Archive | May 2014

Accent/Sustain: Journey Men, Sun Hammer, Ryan ASIP, Ethernet, Apartment Fox @ Holocene 5/21/2014

Last Wednesday I got the opportunity to see some quality dub techno music at Holocene. Show organizer Coco Madrid was kind enough to invite me via email and set me up with a guest list spot. I showed up early and curled up in a chair for a night of awesome visuals and spacey dance music.

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Journey Men

This excellent show was a collaboration between Coco’s Sanctuary Sunday project,  the always swanky Holocene, and LifeLike Family. Though the evening showcased artists Sun Hammer, Ethernet, and Apartment Fox, Ryan Asip and Journey Men provided some excellent dj sets in the interludes between. I’d like to draw attention to Dj Ryan Asip (Ryan Griffin) and his preview for this show on his excellent site A Strangely Isolated Place. I really enjoyed the mixes that Ryan and the Journey Men (Elliott Thomas and Jeffrey Perez) prepared for the night, though the only artist in the mix for the night who I really recognized was Yagya, a discovery I made a while back via Rod Modell.

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Ryan Asip

First up was Sun Hammer (Jay Bodley). Sun Hammer is an artist whose work, in my mind at least, brings to light all of the fundamental pleasures to be gotten from electronic music: it’s playfully skewed, bubbly, and warm electronic music that’s infectiously danceable yet nonetheless doesn’t get locked into a beat. You can actually listen to his Accent/Sustain set on his Soundcloud page. I particularly remember liking the delicious bass line about 12 minutes in– Sun Hammer’s music is good stuff for a brain massage.

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Sun Hammer

Ethernet (Tim Gray) turned the energy away from Sun Hammer’s more 90’s EDM-influenced set into a slowly morphing set of electronic drone. Ethernet’s presence on this night was a reminder of the ecelectic roots of this collaboration, as well as the mixed influences of dub techno itself– swirling clouds of crackling sound interrupted the almost continuous flow of ambient techno for an interesting interlude. Check out Gray’s Bandcamp to get more of a taste of the high-quality drone this gentleman is making.

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Ethernet

I had actually never previously heard of the third artist being showcased, Apartment Fox (Alex Neerman), but by the end of the night he had made a new fan in me. Neerman’s beats are coldly beautiful and metallic– unlike Sun Hammer, who moves along the lines of Autechre’s rambunctious transitions, Apartment Fox is all about pulsing, insistent energy. For most of the night, I just sat with my cup of water and closed eyes, but for this set, I jumped up and started dancing. I will have to keep myself updated on Alex’s music, I was really digging it. Here is a link to his Soundcloud and the Bandcamp page for his album released via Beacon Records last year. Top of the line EDM.

Apartment Fox

Apartment Fox

Though this was a fun night, I was almost disappointed with the numbers that turned out. Come on, Portland, Holocene is a decent-sized venue and you’re supposed to be a happening music town. Coco has been hinting at having a second Accent/Sustain event in the near future on the Sanctuary Sunday Facebook page. Let’s bring all the good vibes and love of good music back in double for the next installment of Accent/Sustain. Happy listening and see you there!

Photos taken on a point-and-shoot by me.

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(New Album Review) Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness- Fucking With Spirits

From Texas comes this absolutely strange and haunting bit of ethnomusicology, Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness’s new album Fucking With Spirits.

When I had the pleasure of being able to look through some of Ak’Chamel’s promotional photography and bandcamp after receiving their submission, before I had listened to a note I had the impression that I would be listening to something along the lines of Caroliner or Sun City Girls, something like noise punk with an “Ethnographic Forgery” twist. How wrong I was– what a weird and interesting album I have here. The Ak’Chamel project is self-described experimental world music that has its roots in the more droning end of black metal. I only wish this album could have been longer– it clocks in at about 30 minutes. Note to The Giver of Illness, whoever He or She may be: next time don’t hold back your temptation to hit us with marathon low-frequency drones.

Ak’Chamel aren’t too noisy for the most part, though there is some dissonance and harshness in this music and there are some metal jams towards the end. I would say that this music seems firmly rooted in the native culture of the Southwest United States, though it definitely borrows some inspiration in a sort of mystical way from other cultures, perhaps North African.  The ritualistic percussion and low-frequency drones of Fucking With Spirits ebb and flow slowly, a slow-moving desert procession. It’s almost as if there’s a screen thrown over this music, as the album consists mostly of oddly muffled chants and percussion. The production choices Ak’Chamel made for this album add to an overall sense of mystery, almost as if this weird music was recorded at the height of a sandstorm and is reaching us now via pirate radio. This might be an atypical release for Ak’Chamel but it’s a fascinating experiment, a solid attempt at artifact-creation. I look forward to their next effort.

Check out Ak’Chamel’s Bandcamp and Facebook page.

(New Album Review) Kreidler- ABC

So far this year, the three releases that have intrigued me most have been Fennesz’s absolutely gorgeous Bécs, Golden Retriever’s Seer, and krautrock legends Kreidler’s return to form, ABC. It’s been two years since Kreidler put out an album of new material, and I am really pleased with what they’ve produced– they were kind enough to send this album to me for review.

