Steven Kattenbraker
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Steven Kattenbraker

Chehalis, Washington, United States | SELF

Chehalis, Washington, United States | SELF
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Steven Kattenbraker would make an excellent masseur. Throughout this self-titled album, he prods gently but insistently, persistently. The tension you feel during your first listen is his dusky but irrepressible voice loosening your mind and body. Even if his skillful but unobtrusive acoustic guitar often amounts to the equivalent of gradually-warming lubricant between his palms and your skin -- his voice and your feelings -- at least it's making itself useful. The strange, wispy sounds that occasionally permeate the soundscape (probably synths, but they don't feel like synths), as in the excellent instrumental "Penstemon", help him to work you all over. He gets the low end. He gets the murky things. He hits all the important places.
Kattenbraker loses points for being so predictable, but he wins most of them back again for his deft execution. The half-hour record is surprising at first, for the sheer tension and discomfort it inspires, and then sublime, thanks to its soothing properties. You'll listen a second time just to extend the feeling you got as you finished your first spin, and you'll listen a third time because there's a lot to love here. And when you're feeling tense, when you're just desperately, painfully tied in knots, body and soul... Kattenbraker will be there to help. It's supposed to feel a little wrong when you start, but the feeling at the end is more than worth it.

- Splendid


-"part Eliott Smith, part L. Cohen, as run through the production wringer of Daniel Ash. Kattenbraker's baritone voice is pleasant and soothing. The guitar work sweet and mellow and, might I add, deftly played" (Portland's Music Liberation Project fanzine/website)



-" songwriter to take seriously... poetic lyrics... expertly played acoustic guitar... Check him out now; he'll restore your faith in the singer-songwriter genre." (earvolution.com)



-"Pinus" has a strange and slow electronic freakout section in the middle of it which is more Red House Painters or American Analog Set than Elliott Smith... that hushed atmosphere in which his songs exist is at once both familiar and intricately unique... (shmat records, shmat.com)



-"Steven Kattenbraker would make an excellent masseur. Throughout this self-titled album, he prods gently but insistently, persistently. The tension you feel during your first listen is his dusky but irrepressible voice loosening your mind and body...his skillful but unobtrusive acoustic guitar often amounts to the equivalent of gradually-warming lubricant between his palms and your skin -- his voice and your feelings...The strange, wispy sounds that occasionally permeate the soundscape... as in the excellent instrumental ["Finally"], help him to work you all over. He gets the low end. He gets the murky things. He hits all the important places...



You'll listen a second time just to extend the feeling you got as you finished your first spin, and you'll listen a third time because there's a lot to love here. And when you're feeling tense, when you're just desperately, painfully tied in knots, body and soul... Kattenbraker will be there to help." {splendidezine.com}

- Snippets of reviews


Steven Kattenbraker is an emerging singer-songwriter compared to such greats as Elliott Smith and Leonard Cohen. Those comparisons should tell you that this is a songwriter to take seriously. His self-titled release delivers poetic lyrics with a soothing baritone voice, accompanied by an expertly played acoustic guitar. Check him out now; he'll restore your faith in the singer-songwriter genre. - Earvolution.com


As I sit here in the July heat like a sauna with a garrote, I listen to the winter tales of Steven Kattenbraker. Part Eliot Smith, part L. Cohen, as run through the production wringer of Daniel Ash, his vauge plaintive woes are breathily sung out in the standard double tracked fashion that has come to instill a melonhcoly as much as the tremolo pedal has. There aren’t a lot of hooks here, it is all stream of conciousness: music, lyrics, the flow from song to song, all a river of thoughts. Not to say it is aimless but rather like being in a very large field, and you’re standing in the middle and every direction you go just proves to be more field. Sometimes there are cows, sometimes a horse or a farmer making cowboy coffee on a wood stove.


Kattenbraker’s baritone voice is pleasant and soothing. The guitar work sweet and mellow and, might I add, deftly played. As a whole, this eponymous CD is not unlike drinking chamomile tea at the end of a particularly heartwrenching day
- Portland Music Liberation Project


Steven Kattenbraker creates softly sung, pastoral scenes of contemplative lonliness, somewhat indicative of his earlier home in the Midwest (he now resides in southwest Washington). Sounds like a lot of singer-songwriters, doesn't it? But he has a great, light touch with his acoustic guitar, aspirated singing style, and atmospheric accoutrements. That atmosphere is the spice by which he seasons the long dusty folk travels that the listener is treated to. It's more folk than country, less rock than americana. Songs like "Santiago" are bleak and all the better because of it, with seagulls whistling desolately in the background.

However. The problem for me came when I started to read his bio, and sure enough I was infected by the allusions to Elliott Smith. Suddenly, I began to feel that the music was very derivative of the late singer's style, especially in the strumming of the 1st song, "Take Out The Knife" (even more weirdly, because of the nature of Smith's demise) which sounds a lot like Needle in the Hay. Those long, drawn-out lyrical passages became a mixture of Either/Or and Roman Candle. In addition, the mention of Beck in the bio made me reach for similes again... could this be Sea Change all over again? And hadn't I heard that folk picking and chords in Dylan or more recently, Iron and Wine? Hmm...

