Former Explode Into Colors drummer Lisa Schonberg spent some time last year exploring the dwindling habitat of the Hylaeus bees of Hawaii, insects threatened by pollution and the ever-encroaching modern world. Part of her efforts included using the trip as a musical inspiration for her current project Secret Drum Band. As you’ll hear from these three tracks, out on cassette via Curly Cassettes, some of that inspiration comes from field recordings of other animals and insects, including the coqui frogs. But the majority of it seems to come from some elemental force oozing out of the earth on the Hawaiian islands and from the percussion heavy rumble of music born of the state’s native population.
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.
Here’s what I wrote about this bill for today’s Willamette Week: Dreamboat, the collaboration between Golden Retriever’s Matt Carlson and Jonathan Sielaff and guitarist Ilyas Ahmed, made its debut at the Old Church during last year’s MusicfestNW, and it was the perfect environment to fully absorb the gorgeous interplay between Carlson’s modular synth, Sielaff’s processed bass clarinet and Ahmed’s hushed vocals and guitar melodies. Combined, the elements create the kind of deep body-mind high familiar to both weed fanatics and distance runners. Opening act Concern adds to the heady quality of the night with long, expressive, droning, loop-based compositions built from acoustic instruments.
Dead Channel is a new collaboration between musician Cody Brandt and vocalist Jack Gilbert, which just released a cassette on the venerable Night People label. Their music has some weird Goth leanings to it, but keeps from sinking into that genre’s self-important mire by maintaining an audible sense of humor that reminds me at least of early Ween material.
The CMG’s regular series of events, held in the delightful and tempting Revival Drum Shop on N. Prescott, tonight invites two of the city’s finest percussionists to perform (I’m guessing) solo sets. Schonberg is perhaps the more better known of the two having worked with the much beloved post-punk trio Explode Into Colors and for her all percussion ensemble the Secret Drum Band, but LKN (or Lauren K. Newman) has some equally impressive credits to her name having backed up sci-fi rockers SubArachnoid Space, as well as Castanets.
If you looked at the lineup for the January 19th edition of Experimental Portland Presents… and thought, “You know what, I think I’ll wait until the February show,” well, I’d have to wonder if you were off your rocker. But then I would eventually calm down, and instead offer up this event for your viewing and listening pleasure.
As we reported here, Lisa Schonberg and Heather Treadway were invited to hang out in an artistic compound in Joshua Tree, California last year, with the intention of creating some new musics, art, and generally having their minds blown by the stark beauty of the landscape.
The two have, obviously, returned home to Portland and are now ready to present the work they did – named Hits of Sunshine – to their local fans. The event is happening on January 19th at 8pm at Disjecta. It is all ages, and will feature a live performance by Schonberg, Treadway, Allan Wilson, and Tara Jane O’Neil as well as a screening of the documentary made about their residency and the performances they did in Joshua Tree of the work.
I will now copy and paste the information from the Facebook event page below and leave it to you to decide what show you want to attend more.
Disjecta is excited to present the debut of Portland filmmaker Jodi Darby’s documentary Hits of Sunshine and a live performance by the Hits of Sunshine crew.
This fall, Portlanders Allan Wilson (chk!chk!chk!), Lisa Schonberg and Heather Treadway (Secret Drum Band/Explode into Colors) arrived at Joshua Tree, CA in two vehicles packed high with drums, fabric, amps and speakers. They spent a month at artist Andrea Zittel’s compound, A-Z West, and created new compositions of field recordings and percussion-focused music. Heather designed performance costumes, and video artist Julie Perini developed a program of video projections. Tara Jane Oneil added her magical sounds. All of their work drew directly from their desert surroundings.
They premiered their work in a series of site-specific performances at High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree in November 2012. The residency and performances were documented by Jodi Darby. Join us on the evening of January 19, 2013 for the premiere of Darby’s documentary film, and a live performance of the sound work, video, and fashion that Hits of Sunshine created in Joshua Tree.
ALL AGES// $8 admission // FREE for all supporters of our 2012 Kickstarter campaign
Time for a little Thursday news dump for you, my precious readership. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin.
— Heather Treadway and Lisa Schonberg, two members of the Secret Drum Band, have bene invited to be artists-in-residence at A-Z West, a community for creators in the desert near Joshua Tree, California. And what they have planned sounds pretty incredible. “Our work at the residency will center around a new music composition focused on percussion that will take cues from the natural soundscapes of Joshua Tree. My collaborators’ contributions in fashion, sound, and video will interact directly with the composition.” They’ll be inviting along fellow artists/past collaborators Tara Jane O’Neil, Allan Wilson, and Julie Perini to join in the fun. But, as with most things like this, funds are in need to help get Treadway and Schonberg down to California with their gear and to make this project happen. They have turned to Kickstarter for help making this project happen the way it should. Click here to check out their campaign and then see if you can make a contribution to the cause.
— I’ve been having to miss a lot of great looking shows here in town due to work constraints, exhaustion, and other extraneous factors. You can then imagine my rejoicing when I saw that White Rainbow posted a recording of a chunk of his August 28th set at the Backdoor Theater on SE Hawthorne on Bandcamp. The glimmering/glitchy wonderfulness still makes me wish I was there to see it go down in person, but having it now to listen to over and over and over again helps ease the sting.
— Lastly, our favorite expatriate experimentalist Pete Swanson graced the good people at self-titled magazine (where I occasionally contribute) with a Needle Exchange mix that is an absolute thing of beauty. As he says in the text he contributed with the mix: “There’s a lot on this mix that has commanded my attention recently and has translated into concerns in my own music. In the last year, I’ve mainly been interested in real oddball takes on musique concrete (the extremely rough Schaffer track and the Akos Rozmann track) and classical electronic music (Guy Riebel). I’ve also been digging into a lot of electronic dance music (Zomby, Traxman, etc.) and hip-hop (mostly not included, but you can count Death Grips to some degree) in the last year or two. Everything is represented on here.” Stream and/or download the mix below, and get real, real gone.
Tara Jane O’ Neil has already taken care of a successful Kickstarter campaign to pay for the recording of her new album, and she’s just subtly announced via her website that she’s signed with the venerable Thrill Jockey Records for its release. Now comes news that Ms. O’Neil is going to put on what she’s referring to as a “new composition…of song-based music within an experimental architecture.”
The title of the project is SEV ENTRAIN, and she and her collaborators will be premiering the piece at Holocene on Sunday, August 26th. I’ve sought out some more information about the project from Ms. O’Neil so until I do, I leave you now with the press release information for the event and a poster for it.
Various members of this 7 studded all star ensemble have collaborated together in song, improvisation and other experimental projects for many years. The configuration of Tara Jane Oneil (solo, Rodan, a million other projects), Rachel Carns (the Need, Cloud Eye Control), Lisa Schonberg (STLS, Secret Drum Band), Kanako Pooknyw (Broken Water, Lyrebird), Heather Treadway (Secret Drum Band, Explode into Colors) is unique to this performance.
The musical composition is an interpretation of a graphic score, by TJO. Publication Studio has crafted a book that documents the process, ephemera and resulting score, in a very limited edition. This book will be available at the show.
The nature of this project is born out of TJO’s work of 20 years, collaborating on myriad projects with people all around the northern hemisphere. Its a continuation of her experimental work with rachel carns (score for the Vicious Red Relic, Love a fabulist memoir) and with lisa schonberg (cascadia ensemble and secret drum band). Not a rock band. Not a cult band. But something like both of them.
the performance will be recorded.
the performance and book are made possible in part by a grant from RACC.