Now Hear This: August 2021 edition

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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 smoldering hip-hop, unaffected bluegrass, experimental music inspired by obscure paintings, and plenty more–just in time for the return of Bandcamp’s Fee Free First Fridays.

Mic Capes, In Spite Of…

Mic Capes’ star has been slowly on the rise for years now, earning praise from the likes of Damian Lillard and picking up a lot of stage time around the city. For all that welcome chatter, the Portland rapper hasn’t found the right formula to bring his talents to a wider, global audience–until now. Mic’s latest release In Spite Of… is the perfect showcase, matching his easygoing flow and heartfelt lyrics with smoldering boom-bap productions and jazzy instrumentals. Mic weaves through each track with the grace of a dancer and the footwork (and firm left hook) of a boxer.

Akasha System, Ancient Path

Hunter Thompson, the artist known as Akasha System, dubs his wiggly psychedelicized house music “drift grooves”—a pinpoint descriptor for the sound of his productions. The main thrust of his work is to get people dancing, but surrounding each track is a fog of synth drones and melodies that feels like floating downstream while the party continues on the riverbanks. Whether you’re in the mood to drift or dance, Thompson has you covered. 

DSV, |||||

For those who love the Akasha System discussed above: Hunter Thompson also recently released some music under a different name and in a much different vibe. According to the notes for this release under the name DSV, Thompson recovered these five tracks of glistening, pulsing jungle and cleaned them up for release. There’s a mutual feeling of drift that connects this work to his AS efforts but otherwise these tunes are tapped into a completely different wavelength. 

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Fog Holler, Rocking in a Weary Land

The young men of Fog Holler would like you to believe they have a “punk rock spirit” (at least according to their Bandcamp bio) but all I hear when I press play on the trio’s latest album is simple, unaffected bluegrass that comes straight from the heart. The seven songs on this release have a sustained mood and an unhurried tempo that will serve listeners well as the days grow shorter and the leaves start taking on fall colors. 

Boom Bap Project, Return Flight

A bit of news that has slipped under the doorway is that hip-hop trio Boom Bap Project now calls Portland home, and they are gracing us with their first new music in nearly 15 years. Return Flight finds the group in fighting shape, working with Portland producer Trox to call back to the crisp, jazzy sound of their earlier work while also giving it a modern snap. Download the whole thing but head straight for closing track “The Ink Drips,” which features snazzy backing vox from Rachel Panni and Alison Balano and deep journal entry raps from Destro and Karim. 

Canary Room, Christine

Maddie Heide’s voice settles softly into a liminal space where one can hear a country twang giving way to a twee sweetness and a flat affect folk drone. It’s a sound that she uses to powerful effect throughout her new album as Canary Room. Heide sings of warm memories and cold relationships with a quiet passion and a gently plucked acoustic guitar helping to keep her from swooning or collapsing to the ground in a fevered heap. 

Jack Hammack & Loren Chasse, Figure Out of Space

Experimental musician Loren Chasse wrote this suite of songs inspired by, and in some ways in response to, the work of Jack Hammack, a prolific painter whose work received little notice during his life (he passed in 1990). One of Chasse’s friends rescued several of Hammack’s paintings from oblivion and the musician was so moved by what he saw that he wrote a piece of music for each one. As with the visual work, the music ranges in mood and texture from the spacious and spacey “Untitled 1975 (grey)” to the angular “Untitled 1975 (trapezoid).”

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About the author

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.

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