Portland Playhouse A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Portland Oregon

Now Hear This: March 2022 edition

Psych-pop, smoldering jazzy backbeats, hellgrazing black metal, exploratory rap, Kulululu.

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Now Hear This is a monthly column that scours the pages of music distributor Bandcamp (now partnered with Epic Games), looking for new work from local artists that would make fine additions to your digital library. This time around, that includes psych-pop, smoldering jazzy backbeats, hellgrazing black metal, exploratory rap, Kulululu, and more–just in time for the return of Bandcamp’s Fee Free First Fridays.

Threedom, Conduits

Captured at two of the only gigs this instrumental trio played last summer — a rain-soaked party in the Redwoods, and a much drier party at Northwest String Summit — this nine-song collection is Threedom at its finest. Loose jams that dance around the edges of multiple genres: jazz, funk, R&B, psych rock, and, on one track, something close to ambient blues thanks to a guest appearance by lap steel player Chris Haugen. 

The Minders, Psychedelic Blacktop

Tangentially related to the Elephant 6 collective that gave the world Neutral Milk Hotel and of Montreal, The Minders have kept frontman Martyn Leaper’s steady hands busy writing as many variations on the mid-’60s psych-pop playbook as he can manage. The group’s latest full-length winds in elements of outlaw country and a wandering spirit as Leaper sings of road trips, hideouts in Astoria, and girls from Oklahoma. 

Survival Skills, Cascade Concrete

Artist / producer Aaron Bergeson says that he started Survival Skills “to experiment, look inward, and create something that is truly a slow burn.” What he has found on his latest release is a smoldering, jazzy breakbeat (“Recussion”), delicate pulses shattering in real time (“Sleep”), and what sounds like a toy piano being bludgeoned repeatedly to create a danceable drum loop (“Fifty-Fifty”). 

Hellgrazer, Hellgrazer

Thank Satan that Hellgrazer released their debut album on cassette. I can think of no better way to blast the hell out of their thrash / black metal assault than through the tinny speakers of a boombox sitting on the lip of a skate ramp or the crappy speakers of a crappier car while I hotbox my brain into mush. 

Serge Severe, When Crows Fly

So far, Serge Severe has only unveiled a pair of tracks from his album When Crows Fly (the whole thing drops this Friday), but you can get a pretty firm grip on what is on this Portland rapper’s mind right now. Both tunes are like exploratory self-autopsies, with Serge seeking the source of his mental torment while finding the best ways to protect mind, body, and soul against future anguish. 

Kulululu, Kulululu Again

Never thought I’d be the type of person to sing the praises of ska-pop instrumental called “poopoodoodoo.” But when the song was written and performed by the unstoppable force of nature that is Kulululu, it deserves all the attention it can get. The rest of their new release is just as good, with the group calling upon the free-wheeling rock / funk / fucked up spirit of older Portland ensembles like Sweaty Nipples and Big Daddy Meat Straw. 

Jake Soffer, The Tree That Remained Standing

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Bag & Baggage Danny and the Deep Blue Sea The Vault Theatre Hillsboro Oregon

The inspiration behind this lovely EP of guitar-based instrumentals was the image of a lone, lush tree in the Shasta National Forest that had somehow survived the wildfires that have ripped through the region. In each one of these four tracks, Jake Soffer evokes that arresting mental image with each precise melody and a sense of atmosphere that tempers the despair of the charred ground with the defiant beauty of that sole survivor. 

Accoutrements, Strength

There’s a sense of defiance in the work of this Portland ambient project as it asks listeners to take the music in one slow steady sip. Getting someone to devote 44 minutes to follow this sonic journey of field recordings, bells, and drones coming from deep within the bramble may seem like a big ask. But if you have the time to bingewatch multiple episodes of Law & Order, you can spare one small chunk of your evening to letting this flow through your earbuds. 

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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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