At the last EXPDX Presents… show, after No Parades had played a glorious set of lush, intricate ambience, a friend who just happened to venture down to Valentine’s to drink gin and tonics pulled me aside and (without knowing that I was the person responsible for booking the show) asked me, “Can you explain to me why that was any good?” I was so dumbfounded by his question that I couldn’t cobble together the words to explain properly. But listening to this new two-track collection by Okha, one of the city’s best noise artists, I think I’ve hit upon something.
The sounds of Okha and No Parades couldn’t be more different, but what they share to my ears is an immersive quality. They wrap you up completely in these blankets of sound until you can’t see or hear anything but what they are pumping out of their pedals and noisemakers. And I love that about them. While the rest of the music world tries passive-aggressively to get my attention, here are artists that lay it all out and, with No Parades, try to intoxicate me, and with Okha, dare me to stare into the abyss without blinking. That’s probably the same feeling this friend gets when listening to an emo band that he loves or some aggro bit of art rock. This is the only music that really, really gets me excited these days. And I’m lucky as all hell to live in a city where it’s being made on the regular.
Yes, friends, we are venturing into the world of podcasting. Welcome the inaugural episode of Experimental Portland Radio into existence. For 45+ minutes, I play some songs and do a little bit of talking about them. Below, you’ll find the tracklist for this week’s episode with all the appropriate links in place for you to use to find the tracks featured on this week’s episode and to support the artists what made them. I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts here.
As I talked about last week, Sonic Debris Multimedia want to make 2015 a big one for their label and all the bands that are part of their collective. And true to form, they are pouring out new material for our consumption, including this brand new live cassette from one of my favorite gangs of jazz misfits, Stochastic Mettle Union Local #35.
The recording has an interesting tone to it, as the band was paying tribute to a house that was home base for SDM. The label and studio were being forced to move out, which led to a small-ish party to send the residents out with a bang. Like most of the acts that played that night, SMU’s set was captured for posterity, and you can hear the group (augmented by trombonist Evan Spacht) reacting to the celebratory, yet frustrated feel of the night with some rapid fire drum patter, floating guitar lines, and some agonized horn honking. As a combo, the four players build and recede together in slowly developing waves that remind me of some of the best BYG Actuel material from the late ’60s. A truly triumphal moment for this band and one that will hopefully push them forward through 2015 as they ready their first vinyl release (all proceeds of the sale of this recording go toward that).
A few years ago, musician and artist Marcus Fischer had a simple, but highly admirable goal: to do create something every day of the year. That could be anything from one of his beautifully rendered photographs to a short piece of music. Whatever it may be, he had to make something happen. And he kept it up for a full year and a little while after that, before the wind went out of his sails a bit in 2013 and he poured his energies into other endeavors.
With the new year, Fischer has decided to resurrect this project and the blog – Dust Breeding- that houses all of his efforts. The results are absolutely lovely and very inspiring, particularly his musical output, which includes this track: a short bit of guitar and OP-1, looped and processed via his Octatrack performance sampler. It’s delicate, pastoral stuff that perfectly suits the cold, drizzly air around us and the look of his ghostly photographs on the site.
My hope with this blog, as ever, was to send out a clarion call to experimental musicians throughout the city and draw them into our orbit somehow. I’ve certainly been lucky in that regard with bands and artists coming out of the proverbial darkness to drop a cassette or a Bandcamp link in my lap. That’s where a lot of these recent posts have been coming from. And that’s most certainly where I stumbled into the world of Christopher Gavazza’s music.
The local guitarist pointed me to his SoundCloud page, which is spilling over with amazing work. Some of it falls into the dream-like category of guitar instrumentalists like Vini Reilly and William Tyler, but the pieces that have spoken to me most are the ones that go into even more formless arenas. Such as this positively hypnotizing seven minute piece that sounds as if it is a small looped bit of amp hum and feedback being sent out and reverberating around the void without end. As it goes along, it starts to take form, a kind of rhythmic pulse that starts to relax the muscles in the spine. Like a great Buddha Machine loop, I could listen to this for hours, and today, I might just do that. Eventually, I’ll get back around to his other lovely, more composed work, but for now, send me into the unknown for a good long while.
The name of this project evokes an acid house label from the early ’90s, but the music that Shannan Johnson creates under the moniker is about as far as you can get from happy bleep grooves and 4/4 drum beats. The opening track from this “sonic recreation of a day” features a sample of morning prayers sung by a Muslim cleric overlaid with harsh pinging industrial sounds. Things get a little more sequencer friendly on the next track “Journey,” but only in service of some patience testing tones and scattered rumblings from the robotic fragments collecting dust in the corner of the room.
Word around the campfire is that the expansive collective Sonic Debris Multimedia have another busy 2015 planned. Which should be exciting news to any of you folks out there who delight in the strange and esoteric sounds that they’ve vibrated our ear hairs with thus far. And to kick off this new year, they’ve graced us with a new album from Alien Parkinsons Project.
The 11 track album with the toothsome title Water Mechanisms For The Sun Goddess That Burns Your Karmatic Delusions finds the group again sending out tracks to various friends and fellow sonic travelers, and allowing those folks to do what they will with the source material. The resulting work varies as far and wide as you would hope for with Old Man Frost bleeding electronic fire over APP’s guitar freakout, Ras Mix exacting 8-bit dubplate damage, and Eaton Flowers joyously going all cut-and-paste guided only by a shuffling faded breakbeat. This is as shaggy and top-heavy and hard to handle as an album of this size should be.
Here’s a release that slipped under my eyesight during the end of 2014: a collection of tracks by Doug Theriault conceived of as accompaniment to a dance performance by Linda Austin. The list of collaborators on here is a murderer’s row of local talent to boot: Creative Music Guild leader Benjamin Kates, The Late Now host Leo Daedalus, amazing jazz artists Catherine Lee and John Savage, among them. And the music…oh the music…an electro-acoustic collage with smatterings of dialogue and the chatter of digital detritus and stray percussion clangs that are continually scrabbling around one another, intercut with some squawking woodwinds and glassy drones. It’s a gloriously unsettled ride through a haunted house/fun house filled with abstract art and metal sculptures.
The great Adderall Canyonly continues his peerless run of solo synth wonderment with the upcoming Moss Archive release Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains, which this lovely nine-minute jam is taken from. Like most of AC’s work, I want someone to re-score an ’80s sci-fi film with this fluttering, pulsing, lost in the digital forest delight. Be sure to sit through the whole track, though, as it changes sonic colors like a confused mood ring as it floats forward.
Full disclosure: I am friends with the dudes behind this label and have booked them for EXPDX Presents… shows, etc. But like anyone I highlight on the blog, I would support them even if I didn’t know who they were. The three albums they’ve released thus far have been full of surprisingly melodic and textural turns. And for the past few months, Andrew Weathers’ Sacred Harp-inspired One Day We’ll Find The Valley has been in regular rotation on my home stereo. It’s the perfect spiritual uplift that we need in these troubled times.
The pay-what-you-want option, of course, allows you to pick this stuff up for free. But if you can afford to, drop this label and their artists a couple of bucks for their hard work. The devaluing of music is something we can put a stop to with small efforts like that.