Well, the mind (or rather ears) does play its meddlesome tricks. When I regrouped and listened again I came to realize that Kattenbraker isn't so much copying the artists mentioned as much as honoring them. And give the guy credit, he has some great songs here and though some may dismiss the style as having been copied to the umpteenth power already, I've come to disagree with that. For instance, "Pinus" has a strange and slow electronic freakout section in the middle of it which is more Red House Painters or American Analog Set than Elliott Smith. And who can fault the way his vocal lines are drawn out long and true? At least it fits the music correctly. And that hushed atmosphere in which his songs exist is at once both familiar and intricately unique. Strange. But, in the end, I loved the album for it's straightforward approach and because it reminded me of many artists that I like without completely copying them note for note. Familiarity breeds such a wonderful comfort quilt, as long as you don't suffocate yourself with it.
- Shmat Records


He played a Jeff Buckley tribute in Chicago and it’s Buckley that he often must turn to for inspiration. His voice is tender, almost sweet if you will, but never sounds contrite. Having played music ranging from jazz to math rock, he certainly has a slew of influences that he culls from but I dare say that underneath it all is a love of singer/songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves (think of Elliott Smith, Buckley, and Dylan). The subject matter throughout the album is very topical and deals with the essentials of life and all of its wonderful mysteries. All of it told through the bright expressive eyes of Steven Kattenbraker and his poetic lyrics that are so damn thoughtful you feel like he’s scratching your own brain. This album is highly recommended. - Smother.net


Being there for Buckley

By Kevin Pang
Tribune staff reporter

November 25, 2005

Each of the eight years since Jeff Buckley drowned in a Memphis river, Uncommon Ground has hosted an intimate tribute of his life and music. More than 200 musicians submitted demos, hoping to play at the latest show. [12] artists made the cut. Over the years, some have come from as far England, Italy and Denmark.

The tribute show's immense popularity is something of an anomaly--it has never been publicly advertised and there are only 80 seats for the two-night event. Through word of mouth, this year's event on Nov. 16 and 17 sold out in less than an hour.

After all, Uncommon Ground was home to Buckley's legendary two-night stand in 1994, his only performances at this brick-exposed coffeehouse.

Those present would not soon forget it.

Artists such as Radiohead, Coldplay and U2 would cite Buckley as an influence on their music.

"Most people who come have never seen Jeff perform," Cameron said of the show, the proceeds of which are donated to the Old Town School of Folk Music. "They want to take a little bit of the magic from that night."

In the eight years Uncommon Ground has held the tribute, it would always be on Buckley's birthday, and it would always seem to snow as the show began.

Sure enough, snow was in the air for this year's tribute as well.

Inside, a painting of Buckley sat upon a pedestal on the bar counter, with three candles lit in front of the picture. Cold-weary customers in scarves and long coats embraced frothy cups of mocha.

The green room, really the basement where the ice machine and soda canisters are stored, was filled with sounds of guitarists running scales.

The night became a celebration of all things Buckley; artists came from Washington D.C., Seattle, and a few blocks away on Western Avenue.
One person present only in spirit was Jeff Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, who attended two Uncommon Ground tribute shows in previous years. She'd much rather maintain her distance, instead allowing her son's music to speak for her.

But she called the yearly show in this cozy coffeehouse steps from Wrigley Field "the gold standard" of tributes.

Sometimes, she wonders how her son would have reacted to all this attention.

"Jeff would have been totally embarrassed, but he would have loved everybody there," Guibert said. "He'd probably weep first, then laugh a lot. He'd then run around and kiss everybody in the room, then break out the guitar and start singing other people's songs. The whole room would be singing along."
- Chicago Tribune


Discography

CD: Self-titled EP June 2004
Ball of Wax Compilation: fall '05
FILM: Hineini fall '05
RADIO: KEXP 90.3 Seattle, KAOS 89.3 Olympia, KINK 102 Portland
Streaming/Online play: 75-100 retailers, NPR

Photos

Bio

Many years have passed since the needle finally had its way w/ the worn grooves of the Beatles, Dylan, and Kinks albums that Steven ‘borrowed’ from his parents. Now they inhabit the tattered trunk of experience, memory, and perspective that has accompanied his journey--one filled w/ a rich mine for his timeless gems depicting love and loss, joy and grief, envy and disdain, birth and death.

Raised in the deep south, Steven witnessed the intriguing paradox of ‘southern hospitality’ with the enmity brought about by religious, class, racial, and gender misunderstanding. It was perhaps at this point that his desire to observe and intent to portray the subtle ironies of human existence was germinated.

Steven spent most of the 90’s in the Midwest touring regionally with outfits playing music ranging from math rock to jazz. A time of immense musical discovery, Steven benefited by collaborating and sharing stages (from coffee houses in Iowa City to legendary clubs in Chicago) with a host of talented musicians. With a voracious musical appetite Steven digested and studied styles ranging from Mahler, to Wes Montgomery, to Bill Monroe; all of which have melded to influence his unique compositional approach to harmony, melody, and counterpoint. With a literary interest no less varied, spanning from Sholokhov to Salinger to Sandburg, his verse is ripe with cryptic wit and enchanting imagery.

Continuing his ‘journey’ to the left coast Steven spent several years in the border region of New Mexico training and working as a paramedic. He witnessed and shared in the full spectrum of human emotion: from the sheer terror of a violent injury, to the shock and dread of suddenly losing a soul mate, to the exhilaration of hearing a newborn’s first cry. For better or worse, countless scenes are firmly emblazoned in his memory; some that haunt, some that inspire, but all adding to the human experience of which Steven endeavors to illustrate.

Now safely in the beautiful Northwest, the time and travel worn portmanteau is now being mined of its rich and boundless material. Steven’s self-titled CD has received movie placements and steady airplay on such stations as the world-renown KEXP and NPR "All Songs Considered," while his recorded and live performances have been met with handsome press. His melody and wordplay humbly garner comparisons to Elliott Smith, Sam Beam, and Leonard Cohen. Complicating today’s genre boxing, his complex and dynamic instrumentation and recording techniques have drawn comparisons to a diverse list of bands such as Red House Painters, Gravity and Henry, and early Azure Ray.