Event: The 2013 International Noise Conference

If you’re a hardcore fan of experimental sounds, this weekend is going to be a hard one to navigate. You’ve got the Improvisation Summit of Portland going on tonight and tomorrow night, and the Quiet Music Festival happening on the same nights. And if that weren’t enough…I’ve got something going on tomorrow night as well.

The International Noise Conference is a tour/festival hybrid that the Miami-based group the Laundry Room Squelchers have been putting on since 2008. They set up a touring schedule, then reach out to friends and likeminded freaks in the cities they want to visit, and ask those folks to help book a festival type show of nothing but noise acts. The kicker is that no band is allowed to play for longer than 15 minutes.

Lucky me, I was the one that Rat of the Squelchers tapped to help put together the Portland date of the INC. Two days after sending out a Facebook and Twitter message and a couple of e-mails and I had a lineup completely set. A booking dream come true.

I’m now happy to announce the full lineup for the Portland-edition of the 2013 International Noise Conference, happening tomorrow night June 1st at Habesha (801 NE Broadway) starting at 8pm. 

Laundry Room Squelchers 1:40am
Redneck 1:25am
ConsumerMP. 12:35am
New Forest 11:45pm
Jatun + GeneticDMG 11:20pm
Black Daddy 10:55pm
Memoir 10:30pm
Romani 9:40pm
Mazurka 9:15pm
Fred Meyer 8:50pm
INC bleedingpalm

News: Union Pole Offers Up Its Entire Discography For CHEAP

Back in the heady days of the ’90s, a small label called Union Pole was one of the finest purveyors of weird and wonderful sounds. Just a few of the artists that they worked with: Jackie O Motherfucker, Blowhole, Irving Klaw Trio, Climax Golden Twins, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Prick Decay, and Trumans Water.

Well, the gent behind the label Jeff Fuccillo (who has been living in Tokyo for the past 13 years) has decided to unleash the entire Union Pole catalog in digital form for a mere pittance. For $1, you can secure yourself mp3s of all 76 of the label’s cassettes, its vinyl releases for $3, or an unreleased session between Fuccillo and the late John Fahey for, again, $1. Of course you can (and really should) pay more, but those are the baseline costs. As one of my favorite bloggers An Affordable Wardrobe puts it: penury is not an excuse.

Below you’ll find a track from the ’98 improv sessions between Fahey and Fuccillo in all its buzzing, plinking glory. For as much as I love to hear Fahey playing his American Primitive favorites, hearing him get freaky like this is always a treat.

Interview: Reed Wallsmith of Blue Cranes

Few bands have done as much to raise the profile of the current jazz landscape in Portland than Blue Cranes. The five piece ensemble has done so by sticking with an uncompromising yet accessible sound that centers on the wicked interplay of saxophonists Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham, with coloring tossed into the mix via keyboardist Rebecca Sanborn and their sharp rhythm section of Keith Brush on bass and Ji Tanzer on drums. You could call it post-bop, indie jazz, or some other weird modifier, but that doesn’t take into account the deep soulfulness that the players bring to their compositions.

Tonight at Mississippi Studios, the quintet is celebrating the release of their latest album Swim, a stunning collection of originals that evokes the beautiful, haunting, and slightly scary image that graces the record’s cover. Many of the songs were influenced – as Wallsmith told me in the below interview – by the highs and lows of life that the band has experienced in the past few years. All of that pours out through the addition of a string section to several songs and through the impassioned playing of all involved. Check out a track from the new album and then read what Wallsmith has to say about its creation and inspiration.


What was it like working with Nate Query on this album? Was he a very hands-on presence or did he kind of take a back seat and let you all do what you wanted to do?

It was an all-around great experience working with Nate. This was our first time working with a producer. We asked him if he would produce the album a while back, and were thrilled that he accepted. I think one of the main reasons we asked him is because we all trust him as a person and a musician. We were looking for someone to be at the recording and mixing sessions who we could bounce ideas off of, especially if we got stuck. We weren’t looking for someone to come in and tell us how to make an album–we already know how to do that. Nate took more of a back seat, which felt right to him and to us, but his insights made this a better, more cohesive album; and his presence made the whole process more fun, too.