This is what post-rock ought to have been: pulsing, mysterious electronica riding the motorik beat into the stratosphere. ABC is, overall, a release that is very typical of its subgenre: the nouveau krautrock that Kreidler themselves have pioneered along with Tarwater, Burnt Friedman, and a few other interesting German Djs. This is to say, it is seductive, playful, detached. Monosyllabic voices bob and weave through a monochrome playground of coldly beautiful dance music.  ABC has an authoritative voice, with booming, twisting synth lines dominating the album, giving it a dramatic flavor. Kreidler use dance beats to explore inner space: I appreciate them for their ingenuity and consistently fascinating output, which there is quite a lot of at this point. All fans of interesting ambient music and dance music should check out this top-notch return to form. This is, after all, the perfect music for a drive down to the beach. Here too, is a cool new music video from them:

Happy listening and stay tuned for some other interesting new releases I’ve been meaning to get to this week.

 

(Artist Spotlight and Interview) Weather Exposed

I got the opportunity recently to conduct an email-interview with Jason Gray, former member of Saudade, and also the architect behind Weather Exposed, probably one of my all-time favorite Portland-based musical projects. Several months ago, he submitted his newest album Ring of Bone to me via email. Ring of Bone is ethereal meditation music that Jason mostly creates on guitar– wintry, psychedelic, and gentle. I was really blown away and wanted an opportunity to promote his music. Earlier this month I saw Jason perform as Weather Exposed at Townsend’s Tea Company along with No Parades and Seneca for LifeLike Family’s Abstracted performance series. It was a rather lovely night, a candlelit showcase of quietly bewitching experimental music from three very talented artists. My friend Sean Bradford took some nice shots of the evening that I’d like to share along with this interview.

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Seneca at the synth

For those interested, Weather Exposed will be playing the White Eagle Saloon on June 15th.

When did you start learning to play music and what were your earliest experiences playing shows like?

I began playing guitar when I was nine and some of first shows were playing in dead-style jam sessions or a punk band which was shut down during the winter carnival in high school. Once I had my own idea about what I wanted to create and my musical vocabulary expanded I began to play shows attempting to be very technical and concise; I felt like the audience wasn’t listening. As my musical influences changed and I began to listen to music which was more visceral and noisy, my shows became louder and more immediate. I felt like I was able to connect with my audience and communicate more directly.

What were your earliest musical influences?

My earliest musical influences were mostly Blues guitarists. After this, I went through a Grateful Dead phase and then eventually discovered Jazz – I never liked Jazz guitarists – I discovered late Coltrane when I was 17 and that pretty much changed everything, along with the day I walked into a record shop and heard Eno’s Another Green World.

Do you have a favorite musical instrument?

The guitar is the instrument that I don’t even have to think about playing, it feels like an extension of who I am.

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Weather Exposed

Do you want your music to evoke something specific,  for listeners or yourself? Are there any themes you want your music to explore?

For myself, it’s all about resonance and evocation of space and setting. My songs are the manifestation of sounds which make me feel as if everything is in it’s right place – even if that means the opposite. I grew up in the mountains of Vermont and I often feel like my songs are grounded in my desire to hold the sounds and experiences of the landscape in which I am from. In creating and recording and playing these sounds, I am seeking to create a personal and expressive landscape which will not lose its emotional resonance after 2 months or years.

Do you listen to a lot of art music or have any favorite composers?

Ravel, Stravinsky, Satie all were strong influences. However, Steve Reich probably influenced me more than any other composer. I could listen to Music For 18 Musicians on repeat forever.

What’s the best show you ever played?

I don’t really have a favorite show. I played some amazing gigs with my friend Chris as Saudade here in Portland, I think our album release at Holocene was one of my favorites. Some years back, I played a festival in Vermont that many of my good friends set up in our hometown. I was playing a guitar / drum duo with my friend Watts and we went for it, when I got done, I couldn’t remember who I was and my guitar had bloodstains from my fingers bleeding. It was fucking incredible.

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Has living in Portland influenced your music?

Portland has influenced my music considerably. The physical landscape and seasonal progression of weather and pattern fits my personality and process very well. I love the rain and the fog, I also love the summers when everything is happening all at once. There is also a strong creative aesthetic here which I sought quite in vain while living in Boston. I mean, it’s a bit much at times and there still are scenes and eighth-grade bullshit as well as the constant need for novelty, yet there’s so many good people involved in the creation of music here; I’ve had very few bad experiences in Portland with other musicians or venues.

Who are your favorite current musicians?

I’ve been listening to The Seer by The Swans almost religiously. I love Jenny Hval, I just saw her play at Bunk Bar and it was fucking so incredible. Bill Callahan has also become a constant which I find funny because I used to think he was a hack! Oneohtrix Point Never, especially the song “Returnal”, has also been very prevalent in my playlist. I’ve also been listening to Mark Kozelek since Red House Painters and I think his newest album is a fucking masterwork. I’ve also been listening to Grouper since Saudade played the release show for Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill— I’ve listened to the album probably more than any other album in the last seven years, it’s part of my DNA at this point. Currently, there is a record label / show organizer collective called Lifelike Family which has been putting on some amazing shows around Portland – I really appreciate their attitude and vision – these guys are serious about the music and have no regard for scene bullshit and pretension.

Happy listening and check out Jason’s bandcamp as well as LifeLike Family’s Facebook.

Photos by Sean Bradford