Music: No Parades – Awkward Ballast

It being the last day of 2012, I’m in a bit of a reflective mood. This feeling is aided by the warm feelings I still have inside about this past Saturday’s Experimental Portland Presents… show that featured some amazing performances by Jatun, Abusive Consumer, and Cloud City Cars. I’ve said this a bunch of Twitter already, but thank you to all the acts and all the folks that showed up at Record Room to watch.

Too, I’m thinking warmly of all of you folks that read this little one-man effort to keep up with the thriving experimental music scene here in Portland. I’m still kind of amazed at how well received this has been and at all the people and artists I’ve been able to meet and befriend as a result. I’m sincerely humbled, and excited to see what the next 12 months has in store.

Tying both of those above paragraphs together is this stunning new track from No Parades, a new project conceived of by soon-to-be former McMinnville resident Jay Schwab. This gent is one of the many folks I’ve gotten to know personally thanks to this blog, and he has agreed to perform at the next Experimental Portland Presents… show happening on January 19th at Boom Bap.

The warm expanse of this track is reflective of his gregarious personality. It carries a stuttering heartbeat reminiscent of one of my favorite albums Oval’s 94 Diskont, but glides along with a much more linear logic than anything on that disc. But like that LP, you can almost see the sound waves of “Awkward Ballast” ballooning outward as each layer of itchy static and glassine drone is added to the mix.

I’m thrilled to hear how Schwab brings these ideas to bear in his live set next month, and to be further inspired by his person and his art. For it is people like him that are keeping me excited and dedicated to doing what I am doing here at Experimental Portland. Thank you Jay and thank you one and all. We’ll see each other again in the new year.

Music: Neglect – Silk & Insight

I don’t know how you’re doing but the emotional and spiritual exhaustion that I’m feeling after this holiday week is vast, and the only music I can really handle is that which is calming and quiet. As with all sounds, there’s plenty of that to go around. But what has been salving my chafed brain is this lovely piece by Joseph Valentino, who records/performs under the name Neglect. The fluttering synth moves and glitterful overlays of melody have been on repeat on my stereo and in my head for the past couple of days, and has probably helped me to avoid any embarrassing blowups after feeling the weight of Christmas pressure full on my shoulders. Am I revealing too much? Probably, but Zen musics like this tend to stir up those deep-seated emotions, helping to process them before scooping them up and gently depositing them into a ditch somewhere.

Music: Grouper – Vital

Here’s another one of those tracks that y’all are likely getting pelted with all over the Internet, but I love it so much that I have no other recourse but to share it with you here. It’s a track from the new album by GrouperThe Man Who Died In His Boat - coming into the world of February 4th, 2013 via Kranky Records. The hallmarks of Liz Harris’ musical ideas are there: reverb upon reverb, slow waves of melody washing up on the beach. This time around it sounds like she’s letting her voice come to the fore, pushing aside the clouds of sound at last. I need to listen to the rest of the album to find out if that clarity runs through the whole thing, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to move past this one track.

Interview: Jatun

There’s something wonderful about hearing the most delicately rendered, expansive music that is coated with a sense of despair and then meeting the people behind, only to find that instead of these morose, overly serious figures, they are gregarious and filled with life.

That happened not too long ago when meeting Scott Worley, the man behind Jatun. I had seen he and Ryan McGreer perform together at Holocene, rendering sheets of noise out of iPhones and banks of effects pedals. And I’d heard his music which was heavy and droney with a touch of shoegazer light. I expected to find the creator to be a bookish fellow with shoddy social skills. He was the exact opposite – friendly with a wicked sense of humor and an absolutely gracious attitude when it comes to supporting artists and creative types that he admires.

You get that sense both with his own collaborative works, and when he works in the studio engineer/producing recording sessions for other bands. He’s there to facilitate something amazing, and has the patience and grace and calm to make it happen.

So, it was that he offered to record an exclusive track for this site that turned into an epic 47 minute journey into Worley’s feverish musical brain. Sampled bits of sound sidled up next to field recordings, guitar swirls, and infectious loops. It’s big and requires a lot of your attention, but it is well worth that outlay of time and effort.