There’s so much emotion wrapped up in this album, both audibly in the songs and from what I’ve read about its creation. Was it a cathartic experience to write and record these songs? Is it even more so when you play them live?

The last few years were a really intense period of time for us, in both horrible and wonderful ways. On the horrible side of things, we lost two people very close to us from cancer—Rebecca’s best friend of all her life, Jill, and my amazing sister-in-law, Franya. On the wonderful side, we had two fantastic weddings (Keith’s and mine) and my wife gave birth to a baby girl–the first baby in our band. Writing and recording these songs was an important outlet for me (and I think all of us) to process everything that was going on. Some of the music has become a central part of our sets, and does feel cathartic to play live. Other parts of the album have so many emotions attached to them that they are a little bit harder for me to revisit live.

You also brought in a bunch of guest players to flesh out many of the songs here. Was it easy to incorporate them and their ideas into the fold or did that take some extra work?

It was fun collaborating with so many talented people, and it was a gift to incorporate ideas they had in addition to the parts we had written. I think this was because they are all such fine musicians. It was our first time working with violist Eyvind Kang. We’ve heard him for years on records by Laura Gibson, Laura Veirs, Bill Frisell, and Wayne Horvitz. He is truly a master improvisor. For about half of the album we are joined by a string trio made up of Patti King (Radiation City), Anna Fritz (Portland Cello Project), and Kyleen King (Swansea). Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Noah Bernstein (tUnE yArDs / GRAMMIES) and Chad Hensel (Paxselin) played additional reeds on several songs. The final track of the album is a collaboration we did with our good friends in Davis, California–the art-punk band Elders, which includes Cooper McBean (The Devil Makes Three) on musical saw, and Eric Redpath, who does all of our screenprinting (Papercut Press) on drums. It was so fun to have all of these friends involved in the album. I think having all of their voices on it makes it unique and distinct from our live shows–which is nice.

How does it feel to be considered such a huge entity in the jazz world of Portland and beyond? Did you ever anticipate you would strike the chord that you did?

Ha. Well, I think we’ve got a long way to go still and lots to learn–there are so many musicians all around us who have set the bar very high for composition and musicianship–thank goodness! That said, it feels great to play in front of enthusiastic, listening audiences, and to feel like we are reaching people on a deep level. It’s also nice to have a receptive audience here to whom we can present friends’ bands from out of town. The support we’ve received means a whole lot to us, and we’re very grateful for it.


Music: Concern – God, Weak & Quiet

The vinyl version of Concern‘s last album Misfortune blew many a mind last year, and Gordon Ashworth wants to make that explosion linger even longer with its upcoming expanded CD release. This excerpt is from one additional track on it, which (according to Ashworth) was created using “15 string box-harp, piano, field recordings, tape manipulation, reverb, parking garages.” If that’s not a recipe for some deep listening on headphones to try and pick out the individual sounds, I don’t know what is. Or you could just take a few inhalations of the sacred herb and let the complete piece transport you to another astral plane.

Video: The Early + Zack Davis – Universal Leader

And now, a message from our good friends, The Early:

Over a year ago, we asked our friend, video artist Zack Davis (of Appendix Project Space), to make us something that we could accompany. He made us a beautiful video that unfolds glacially and abstractly. We composed a score and performed the 30 minute noise/improv-heavy piece live in front of an audience at Victor Nash’s recording studio in SE Portland (Eleven Magazine wrote up that event).  All these months later, we’ve mixed and mastered that one-off performance and synced it to the video. It’s finally ready to be presented to the world. 

News: Help Make the 2013 Improvisation Summit of Portland A Reality

Just last week, I urged my readers to help offer some financial support for the Olympia Experimental Music Festival. But as with almost every other style of music, the OEMF is not alone in need of some backers to help make their event a success. Here at home, we are incredibly lucky to have the Creative Music Guild curating amazing concerts both big and small, and at the end of this month, they will be leading the charge with their biggest event of the year: the 2013 Improvisation Summit of Portland.

