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Now Hear This: February 2022 edition

Heartfelt quirkiness, affirmational hip-hop, perfectly balanced post-bop, sparkling Mellotronica, de-Vocodered Air covers, and more.

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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 heartfelt quirkiness, affirmational hip-hop, perfectly balanced post-bop, sparkling Mellotronica, de-Vocodered Air covers, and more–just in time for the return of Bandcamp’s Fee Free First Fridays.

Dave Depper, Moon Safari

Turntable Kitchen has cornered quite a niche in the vinyl marketplace. The Seattle-based company’s Sounds Delicious series features a different artist covering a full album of their choice. In the past that has resulted in gems like Frankie Rose tackling The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds and Jenn Champion putting her spin on the first Weezer album. This month, Portland’s own Dave Depper is in the hot seat, and he has an audible blast performing all the songs on Air’s 1998 classic Moon Safari. With some subtle adjustments to the instrumentation–including dispensing with the Vocoder-ed vocal treatments entirely–Depper managed to make it his own without losing one iota of the original’s sleek, sexy mood. 

Montclaire, West Coast EP

Speaking of covers, one of the highlights of the new four-song collection from singer-songwriter Sabrina Velazquez — recording as Montclaire — is a rendition of “Live To Tell,” the smoldering ballad from Madonna’s third album True Blue. Velazquez and producer Bess Rogers turn the song into something close to a mirrorball-lit slow dance at a prom ca. 1976. The rest of the EP is just as great but with a much different M.O., what with its jangly dream pop sentiments on winning tunes like “Complaint Department” and “Swim.” 

Quilts, delicates

There’s something quintessentially indie about the sound of this new release by the singer-songwriter known as Quilts. Each of the five songs on delicates features little more than Quilts’ vocals and guitar playing, both of which have a wispy, almost twee feel. It gets tweaked just so with the addition of horns on “Wrists & Palms” and a wavering duet on “Rose” that sounds like it was created by slowing down the original vocal take. Heartfelt though it clearly is, the quirkiness of these tunes would be a custom fit to play over the credits of a low-budget romantic comedy or a particularly moody episode of High Maintenance

Plankton Wat, Interstellar Sounds of

Originally released 20 years ago as a limited edition CD, Interstellar Sounds of was the first solo effort by Dewey Mahood, then a member of a free jazz-leaning rock band The Cosmos Group and soon to join the fold of psych explorers Eternal Tapestry. These home recordings land somewhere between the two, with Henry Kaiser-like guitar mutations wriggling through a desert blues landscape. Mahood re-released the album through his Bandcamp page last month to celebrate its birthday. 

MAR’QEE$E, THE ART OF CHANGE EP

Even when his guests Milc and Mat Randol are beating their chests on closing track “Versace Esque,” rapper MAR’QEE$E can’t help doing as he does throughout this EP: using his rhymes for tough self-talk and to spit affirmations about his growth as a human and an artist. This whole collection is one refreshing introspective flex viewed through the watery lens of the music’s lava lamp productions and narcotized beats. 

Ben Woodman Quartet, In Here Out There

I’d like to hear from the neighbors of the house in Corvallis where the new album by trumpeter Ben Woodman and his quartet was recorded. Is this a common thing to have ensembles stopping by next door and filling the streets with perfectly balanced and expertly performed post-bop? What did you think of the clopping rhythm and the bursting trumpet solo on Woodman’s composition “Open Secret”? Did the tumbling funk of “Freefall” have any positive or negative effects on your vegetable garden? Did the groggy “Prose” bring all the neighborhood cats to the yard? Leave a comment on Nextdoor and let us know. 

Milc & Andy Savole, “Angels in the Outfield”

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One of the first singles released from the upcoming duo album Windbreaker, “Angels In the Outfield” portends great things to come for Portland rapper Milc and his compadre from Seattle, producer Andy Savoie. The latter constructed a perfect loping groove for the former to tangle with. And if Milc sounds a little more driven on this tune, that was just him making sure he could keep pace with Greg Cypher and La, two dynamic rhymers from the Emerald City who make a meal out of their features. 

_phaedo_, Autunno/Inverno

While everyone at Now Hear This HQ is more-than-ready for the winter to be done with, ambient artist _phaedo_ would like us to reconsider the power of these colder months on his debut EP. He does so through four sparkling instrumentals made using Eurorack synths, a Mellotron, and field recordings that wisp through the bones and body like a temperate autumnal breeze and lays lush and serene like a snow-covered field.

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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.

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