In advance of this new release – and in advance of his live appearance at next week’s Experimental Portland Presents… show happening on the 29th of December at Record Room, Worley was kind enough to answer some questions via e-mail.

Was there a particular artist or album that sent you down this path exploring more ambient/electronic/experimental sounds? What kept you from say just strapping on a guitar and starting a loud rock band like the rest of the rabble?

National Skyline‘s s/t release is what got me into electronic music. When it was released I was really into playing indie rock, and I didn’t really care about synths, samplers, and drum machines. I bought the album because both members of National Skyline had come from space rock (?) bands. Upon first listen it was quite obvious that they had created something much different from their respective projects. That in itself made a huge impact on me. It sort of made me reach outside of my comfort zone to not only find something new, but create music in a completely different way. Up until hearing that album, I had never thought about using synthesizers or computers to create music.

Listening to your music, even at its most spacious and strangest, there’s always a hint of melancholy that lies just under the surface. Is that something you are aware of or something you embrace or does that just come out of you without you realizing it? Or am I just reading too much into things?

I’m aware of it, but I certainly don’t force that sound into my songs. It just ends up getting in there, naturally. I’ve written albums worth of material that I’ve never used because it was “too happy” and lacked that touch of melancholy.

I’m always curious with collaborations like the one you have been doing with Cloud City Cars. How did you know that Ryan was going to be someone you could create music with? Was there some element that drew you two into each other’s circles?

We both had met on an internet forum some years ago and I really liked what he was working on at the time, which was his debut release. In November 2011 we got together for the first time and started making some noises down in my basement. I didn’t know if it was going to work out or not, but it did. We’re currently working on our debut album, scheduled for release in 2013.

Jatun started out as a duo. What became of Alan Grosvenor? Is he still part of the project?

Around the time when I was writing songs for Blanket of Ash, I had just recruited David Bolt from The Delta Mirror / Letdown to play synths & keys for the live Jatun shows, and Alan had started working as an accounts manager for a local coffee company. The work essentially swallowed up Alan and he had little time and interest in playing music at that point. He left Jatun shortly afterwards, but he contributed a couple guitar parts on Blanket of Ash. He then took off to Seattle for a while, then Finland. Now that he’s back in Portland we’ve been trying to work on a more rock oriented project together. These days he stays busy with his project, Fantasytank.

The Mass of Portland is probably your most experimental work to date…how did you create the music for that?

I came up with the idea of recording a full-length album served up as one song. There’s 16 tracks total, comprised of guitars, analog & digital synths, homebrew programs on the Nintendo DS, iOS apps, vinyl record samples, field recordings and tape loops. All tracks were recorded in one take from beginning to end. I recorded most of the album in one day, and then finished the rest over the course of the weekend.

Do you have a preference between working in a more freeform fashion or writing “traditional” songs? Or does each have their advantages?

Each certainly have their own advantages. For my “beat” material, I work in a more traditional fashion. I want to write songs, so I think about hooks, choruses and such. For my ambient material, I started out working more traditionally, and then slowly started drifting away to working more freely, without measures, time signatures, borders. It’s allowed me to able to see things a bit differently, and I’ve learned a fair amount from making table top drones over the past year.

How do you approach remixing someone else’s song? Are you applying the elements that you think are missing or simply playing with the pieces of their particular puzzle?

My approach usually depends on the remix, and how much of the song I’m really into. I started out being more experimental with my remixes, hacking things apart, doing weird glitchy stuff with vocals & whatnot. I wanted to take pieces of a song and create something original from it. As the years went by, I felt like I wanted more and more to create elements that were lacking in the song and just produce it differently.

How about when you work as a producer or engineer for another project? Do you take a pretty Steve Albini-like approach and just do your best to facilitate the artist’s vision or do you have to help coax the finished project into existence?

I’ve taken both paths before. Just recently I produced an album that reshaped a project from the ground up. It’s my job to make the album into something the artist has been searching for, so there are times when I’m seeing something beneficial that they haven’t conceptualized yet. The use of different effects, for instance. Because of the engineering I did for the guitars on the album, now these guys are all about more overdriven guitar sounds, and love the use of a good chorus on a lot of their songs.

