The initial e-mail that I received about this project – a creation of Veritable Showers of Beauty member Steven J. Wilkens III – referenced the fact that there were 23 or so physical copies of this release “floating about the planet.” I like the idea of this weird, watery, intense batch of songs getting exchanged by folks around the globe, each one listening and taking some piece of inspiration from it before handing it off to another likeminded soul. I imagine this being used as background noise for meditation or as the ambient soundtrack to a store that sells incense and essential oils. I imagine this getting mixed into a dark, late night DJ set on radio or between sets at black metal show. I also imagine you poor souls sitting at your desk jobs, trying to get any work done while letting the creeping beauty and magic of this four song collection of processed field recordings and gamelan performances soak into your brain. Good luck with that.
Thollem McDonas is one of the preeminent improvisers in the music world today, and one of the most tireless. He has spent the majority of his adult life on the road, performing live or holding composition workshops or simply making a racket of some form or other with musicians both well- and little-known. Along the way, he has amassed an inspiring discography of live and live-in-studio recordings.
We’re featuring Keyngdrum Overdrive, one of his most recent releases, here on the blog today not only because it is damn amazing, but also due to its local connections. It is being made available digitally via former Portland imprint Union Pole Records, and it features McDonas on electric piano collaborating with a variety of drummers that includes hometown heroes like Heather Treadway, John Niekrasz, and Lisa Schonberg.
If the sound of a rhythm section pared down to its most blazing and enveloping parts wasn’t enough to convince you to download, keep in mind that all proceeds from the sale of this new record will go to benefit The Hylaeus Project. Here’s how it is described on Thollem’s website:
Drummer/artist/writer Lisa Schonberg spent a month in the summer of 2013 with artist Aidan Koch in Hawaii working on a multimedia documentation of the rare native Hawaiian Hylaeus and their habitats.
The 60 species of Hylaeus bees are the only bees that are native to Hawaii. Their habitat is increasingly rare, and several species have been petitioned to be listed as endangered species. Lisa and Aidan’s fieldwork have been collected in a book, The Hylaeus Project. Lisa also composed new works based on soundscapes in Hylaeus habitats for her percussion ensemble Secret Drum Band, and a recording will be released in 2014.
I’ve talked up Jason Goodrich, the man behind technicolor yawn, earlier this year, but as with any prolific artist of his make and model, his work is worth circling back to and highlighting in whatever garish pastel color you choose. This past weekend, Goodrich released Sores Material via Bandcamp, a free EP of remixes that he has done for the Denver-based”trashtronika” artist Syphilis Sauna. The source recordings were, according to Goodrich, “born from the hatred of man and dark recording arts, built from questionable media content and 8 bit audio diarrhea splurts generated by tar smeared gear, hacked software and Jeskola Buzz , which culminates some very raw, jagged glitch scapes and scraping metal breaks, to form a cracked out hybrid of noise, ambient and IDM.” I can’t speak to the original tracks just yet (going to spend some time with them in a bit), but this jerry-rigged versions by Goodrich have the itchy tension of vintage Aphex and Autechre, shattered and frayed in all the right ways.
Spectral Net is a new project featuring Brenna Murphy and Birch Cooper from MSHR working alongside fellow video and sound artist Sabrina Ratté and Roger Tellier-Craig of Fly Pan Am/Lé Révélateur fame. They have just released (via video art label Undervolt and Co.) Spectral Sequences Vol. 1, which is a collection of four tracks of sticky synth tunes accompanied by eye-popping visuals that are beautiful and creepy in equal measure. From the looks of this trailer, this collaborative effort looks like a perfect melding of visual and aural ideas from each person involved, which has me wondering about the delineation of roles in a project like this. Is each individual leading the charge with a particular video or are they passing clips back and forth so everyone puts their fingerprints upon it in some way. Until I can actually interview the four about the process (something I am considering), I’m going to attempt to shut off my critical mind, get really close to my computer screen, and get real, real gone.
I’ve talked a lot on this blog about what the Creative Music Guild does year in, year out – and likely if you’re a regular visitor to this site, you are quite familiar with what what they are up to – so as much as you might not like to hear more about this organization and their goals, you’re going get a blog post-ful right now as we close out 2013.
Whether you realize it or not, we live in a city that a lot of international artists tend to skip over. Look at the tour schedule for big name acts from across the pond and they tend to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco and then (if we’re lucky) up to Seattle. Otherwise, they just head to the East Coast or home. The CMG is doing everything within their power to put a stop to that trend. Over the past 12 months alone, they’ve been able to bring Peter Brötzmann, Paal Nilssen-Love, Ken Vandermark, Ben Goldberg’s Unfold Ordinary Mind, and The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra to our city, as well as hosting twice-monthly events celebrating the local improvisational and experimental music scene. And, much to my delight, audiences for these concerts have been robust and enthusiastic. They are proving that Portland has a love for challenging sounds.
