As Ant’lrd, Colin Blanton makes sound art that is at the halfway point between the really interesting offerings from synth-and-sample driven psychedelic stuff and more challenging, minimal, electro-acoustic ambient sounds. Having moved to Portland from Chicago last winter, he was a good acquisition for the musical health of our city in the ambient department…thought it was already pretty damn great to begin with!
On Sunnup Ant’lrd summons up an enveloping, expansive sonic landscape with drones, field recordings, and noise. Stray Ghost and Lost Trail make sounds similar to the ones here: the thick film of tape hiss and the arid, growling tones produced by a disparate array of gear evoke awe and mystery. The figures are distant and slightly warped, just like the filamentous sonic current that Blanton carefully layers and shapes. However, what sets Sunnup apart from other similar records is that the theme here is of an ecstatic affirmation of nature rather than a gloomy meditation on loss or the unknown. Especially on the closing title track, it is clear that this is not the sound of the remembrance of a long-lost adventure but that of the adventure that we can embark on every day. An inspiringly original album that is highly recommended to all of fans of drone and electro-acoustic music.
For all my Portland readers, I hope to see you at Ant’lrd’s next show at Turn! Turn! Turn! on Killingsworth, May 28th at 8pm. He will be appearing with M. Akers and Kyle Landstra. It’s sure to be a good one.
Ray Phaze Tropic is the moniker of Michigan producer Ben Jarvi. Afrowigwam was released on cassette by Big Ear Tapes. The arresting artwork was designed by Feral Fields (Big Ear’s Nick Bagley).
Jarvi’s productions take tribal trip-hop sampled rhythms and plunge them into the hazy underwater jungles of psych-drone. These are not so much firmly defined songs as seemingly disjointed collages that form an immersively atmospheric whole. Recommended to fans of dub and the pertinent stuff in its wake made by guys like Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras.
I’m pleased to share with my readers in Oregon that in a week Disjecta will be hosting COMMUNION, what is sure to be an unforgettable night of experimental music and visual art. COMMUNION was organized by Phil Gregory to be a progressive collaboration in a shared creative space rather than a linearly-defined set of completely separate performances.
COMMUNION will be featuring the futuristic mythos of visual artists Rick Zar, J.R. Slattum, Meesha Goldberg, Matt Schlosky, and Justin Potts. I am already intrigued by Meesha Goldberg’s paintings; if provocative surrealism in the vein of Zdzisław Beksińsk and Remedios Varo is your thing, you definitely won’t want to miss this show!
The musicians and sound artists to be featured at COMMUNION will include:
Seattle-based post-rock experimentalists Mamiffer,
legendary Portland noise/dark ambient/drone/eerie sounds mainstay Daniel Menche,
Project Metamorphosis (guitarist Daniel Mcmanus),
Experimental duo Sceptre Fretpen,
and the electro-acoustic drone duo Small Hands of Stone.
The show will start at 8pm and admission is $10. Hope to see you there!
Grain Fever is the newest album from Daniel Patrick Quinn’s experimental outfit One More Grain. It’s been about seven years since we last heard from Quinn, and one gets the feeling that he has returned to expand upon his vision.
Browsing the internet for press offerings to One More Grain, one will clearly see that the temptation to compare One More Grain to music from the past has been overwhelmingly strong for many critics. This is perhaps because this is a project which hearkens so much back to the trailblazing of the seventies in its brazen oddness. Am I saying this has always been a revivalist band? Well, no. Let me put it this way: it is easy to namedrop a record from say, Matching Mole or Slapp Happy, but is it so easy to describe how it sounds? So may be the case with Quinn’s One More Grain.
This is wildly original free-folk…a mad, whirling carnival presided over by a gruff, streetwise Celtic poet-ringmaster. There are cosmos and cheek to be found here in equal measure. Compared with the rocking, angry swagger of the sound of Isle of Grain, Grain Fever is sparse– at times almost ghostly. This is a true transmission from the underground…in this case a rambling tale carried on the wind from the Stones of Callanish straight to a depressing basement bar near you.