Of course I have to ask about the name of the project – Jatun – where does that come from?

It’s southern Quechua for “big.” Quechua is a language spoken primarily in the Andes of South America. It’s a beautiful word that no one I know pronounces correctly.

News: ALTO Remix Challenge

Musician Derek Monypeny has issued a bit of a challenge to the world at large: take the individual pieces that make up “Piece 5 (H.F.F.L.)”, a track from his band ALTO! and mix/remix/adapt/adopt/improvise with them to your heart’s content.

Seems like a fun little exercise to me…and one that I might actually (gasp) participate in.

For those of you who will actually follow through with it, rather than just saying that they might (like me), here’s a link to the song’s individual tracks. Have fun with it, and then send a link of your work to Mr. Monypeny when you’re done (follow that above link and send him a message through SoundCloud, that is). He and the band will compile them and offer up the whole remixed batch on the ALTO! BandCamp page.

News: TAMARACKmusic, Real Future Recording Company, Experimental Portland Presents…

The Christmas spirit must have me in its sway; I’m ready to stuff your aural stockings with a few choice gems.

Let’s start with the world of TAMARACKmusic, one of many local labels challenging our brains with new and exciting sounds. The imprint’s SoundCloud page is chock-a-block with great new fare, including some Nintendo 64 jams by Black Daddy and centrifugal spins of beats and antic noise by Daddy Longlegs. As well, they’ve offered up this sweet ambient ditty from an upcoming collaboration between the man behind the label Elias Foley and Tim Gray of Ethernet infamy. For such an aggressive title – “Cutting With a Hammer” – the track is really quite soft on the brainpan.

In case you missed this bit of news around the campfire, Regular Music has recently expanded into a quintet, adding two drummers (Papi Fimbres and John Rau) to their trio of synth setups. As you might imagine, the sound is now far more driving, hypnotizing, and hip-swinging than ever before. The wise gent behind Real Future Recording Company, the label that released one of RM’s 2012 releases Buddy Cops did a little bootlegging of the band’s most recent show at Boom Bap – which he has offered up on the RFRC site for download.

Finally a bit of news from our camp — if you didn’t see it on the Events Calendar, Experimental Portland Presents… is returning for a third installment on December 29th. This time around, the show will be going down at Record Room, and will feature sets by a trio of incredible local talents: Jatun, Sun Hammer, and Abusive Consumer. It’s a free show, it’s (sadly) 21+ and it is at a great space. I hope to see as many of you in attendance as possible.

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Music: Black Clothing, Anarchist Literature, Flags, Flag​-​Making Materials, Cell Phones, Address Books, & Hard Drives

I credit Brian Mumford aka Dragging An Ox Through Water for bring this to my attention. It’s a benefit compilation, released online via Musical Impressions, meant to gather funds to support the legal defense fund of two politically minded folks who were subpoenaed before grand juries, then jailed because they refused to speak up and give up names of other dissidents associated with the anarchist and Occupy movements.

Sadly, I can’t find the way to embed said compilation here in this page but I sincerely encourage to you click here and go drop a few dollars on a digital copy. It features tracks by many fantastic NW names including Plankton Wat, Gregg Skloff, Venable, Ohioan, and Dragging An Ox, among a bunch of others.

I leave you with a reprint of the information posted with the compilation on Bandcamp. I hope this will elucidate the matter at hand for you and further inspire you to support this cause.

Please share this comp widely & feel free to pay more than the minimum for the tracks you purchase. All proceeds go directly to the Committee Against Political Repression (nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com/donate/), which was set up by the resisters and their friends prior to their incarceration. This compilation will be continuously developing, so If you’d like to donate a track to be added onto it, please visit j.mp/muimsaynothing 

Mostly, though, share! share! share! There are three people, accused of absolutely nothing, who are currently incarcerated & who could potentially remain that way for as long as 36 months. Raising the visibility of these proceedings could potentially mitigate the state’s coercive aggression against these resisters. 

