Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

MusicWatch: ‘I will show you the life of the mind’

!mindparade, Saloli, Via Mardot, and all the synths; Yawa with her voice and her technologies; a tribute to Svoboda; Delgani plays Golijov and Reza Vali; an All Hallows’ Evening.

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There’s something special about a perfect lineup. It’s not that it’s uncommon, exactly. It’s not a miracle–more an everyday kind of special, like a nicely prepared meal. And the three bands playing together at Show Bar in Revolution Hall on Southeast Stark in Portland this Friday, October 20, make a complete meal.

For our purposes, !mindparade is the main course. These guys are great, a perfect slice of what’s best in Oregon Pop Music. Their sound is in that “perfect psychedelic profusion” zone, where you almost can’t tell if it’s one person or a dozen, maybe both. With a core poppiness drenched in glazed layers of synths and strings and woodwinds and vocals and just the right amount of gritty guitar, the band’s music feels like it’s halfway between of Montreal and Electric Light Orchestra (especially the early proggy stuff like ELO II). You can get a good taste of it with their “study on cycles between form and formlessness” (this year’s 24-minute whatchamacallit Skyscapia) and their “love letter to weirdos” (2020’s Hypertonic–no longer available on vinyl, but you might luck out if you show up in person).

Technically, though, this concert’s headliner is Michigander guitarist-composer-theraminist Via Mardot. Her twinpeaksy music is perhaps best described via one of Mr. Bungle’s finest neologisms: retrovertigo. Glance over your shoulder into the shadowy futures of the past. Stare into the spiral of infinite time and space. Let the sweet slidey sounds carry you away into another dimension.

You probably didn’t know how badly you needed theremin in your life–here’s your chance to find out.

Completing this perfect bill is another Oregon musician, Saloli. You can get a good sense of who this musician is in this Willamette Week profile from earlier this year, in which she discusses bears and delay pedals and their connection to Cherokee history. You can also just listen to her two most recent albums, 2018’s The Deep End and this year’s Canyon (both available on vinyl). Both were recorded on a lovely vintage synthesizer, the Sequential Circuits MultiTrak, which is part of why Saloli’s music sounds so much like classic synth stuff like Wendy Carlos or Mort Garson.

The other half of that equation is that Saloli is, like Carlos and Garson, a classically trained musician. That comes with a certain amount of corresponding cultural and compositional heft, which translates very well to her music–and makes her an ideal fit with !mindparade and Via Mardot.

The Oregon School of Composition

Make a special note to yourself: this Saturday’s tribute to the Godfather of Oregon Music, Tomáš Svoboda, starts at three o’clock in the damn afternoon in Lincoln Recital Hall at Portland State University (the one downstairs). If you were going to the PSU Farmers Market anyways, it’s kind of ideal. If you want to get in and out of downtown while it’s still light out, it’s also ideal. In fact it’s kind of ideal no matter what–why don’t we always do concerts at three o’clock in the damn afternoon?

Sponsor

Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Anyways, this is one you can’t miss if you have any love for the Oregon School of Composition–Svoboda is the grand old man of the tradition. And the roster of musicians can’t be beat: percussionists Joel Bluestone and Mark Goodenburger; flutist Sydney Carlson; cellists Hamilton Cheifetz and Nancy Ives; pianists Chuck Dillard, Julia Lee, and Susan DeWitt Smith; guitarist Bryan Johanson; violinist Carol Sindell; and clarinetist Stan Stanford. These are literally eleven of the best musicians in Oregon, which gives some indication of the impact Svoboda had on classical music in this part of the world.

Way over on the other end of the spectrum is one of the youngest composers to make her mark on the Oregon School of Composition: Amenta Abioto, aka Yawa, a member of the famous Abioto family and a remarkably skilled solo musician. You can get a good cross-section of her thing with three videos: her 2019 music video “Plant It,” her 2020 performance at The Fixin’ To in St. John’s, and her 2021 video “Revolution” featuring members of the Oregon Symphony.

Or, if you really want to take a deep dive, check out Yawa’s 2021 Soundwalk with Third Angle New Music, Ase (read our take on that here, download the wav file and liner notes here, and read about 3A’s next Soundwalk further down). At the time, the present author had this to say:

…out of all the various local and/or living composers Third Angle has worked with over the years (and in series like this one), Abioto is the Oregonian musician I’d most like to see in a Caroline Shaw-style profile concert.

–and we’re almost there, dear reader. This Sunday, October 22, Yawa performs in the next of 3A’s Decibel Series in Southeast Portland. Make note that this concert, like the Svoboda, is not at the traditional seven o’clock but at 4:30 in the afternoon.

But wait, we saved the best for last! Two nights later–next Tuesday, October 24–Yawa will open for the legendary singer-songwriter-bassist Meshell Ndegeocello at The Get Down, also in Southeast Portland. That one’s at 7 pm–get your tickets here.

“Only air, spirit, ruakh”

There’s one thing we really like about Delgani String Quartet (besides their impeccable musicianship and willingness to perform new music alongside old music): they put together a good concert program and they take it on the road. Every concert of their season hits the major stops around Northern Oregon, from Corvallis to Eugene to Salem to Portland.