Here is another excellent release from my buddies at the Portland-based label Lifelike Family: DeLyria’s Opus 7. DeLyria is the project of producer and musician Dan Key-DeLyria. The Opus 7 limited run cassette consists of a long-form piece that was originally performed at one of Lifelike Family’s Abstracted showcases on Side A, along with six additional studio tracks produced during the Opus 7 sesssions on Side B. The digital release of the album includes an arrangement by Los Datos (Jesse Mejía). Jason Schwab (Jay No Parades) mastered the album, and Sarah Key-DeyLyria guests on flute. This is a highly satisfying electronic album that I feel will appeal strongly to lovers of electro-acoustic music, electronica, and ambient.
As is the case with its geographic contemporary Matthew Mercer’s Supernatant, what makes Opus 7 so engaging is the way it subtly blurs the barriers between electronica and non-rhythmic electronic music. The sound of Opus 7 is that of the stabbing bassline of minimal techno anchoring a psychedelic pastoral spirit. Sarah Key-Deylria’s flute and Delyria’s hazy synth textures permeate the spaces between the monochromatic textures to create a starkly-contrasting and beautiful arrangement. I never really expected to have a run-in with a dark minimal electronica record of such tranquil, almost stately beauty. With Opus 7, Delyria has crafted an album that seems to be akin to the proto-techno “krautrock” of Conrad Schnitzler, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and Dieter Moebius– opaque rhythmic trance-music.
For all of my Portland readers, I’d like to use this opportunity to urge you to attend Lifelike Family’s next show at Reed College’s Eliot Hall Chapel on April 18th, which will feature Loscil, Simon Scott, Marcus Fischer, Dweomer, and No Parades. The show will start at 8pm…don’t miss out on this one! Tickets available here
Portland-based experimental three-piece Waver Clamor Bellow continue to blow me away with their long-awaited recorded debut, Mare’s Nest, a February release that may have slipped under the radar for too many. Mare’s Nest was recorded by Mike Anzalone and mastered by Roger Seibel.
I was slightly disappointed not to have seen Waver Clamor Bellow’s name on the poster for the PDX Post-Rock Showcase coming to Holocene on the 19th– more than nearly everyone else in recent memory, this trio resurrects the powerfully emotive and sonically exploratory spirit of the instrumental post-rock of the 90s.However, like Ilyas Ahmed or Grails, their otherworldly, almost solemn style brings us to a zone very different from even that of possible forebears like Dirty Three and Rachel’s.
On Mare’s Nest, the piercing lamentations and consolations of Ben Magaziner’s viola and Sage Fisher’s harp act mostly as the light to the often engulfing darkness of guitarist Paul Schaefer’s electric storm. These three are all fine musicians, but what is really impressive is how on this debut, they have experimented so much with the structures of their songs to create dramatic and richly textured sonic spaces. This is cosmic folk music, an odyssey through a petrified landscape that feels indescribably ancient.
Having recently published their third album, Demography of Data, to Organic Industries, Tropic of Coldness not only find themselves in the company of top-notch isolation/spiritual ambient in their labelmates Nobuto Suda, Brian Grainger, and Hakobune (among others), but have brought some of their best work yet to the level of recognition it deserves.
This American/Italian duo (a David and a Giovanni, that is all we need to know) may superficially remind some of the similarly drolly-named pair The Fun Years. That they are both two-man outfits who make electro-acoustic textural music is where the similarity ends, though. The Fun Years’s sounds are richly-detailed, but they are dominated by the fornent textures, as the most recognizable hallmark of a Fun Years record is not necessarily Ben Recht’s guitar but the thick film of vinyl hiss from Isaac Sparks’s turntable. The Fun Years focus on crowding details at the surface, whereas Tropic of Coldness tend to push all the activity into the diffused darkness beneath. The surface of the Tropic’s music is pristine so that one may appreciate the delicate collages of field recordings and tones from guitars and synths that shift and glow slowly, almost always in the shadows of the notes in the foreground.
And herein is the warrant for Tropic of Coldness’s odd name. The resounding silences of their musical spaces breed lustrous tiny ecosystems of sound. Here lie coldly cool treasures.