some background: 
Political repression and intimidation are afoot in the Pacific Northwest. They appear to be aimed at stifling the effective recent organizing efforts (in the form of street actions, foreclosure defense, land struggles, etc) of anarchist and direct-action social movements. A series of raids on houses in Portland, Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle have culminated in a number of extremely shady grand jury subpoenas in what appears to be a fishing expedition for information on political dissidents. The individuals subpoenaed have been organized from the get-go and are all adopting a principled-but-risky strategy of non-compliance. Three (UPDATE: TWO) witnesses subpoenaed for this Grand Jury are now in federal custody under civil contempt charges for remaining silent before the Grand Jury. They need whatever support we can offer them in the form of letters (pastebin.com/gHEjt2V1 ), books, solidarity actions, & efforts to raise the visibility of their incarceration. Grand juries operate in complete secrecy, don’t screen jurors for bias, don’t respect normal evidence rules (rules that prohibit irrelevant, unreliable or unlawfully obtained evidence), have no judge present (prosecutor runs the proceedings), & don’t allow a subpoenaed witness to have a defense attorney in the room. This investigation has also been publicly condemned by scholars, writers, and artists including the likes of Noam Chomsky and David Graeber. 

more information on this situation:nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com 
more information on grand juries:grandjuryresistance.org/grandjuries.html 
advice from the National Lawyers’ Guild on dealing with Grand Juries, FBI, & other Police Agents: www.nlg.org/resource/know-your-rights/you-have-right-remain-silent 
other information & updates on solidarity actions etc.:saynothing.noblogs.org

Music: Dwoemer – Live at PNCA

The event from which this live recording was captured was a singularly weird one for me. I had invited along the members of Ritual Galaxy, to give these young squires a taste of electronic music and noise performed at its highest level. The lineup – Robert Henke, Marcus Fischer, Mike Jedlicka, etc. – demanded it really. One of the boys brought a lady friend, who, at one point, passed out and smacked her head on the ground due to severe dehydration. And that all happened during Dwoemer‘s set. Needless to say, I was a little distracted and didn’t have time hear every thing Dwoemer was doing.

I bring all this up only to emphasize how excited I am that Jef Drawbaugh – the man behind the Dwoemer name – put his half hour performance from that evening (part of Tim Westcott’s ongoing SIX series of shows) on SoundCloud. I can now enjoy the swirling Vangelis beauty without worrying about the fate of a frail teenager in need of medical assistance. His music requires your full attention, as you’ll hear. Free yourself from distractions, get your favorite pair of headphones out, and do some deep listening.

Music: Inez Lightfoot – Live At Valentines

When Patrick Bryant – the gent behind the peerless Subject To Change program on KZME – brought this to my attention, I was awash with guilt. Regretful that I didn’t know this show was happening, and that I didn’t even publicize it on the event calendar here on the blog. And then sad to know that Ms. Lightfoot’s album Familiars was briefly available on vinyl and that I missed my narrow window to get a copy of it.

I’d like to think that when you listen to this set of ghostly dulcimer and vocal tracks, folk music as resonated through an empty room Alvin Lucier-style, you will likely feel the same way. Sure, we can grab a digital copy of it – and goodness knows the beauty and haunted quality of this music ensures that I will do just that once I’m done writing this blog post – but the richness of the dulcimer, field recordings, and Ms. Lightfoot’s voice would sound pretty incredible coming from a turntable. Alas and alack…

Music: Gabriel Saloman – Adhere

We’ve rhapsodized here enough abou the greatness that is Pete Swanson’s work, but what of Gabriel Saloman, his former partner in Yellow Swans? Well, the man has been keeping busy though residing below the radar, working with dance troupes and live performances and gallery installations. But now, he’s making another bold step forward into the klieg lights of the music world with the release of his first bona fide solo release Adhere. It’s out this week on Miasmah Records and has plenty of music writers and fans scrambling to rethink their best albums of the year list. It is a downright masterpiece of drone, drum loops, strings, and atmosphere; as moody and dark, warm and chilling as Bish Bosch but without the chest-beating, sniggling lyrics to weigh it down. Here, the music is allowed to float free, and cast shadows and stark blasts of sunlight wherever it sees fit.