Now Hear This: July edition

Pay your dues!

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. Normally, you’d have one of Bandcamp’s Fee Free First Fridays to look forward to–but, following last month’s Juneteenth fundraiser, they’re taking a month off. Fee Free First Fridays start again in August.

José Medeles, Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems: A Drummer’s Tribute To John Fahey

Railroad Cadences isn’t a collection of covers of favorite John Fahey tracks, but rather a handful of improvisations that 1939 Ensemble member/Revival Drum Shop owner José Medeles made with a trio of Portland guitarists—M. Ward, Marisa Anderson, and Chris Funk of the Decemberists—in the spirit of the late American Primitive icon. The music swirls around the same source material of old blues and folk music that inspired Fahey, but elevates it with Medeles’ searching drums and percussion. Each guitarist, too, brings their particular musical personality to the fold with Anderson leaning toward a traditional sound, Ward working from a pop perspective, and Funk taking the music to experimental realms. 

Jan Julius, Meat Shot Idyllic

Non-binary future pop genius Jan Julius is back with their latest full-length that plays with elements of a great hip-hop mixtape with the same joyful daring as it plays with gender roles. Julius’ lyrics, daringly sexual and blushingly detailed, are given a little tweak with copious use of AutoTune and other processing, turning their vocals into jubilant squeaks and orgasmic highs.

Micah Hummel & Alex Meltzer, Texture & Technology

The music created by drummer Micah Hummel and electronic artist Alex Meltzer uses a so-called “super-instrument”: a percussion interface that wires the former’s trap kit to the latter’s laptop. What ensues in their live performance is a wondrous push-pull between the two musicians as the grooves and free jazz explorations of the drums are sent further into the stratosphere through the processing and manipulation of the software under Meltzer’s command.

Rose Gerber & Sweet Relief, Low Hanging Sun

The new EP from this recently formed quintet takes these ears back to the halcyon days of alt-country, calling to mind the best work of legends like Lucinda Williams and Son Volt via their earthy, unhurried sound and the soothing twang of Gerber’s vocals. There’s a delightfully weather-beaten quality to the five songs on this release, warmed by Mathew Peluso’s elegant swirls of pedal steel. 

Fells Acres, The Elephant in the Attic

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Originally released in April, the “first ‘proper’ full-length” by this dream-pop ensemble is now available for your streaming pleasure through Bandcamp. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be doing that regularly. There’s an understated power to these hazy jams. The group knows it could push these into shoegaze overdrive but is smart enough to resist that temptation. 

Outer Orbit, Outer Orbit

Led by Trio Subtonic keyboardist Galen Clark and Dirty Revival vocalist Sarah Clarke, this cosmic funk group features a murderer’s row of local talent and a sound that filters the lessons of Jam/Lewis, Rod Temperton, Prince, and P-Funk through a thoroughly modern aesthetic. Their debut full-length features choice guest spots (organist John Medeski, singer Saeeda Wright) and some well-chosen covers (Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” the Meters’ “No More Okey Doke”) to go along with their wonderful space-soul originals. 

sxlxmxn, University Park

The latest drop from this local beatsmith simply isn’t enough. At a mere five songs, University Park only serves to arouse our appetite for low slung beats and thoughtful flips on familiar hip-hop favorites by Jay Electronica and Kanye West. And just as we’re getting deep into the grooves with sxlxmxn, the music vanishes. Call us greedy but we want more! 

Liila, Soundness of Mind

The duo behind this electronic project met in a Buddhist monastery and, as the notes for this release state, bonded “over mutual fascinations with deep listening and intersections of sonic futurism and archaism.” The work that has come out of their initial connection is fluid, flowy, and surprisingly bouncy, with tracks like “osha” flickering like moths against a porch light and opener “appa wú wéi” thrumming with a Steve Reich afterglow.

Mr. Bodeen & His Magic Banjo, Mr. Bodeen & His Magic Banjo

I’m not sure how enchanted the banjo that Mr. Bodeen wields actually is, but he sure makes it sound like both he and it have been touched by something mystic. This full-length is a sweaty, stomping joy full of spirited kiss-offs (“Pity The Fool”), glorious instrumentals (“Snowdrop”), and the kind of boozy anthems that will leave you with a burning headache the next morning (“Drink One Up,” “Juke Joint Slam”).

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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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