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Now Hear This: January edition

Robert Ham's monthly Bandcamp search finds metal, meditative music, hip-hop, and more for your digital library.

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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 cryptic metal, meditative music, and heaps of hip-hop. Bandcamp’s Fee Free First Fridays start back up in February–welcome to 2021!

Plight, The Queen’s Tomb

What we know about the person behind Plight, a solo black metal project that recently released its first demo, is approximately zero. The photo on their Bandcamp page is hazy and inconclusive, and the artist homepage link sends you right back to the same Bandcamp page. Even Encyclopaedia Metallum, the resource for information on heavy bands old and new, has no clue who is responsible. I really want to know because I want to thank them for releasing these three unforgiving, blasted out tunes–and encourage them to make many, many more. 

K-Penn, Art of Evolution

Rapper K-Penn contains multitudes on his latest release, shifting gears ably between the candy-colored brightness of the J-Free-produced “Lyrical Acrobatics,” the trap sensations of “Real Recognize Real,” and the psychedelic-fueled collaborations with producer Svgar Beats. At each stop, the Portland rhymer juggles braggadocio, introspection, and carefree lyrical weirdness. K-Penn released Evolution on Christmas day, and has promised his Twitter followers that he has tunes ready to drop. Our bodies are ready. 

Anna Vo, Abolition Annihilation

The cover art for Anna Vo’s latest album evoke images of crucifixion, the torture of prisoners at Abu Gharaib, and the lynching of Black Americans. Rendered in sickly colors, it’s the perfect visual encapsulation of this record’s unsettling power. Vo uses their inimitable voice, groaning strings, synth drones, and field recordings to capture the spirit of BIPOC leading the charge for police and prison abolition, and the violence they endure to get their voices heard. 

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David Swick, Breathing Strings: Low Tide & Rain

The concept behind these meditative pieces by local composer David Swick is that their pace is dictated by the breathing of the musicians—each note running the length of an inhalation or exhalation. Swick describes it as “music made to fall apart, like waves on the beach,” but this collection also carries that sensation of those soothing deep breaths that take over just before falling asleep.

Old Grape God, Torcher

Getting one last lick in before the end of last year, multi-disciplinary artist Old Grape God dropped this collection of instrumental weirdness on December 31st. On any other day, a lysergic blast to the body and brain. On New Year’s Eve 2020, a weirdly perfect soundtrack to accompany the visuals of socially distanced celebrations and housebound house parties. 

Magenta Moon, Rapid When It Happens

Fed by the influence of modern R&B, future pop, and neo-jazz, Magenta Moon is overstuffed with warm feelings and good intentions and glowing with a sensuality and intimacy that, at times on their debut full-length, starts to feel a little blushworthy. The inspiration behind their music, according to the group, is “ecstatic healing.” Color us rejuvenated.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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