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Now Hear This: April edition

Robert Ham scours Bandcamp for new local sounds and discovers multilingual hip-hop, bludgeoning metal, electronic improv & more.


Now Hear This is a monthly column that scours the pages of music distributor Bandcamp, looking for new work from local artists that would make fine additions to your digital library. This time around, that includes multilingual hip-hop, bludgeoning metal, live improvised electronic music, and plenty more–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

King Benzo Lenoir, PRODIGY

King Benzo Lenoir aspires to hip-hop glory, but seems in no hurry to get there. “I’m the next in the line of succession,” he says at the start of blistering trap cut “Winning Vibe,” one of the many highlights from his debut release PRODIGY. While he waits for his turn, this rapper, formerly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has a lot to say about his skills as a ruler, a lover, and a fighter—and he does it in a blend of English, French, and Lingala. 

Horrendous 3D, The Gov. and Corps. Are Using Psycho-Electronic Weaponry To Manipulate You And Me…

My hope is that the name of this short, brutal EP from noise-metal outfit Horrendous 3D is a play on the ‘70s kids’ pop staple Free To Be…You And Me. Even if that’s not the case, the band evokes the paranoia and fury of the title with the bludgeoning force of a piledriver, and guitars that scream like birds of prey. Sales of this release go to support nonprofits Rose Haven and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA. 

Matt Carlson, Parse Trees

Golden Retriever member Matt Carlson’s latest solo release is “an approach to live improvised electronic music” that he built using a sample library of electronic sounds and recorded bits of speech that he would trigger at random with his MIDI keyboard. It’s a dizzying fog, with snippets of sentences crashing through synth tones that gently assault the stereo field like a swarm of butterflies. 

Strategy, Nectar

Musician and producer Paul Dickow’s latest expression is a half-hour blend of chatter from a CB frequency, drone whirlpools, and slow growing dub bass notes—all building to a dramatic, rumbling conclusion. It’s the closest any artist has come to capturing the sound and playful spirit of The Orb’s early work. 

Cool Nutz, Failure Is The Feeling

By rights, Cool Nutz should be anointed as hip-hop royalty beyond Portland. He’s been in the game going on 30 years and, in that time, has been one of the chief supporters of the local rap community. And his consistency as a rapper and producer is damn near unparalleled. His latest album is yet another winner, serving up powerful screeds against police brutality and systemic racism and giving a platform to a wealth of local talent like Illmac, Swiggle Mandela, and Anael Jeannis. 

The Swindon Lot, The Scariana Trench

Named in honor of alt-pop legends XTC, Andy Giegerich’s mostly-solo project is as melodically and musically ambitious as its namesake group—but produced on a humbler scale. The self-produced effort allows the seams and cracks to remain in each track, but that only adds to the warm spirit that pervades the jangle-folk of “(Oh) Beautiful Mountain” and the glammed up “Tracey’s Child.” 

lackmagic, sand into pearl

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Details are scarce about who is behind this wonderful project other than the small notes they leave in the comments about each release. In the case of lackmagic’s third collection of warm fire ambience and electronic crackles, this material was recorded in one day last month and is “about mollusks and pearls.” What more need be said? 

Owen Kelley, Foreshadows & Afterthoughts (Voice Memos)

Whomever it was at Apple that developed the Voice Memo app should probably be getting royalties from each artist that has used it to capture stray ideas and quick demos of work-in-progress. Pianist and composer Owen Kelley has been recording quick improvisations on his smartphone and released a handful of them, lightly edited and processed, in all their low-key, lovely glory. 

Ways Warmer, Capertee 

Released on local cassette label Infinity.Trax, this six-song collection of deep house cuts from producer Ned Berridge feels like a harbinger of spring and of what’s possible once we all emerge from the cloud of this pandemic. It will be a long time until I will feel comfortable dancing in a room full of people again, but when I do, I want these loose-limbed melodies and rickety beats to be pumping out of the speakers.

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Robert Ham is a critic and journalist living in Portland, Oregon’s outer reaches. During his time in the Rose City, he has contributed to The OregonianWillamette WeekPortland Mercury, and Portland Monthly, while also amassing a healthy amount of clips for print and online publications including PitchforkDownBeatBandcamp, and Village Voice. In 2019, he was the recipient of the SPJ Award for Best Sports Feature. In addition, Robert produces and hosts Double Bummer, a radio show focusing on new and newly reissued experimental music from around the world that airs every Tuesday night at 11pm PT on XRAY-FM. To read more of his work, visit his portfolio site or follow him on Twitter at @roberthamwriter.