From the treble-dripping alien stalactites of the cavernous "Akathesia" to the Hum/Pelican-like rawk avalanche from the top of "Hunter Seeker," the album is an expert's guide to wandering the ethereal trails.
"I like to let people have a free mind to think about what they want to think about," Jackson continues, distancing herself from Portland's often-verbose indie rock. She keeps at it: "There are low expectations for what can happen or what should happen [in Portland]. There's also some sort of self-deprecating idea that you [shouldn't] try too hard, or you're taking yourself too seriously... I see a lot of bands that I can't really tolerate because I think they suck at playing."
SubArachnoid Space began as the project of Charnel Music label head/guitarist Mason Jones in 1995 in San Francisco. They recorded their first effort in Jackson's kitchen—before she was technically a member. "Some people like to say there are no original members," she quips. "But I don't know. I've been writing material for the band for years." Jones retired in 2003. When Jackson relocated to Portland a few years ago, she was the only member with any ties, however tenuous, to the fittingly titled Char-Broiled Wonderland debut.
Eight Bells, their 11th record, features material Jackson has been kicking around since the move. Due to lineup changes—three drummers in a single year—and the leader's acknowledged lofty standards, the band scrapped the first version of the full-length in 2008 and went back into the studio to re-record everything. "This album," she says, "I can't fucking believe it's finished."