The lineup for this thing is flat out ridiculous: William Hooker (from NYC) leading an ensemble of locals and playing solo, Why I Must Be Careful Big Band, 1939 Ensemble, Daniel Menche, HITS (Lisa & Heather from Explode into Colors), The John Gross Trio, Grammies, Gulls, Elfin Elephant (members of AU), Doug Theriault, Like a Villain, Golden Retriever, Battle Hymns and Gardens, Thollem McDonas. And that’s just the music portion. There’s going to be films, dancers, and more.

But like most things of this nature, they ain’t cheap to put on, so they are reaching out to fans and supporters to help fund part of this shindig. As they say on their Indiegogo campaign page, “The total budget for the festival is about $7000. We’re asking the community to come up with $2000 which will pay for the venue (on an incredible deal), the insurance coverage, fire department permit and printing costs. In return you’ll get an amazing two-day event as well as a bunch of great perks including tickets to other great events, beautiful letter-pressed posters, naming rights to our new gear and more.”

Here’s your chance to help make this incredible event happen. Go to the Indiegogo page and, if you are able, donate to the cause. My dream is that we push them well above the $2,000 goal, but I know that money is what money is for most people (read: purse strings are tied tight). So, do what you can if you can. And at the very least, buy a ticket to this crazy cool event.

News: Support the Olympia Experimental Music Fest

The Olympia Experimental Music Festival is about to hold its 19th installment this coming June, which in and of itself, should be reason for your support and patronage. But, hellfire, get a load of the lineup they have cooked up for the weekend long todo.

Friday, June 28th
6-6:40pm: Noisepoetnobody/Sistutl
7-7:40: The Giant Worm
8-8:40: JD Helwig
9-9:40: Tone Dogs
10-10:40: The WA Trio

Saturday, June 29th

4-4:40pm: Eagles are F’N’ Crazy
5-5:40: Soup Purse
6-6:40: Dead Air Fresheners
7-7:40: Aural Resucitation Unit
8-8:40: 10,000 Tigers
9-9:40: Tempered Steel
10:00-11:00: Thinking Plague

Sunday, June 30th

5-5:40pm: Big Tom The Lithuanian
6-6:40: Turtle
7-7:40: Wood Paneling
8-8:40: Derek M. Johnson
9-9:40: WAMU
10-10:40: Knot Pine Box

Here’s where you come in: the organizers of OEMF have set up a Kickstarter campaign to help pay the out-of-town artists coming to play, offset the costs of printing flyers and programs, and paying to rent the space they are using for the festival. None of the people putting this together are taking a cent of the money. Push them well over the goal and they’ll save the money to put on an even better event next year. You like experimental music? Do the right thing and crack open your wallets.


Music: Bobby H. Jones – Alone in the Vast Sea (Excursion 1)

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little calming ambient drone in my life right now. The week has been a crazy one and doesn’t look to settle down for another few days yet. So instead of curling up into a ball in a dark closet and wishing it will go away, I will take a few minutes to meditate on this gorgeous intertwining of delicately strung guitar melodies and deep synth chords, let it center my poor overworked brain, and then get back to the tasks at hand. That’s the power of music in a nutshell, folks. Don’t believe me? Close the blinds, crank this up, and see how you feel afterwards.

Music: Noise Agency – Commodore 64

Noise Agency‘s name seems to me to be something of a challenge to listeners. I’m sure the band simply means that this is a group that makes noise of one variety or other, but I like the idea of giving some people the expectation that what they are about to hear is an aural maelstrom. Because what they get is nothing of the sort; this duo is psychedelic freedom spilling about in great heaves. On this track, that includes robotic voices dancing through synth and drum jams concocted from the guts of the titular personal computer.

Music: Elias Foley – LifeLike Live

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how Elias Foley, the man behind the great Tamarack Music label, was able to post a live ambient PA set from the future, but considering the results here, I’ll grant him the premise that he is reporting to us from…well, two days ahead. [Edit: He fixed the date on the SoundCloud page rendering my dumb joke null and void.] Well, beyond my poor attempts at humor, this is a great 27 minutes of sound. Flies buzz, sampled agitated voices agitate, and the music of industrial combines, modular synths, and lucid dreaming are all brought together into one head-splitting and brain massaging mix. Let this send you in the warm weather with a bit of a woozy feeling in your hippocampus.