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Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

The first program of their season, Dreams and Prayers, takes its title from Osvaldo Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Korean-American clarinetist (and University of Oregon professor) Wonkak Kim will join the quartet for the Golijov, which the composer describes thusly:

Eight centuries ago Isaac The Blind, the great kabbalist rabbi of Provence, dictated a manuscript in which he asserted that all things and events in the universe are product of combinations of the Hebrew alphabet’s letters: ‘Their root is in a name, for the letters are like branches, which appear in the manner of flickering flames, mobile, and nevertheless linked to the coal’. His conviction still resonates today: don’t we have scientists who believe that the clue to our life and fate is hidden in other codes?

Isaac’s lifelong devotion to his art is as striking as that of string quartets and klezmer musicians. In their search for something that arises from tangible elements but transcends them, they are all reaching a state of communion. Gershom Scholem, the preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism, says that ‘Isaac and his disciples do not speak of ecstasy, of a unique act of stepping outside oneself in which human consciousness abolishes itself. Debhequth (communion) is a constant state, nurtured and renewed through meditation’. If communion is not the reason, how else would one explain the strange life that Isaac led, or the decades during which groups of four souls dissolve their individuality into single, higher organisms, called string quartets? How would one explain the chain of klezmer generations that, while blessing births, weddings, and burials, were trying to discover the melody that could be set free from itself and become only air, spirit, ruakh?

There’s a pretty good chance that if you’ve heard this one, it was Kronos Quartet’s 1997 recording with klezmerist David Krakauer–fitting, considering Delgani’s role as Oregon’s Kronos Quartet. Also on this program is Smetana’s first string quartet and a new work, Calligraphy No. 19, composed for Delgani by Iranian-American composer Reza Vali. The mini-tour kicks off in Eugene at 3 pm this Sunday afternoon; performances follow in Eugene again on the 24th, in Corvallis on the 27th, in Portland on the 28th, and in Salem on the 29th. Virtual passes are also available; more information about all of it is right here.

Swing down sweet chariot

We leave you with a Halloween concert, an electric jazz trio, and a “soundride.”

Let’s start with the latter. Here’s how 3A describes their upcoming thingamajig with Hawaiian sound artist DB Amorin:

DB Amorin‘s long shadow is a 45-minute sound”ride” composition inspired by the desire to return to that which may no longer be familiar to us. The layered audio experience, drawing on the artist’s memories of the Ko’olau mountain range, the transition of season, and the longing for vanishing eras, is designed to trace the path of the MAX Red Line from the urban center of Portland to the Portland International Airport as a soundtrack for the movement towards unreachable places.

Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

Meet the artist at Pioneer Square at 10am on October 28th for some opening words about the work, then join us in going on the sound ride as a collective group out to the airport.

The event is free, but you must pay to ride the Trimet red line. Please bring your own headphones to listen to the work from your phone. You will receive the link to the audio file, available to download or stream once you register for the event.

Well that just sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It remains to be seen–or heard–whether such a sonic experience can be translated to other locales. Try it out on your local public transportation and report back here.

Angela Allen recently talked to Harriet Tubman (the band, not the abolitionist), and here’s what guitarist Brandon Ross had to say about the trio’s music:

“Open Music” is a term I have used along the way as well as “Creative Music,” however neither gets to the core of what our music can and does sound like. My most recently invented descriptor is “Planetary rEvolution Music.” No one has ANY idea what this is — but I do think most people might be intrigued by the implications of the term, and for the most part, it seems non-exclusionary and inclusive. If I saw a band describing their music as being THAT, I would want to GO HEAR IT.

It isn’t free music in the pejorative sense, but rather, exploratory and obedient to the primary aspects of musical expression: melody/harmony/rhythm. And perhaps more importantly we access along a musical continuum of `Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future,’ to quote the Art Ensemble of Chicago that provides a musical DNA we freely draw from.

You might not have known there was a trio making music like this. To our ears it’s about halfway between Living Colour’s 1990 album Time’s Up and Miles Davis’ outrageous final album Aura. Maybe with a dash of Animals As Leaders and a pinch of Burnt Sugar thrown in just for fun. Have a listen to their 2018 album The Terror End of Beauty (the title is another perfect description of their music):

Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

This one is not available on vinyl, but it is available on CD (as are their other albums, Araminta and Ascension). What, you didn’t hear? CDs are back! Harriet Tubman plays at Jack London Revue on October 28th, and you can learn more about that here.

On Halloween, Oregonian soundtrack heroes Federale do their thing at Bunk Bar with Mexican trio Mengers, who proclaim: “El rock ya está muerto. Viva el roc!” This sounds like another perfect lineup, doubly perfect for Halloween, and not just because both bands have released their music on vinyl (and Mengers has also released music on–wait for it–cassette).

The only thing we’re left wondering is why they couldn’t also play a Día de Muertos concert later in the week. But perhaps they’ll get into that when they perform together on November 4 up in Seattle as part of the Freakout Festival.

Oh yeah, we almost forgot

This week’s title? Did you recognize it? It comes from our personal favorite scary movie, one of the finest films of all time: Barton Fink.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful. An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com.

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2 Responses

  1. Barton Fink???
    Now, THAT would make one helluva opera IF spanked up by just the right libretto-composer tag team with Maestro John Goodman giving the pre-concert lecture!!!

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