Listen Up: Jherek Bischoff’s Cistern Release, July 15 (plus June Tour Dates)

Posted on May 25, 2016, 2:57 pm
5 mins

I first heard Jherek Bischoff‘s “Cistern” at Northwest Film Forum years ago, and since then I’ve tried not to miss it any time he plays the song locally. (I swear, if ever I write a screenplay, it’s going in the film.) Bischoff composed it to be played in an actual cistern under Fort Worden in Port Townsend, where the reverb is a full 45 seconds.

In one of my favorite iterations, Bischoff worked with sound technicians to re-create that 45-second reverb in the Chapel Performance Space (which also happens to be one of my favorite venues in town). You can get a sense of that magic in the video below. (The song actually starts after an intro, around the 0:45 mark, aptly enough.) Local art lovers might also remember the song, as it was adapted as a recurring musical theme in Degenerate Art Ensemble‘s performance Red Shoes in 2013 at The Frye Art Museum.

Bischoff is a consummate collaborator: He worked as part of DAE on several productions in the early 2000s, while also working with acts such as Jason Webley, Seattle’s The Dead Science, Portland’s Parenthetical Girls and L.A.-based Xiu Xiu. (He also just produced the latest album from Xiu Xiu, Plays The Music of Twin Peaks, which is now streaming.)

His first solo album, Composed, grew out of ongoing collaborations with these acts and more, including David Byrne and Soko. Composed was released the same year that Bischoff was touring with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. In short, he probably never sleeps, which is a little creepy, but as long as he keeps making good music, I won’t complain.

Composed received due praise from critics as the work of a “pop polymath” (as The New York Times deemed him). His upcoming second album, Cistern, is a return to the purely instrumental. The album description via Bischoff’s website:

Cistern is an album inspired by time Bischoff spent improvising in an empty, two-million-gallon, underground water tank, with a 45-second reverb decay. The unique acoustics of the space forced Bischoff to slow down and adapt his compositional approach—something which, unexpectedly, brought him back to his childhood, and the slow-pace of life he experienced growing up on a sailboat.

As a contemporary composer, one can’t help but feel that Bischoff’s work is also influenced by cinema. Many of his songs feel filmic in length, structure and instrumentation. (They don’t just belong in a film; they inspire one in the mind, as I mentioned above.)

I recognize a few titles on Cistern‘s track list from past performances, and I am eager to hear them again. After years of waiting for a proper recording of “Cistern,” it will be exciting to get a full album on July 15…my birth month no less. (I’m sure the date wasn’t chosen on my behalf, but I’ll pretend that it was.)


If you can’t wait to hear Jherek Bischoff’s Cistern on vinyl or CD, worry not. He’s touring the West Coast with songwriter Mirah Zeitlyn and a string quartet in June. And if you’re in Toronto, you get to hear him even sooner, as he performs this weekend as part of the 21C Music Festival. See locations and dates and click to buy tickets below.

May 28: Toronto, ON @ The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall

w/ Dawn of Midi and The Visit. Get tickets.

June 6: Seattle, WA @ The Neptune Theatre

All ages. Bar with ID. Get tickets.

June 7: Portland, OR @ The Old Church

All ages. Bar with ID. Get tickets.

June 8: Eugene, OR @ WOW Hall

All ages. Get tickets.

June 9: San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall

Ages 21+. Get tickets.

June 10: Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door

Ages 21+. Get tickets.

June 11: Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theatre

Ages 21+. Get tickets.

Listen to a preview of the title track, “Cistern,” and pre-order on Jherek Bischoff’s BandCamp page. You can also pre-order from the The Leaf Label. Cistern will be released July 15.

Cover art for Jherek Bischoff's Cistern

Cover art for Jherek Bischoff’s Cistern. Photo by Alex Stoddard. Art direction by Jan Lankisch.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.

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