My plea to support the CMG comes from a bit of a selfish place: I really want them to bring more of these artists that I’ve been itching to see for years to me. They have to do all the hard work; we are the ones that benefit from it. So, I want everyone to crack open their piggy banks and PayPal accounts to fill their coffers and allow them to coax even more incredible talent to our city.
Here’s how you can do just that:
Visit this page to make a one-time or recurring donation to the Creative Music Guild. All donations are tax-deductible and will help them continue their crucial work.
Grab a copy of this digital compilation featuring a murderer’s row of local talent: Rich Halley, Amenta Abioto, Catherine Lee, John Gross Trio, and more.
Or, if you don’t have much to spend – say $5 – purchase a copy of their newly released e-book Unfinished. Here’s a description of the publication from the folks who made it a reality:
Inspired by a riveting panel discussion with musicians and dance-makers on intersections between improvisation and composition at the 2013 Improvisation Summit of Portland, this book expands the conversation to fourteen world-renowned artists. Members of The Creative Music Guild designed a series of questions. The musicians and choreographers we interviewed are local Portlanders and nationally acclaimed artists from diverse genres connected with the Creative Music Guild’s mission to build community among experimental and interdisciplinary musicians, choreographers and performance artists. Participants were asked to “choose-their-own-adventure” in their responses, giving answers of any desired length to any number of the questions asked. 2013 Participants include: guitarist and improviser, Marisa Anderson; choreographers, Linda Austin and Tracy Broyles; improviser & composer, John Butcher; sound artist, Loren Chasse; as well as luminous world-class musicians, Ben Goldberg, John Gross, John Gruntfest, Buke and Gase, Catherine Lee, Tatsuya Nakatani and Nate Wooley.
Sounds downright inspiring to me.
There’s my humble little plea. I say it not to guilt you or force your hand in any way. I say it with the full knowledge that without an organization like the Creative Music Guild, this city would be a much less exciting place to call home. For that alone, they deserve if not our financial support, then at least our respect and admiration.
Daniel Menche continues to be one of those artists that you figure at some point is going to let you down; that somewhere in the mass of recorded work that he has released over the years, you’re going to find a dud. No such luck, champ. I rep for absolutely everything the man has done. And for now, that means that all I want to listen to is his project Beast and the three collections of work that he has released under that name this month. Called Red Marrow, the trio of albums are hypnotic loops of electronic drums, sampled drums, and other percussive instruments, all processed and then splashed with a healthy coating of noise. Sometimes, as on the track featured here, that comes out as something approximating a dub record being played on a speaker that is going through a spin cycle. Menche’s instructions are simple: “Listen at high volume during intense exercise.” I damn well know what I’m taking to the gym with me tomorrow.
Back in October, we reported on the reissue of an amazing solo synth escapade by local artist Paul Nelson, out now on Medical Records/2510 Records. A bunch of industrious gents recently got together to create a video for this album, choosing the lead song “Automated Man” as their source material. It’s a fantastical flight of computer generated animation that looks very era-appropriate (the LP was initially self-released by Nelson in 1981). It’s a great tribute to the song, the album, and the artist and we’re quite thankful that one of the men behind its creation, Austin Tretwold, sent it our way this weekend.
Gregg Skloff is one of the Oregon coast’s finest supporters of experimental music, using his radio show on KMUN And Otherness and his band Existence Habit as platforms to draw ears and minds towards challenging sounds. And like most sonic explorers, he spends equal amounts of time playing music on his own, using his trusty contrabass as his guide. This particular solo endeavor was recorded just two days ago in the friendly confines of Astoria’s KALA/Hipfish Gallery, and it plays out like pure mist, surrounding you and staying right in your eye line but perpetually out of your grasp.
EDIT: Here’s a video of Skloff’s performance from the night!
The world lost a noise music giant just a few days ago, with the death of Zbigniew Karkowski. The Polish composer and artist succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 55 on December 12th. While other fans and collaborators have been leaving their messages of sorrow and praise for his work and spirit, I like what local noise merchant Daniel Menche did: give friends, fans, and neophytes a taste of the action with the digital release of a collaboration that he and Karkowski did in 2008. As Menche put it on his Facebook page: “Zbigniew Karkowski and myself collaborated a lot and this one and only album that we did together called ‘UNLEASH’ was something I really cherished. We recorded it live face to face in the studio at ridiculous volume.” The proof is in the pudding, friends. Slap on a pair of headphones and let this give your eardrums a good drubbing. Karkowski would have wanted it that way.
I blame myself and my overall busy life for letting Experimental Half Hour fall of my radar for the past little while. But I was happy to be reminded of its existence recently, particularly with the announcement of a new episode posted just this month. This edition was recorded in August with some marvelous performances by Dead Channel, Three-Legged Race, MSHR, and the Portland Bike Ensemble.