Now Hear This: May edition

Pastel pop, a summer camp comp, and power washing the brain

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 pastel pop, home recordings, beats galore, a summer camp comp, and plenty more–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

Various Artists, Summer Rock Camp Compilation

Since 2008, My Voice Music has been giving young musicians in Portland a crash course in how to write, record, and release their own work—with the not-so-hidden agenda of helping kids with their social skills and ability to express themselves. To hype up the forthcoming summer classes, MVM has released this comp featuring the music of previous attendees. While these aren’t the most technically-perfect sounds in this column, the joy and heart that these budding superstars exhibit more than makes up for any flubbed drum beats or rough vocal turns.

Theory Hazit, The 5 Deadly Venoms

A short, sharp collection of beats from this multifaceted Portland artist. The set is a head-nodding mash of influences, with the martial arts voodoo of RZA meeting the loopy joy of Madlib and J Dilla. None of these seven tracks cracks the two-minute mark, leaving little room for error and unnecessary fat. Theory Hazit makes his point and gets the hell out of the way. 

Electric Bellows, Electric Bellows

If the notes for this release by Electric Bellows are to be believed, this album is made up of “home recordings made between 2002 and 2020 in Texas and Oregon.” If that is true… what was he waiting for? I imagine he was waiting to get every last detail of these tunes perfect, because this is a little box of power pop and psych rock jewels—all glistening with alluring promise. 

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Brendan Cope, Everything I Wanted/Nothing I Have

What I want but don’t have is a pastel-colored 7” single with these two tracks by Brendan Cope on either side. Or maybe I don’t–because I would likely wear the wax out by playing these two lush, lovelorn future pop jams over and over and over again. And, let’s face it, having to flip a record over a few dozen times through the day can be a real pain when you’re trying to sway around the living room as waves of electronic sound and tender falsetto vocals wash over you. 

Krista Herring, Like Water

The latest album from former Californian Krista Herring sways gently along a path that cuts between folk, country, and alternative pop—a well-traveled road set down by icons like Shawn Colvin and Paula Cole. Though the music stays in one comfortable mid-tempo pocket, it’s Herring’s tempered, twangy voice that provides the dynamics and drama as she sings of her wounded heart and quiet determination. 

Sefton Reef, Anne Limbo

Recorded in 2019 and finally seeing release this month, Sefton Reef’s latest music is in the mode of ambient synth giants like Tangerine Dream and Mike Oldfield. The backdrop is broad strokes of color and drone while the foreground is dotted by thoughtful, precise guitar runs and the quiet splashes of a programmed beat. 

Raelyn Olson, Archipelago

Raelyn Olson’s music draws its power from multiple sources. There’s a jazzy looseness to some of these pieces, mixed with the serenity of new age and–as each song is a solo harp performance–an unmistakable folksiness. If ever you wanted to feel like floating down a lazy river without leaving the comfort of your home, this is the album to take you there. 

King Rahim, Lightskin Denzel

An unfortunate truth about the Portland hip-hop scene is that it often feels a step or two behind the bigger trends happening around the country. One rare exception is the latest from rapper King Rahim. This EP-length release slots in perfectly with the slinky, bouncing sound dominating the charts with Rahim’s rhymes doing that delirious dance from boasting to lustful to contemplative and back again. 

Oppressive Descent, Glass Coffin/Oppressive Descent

You can wait a couple of months and try to grab a physical copy of this split LP release from American Decline Records. Or you could get a headstart with this digital download of the three tracks contributed by black metal terror Oppressive Descent. Listening to this torrent of sound through headphones at the right volume is the equivalent of power washing your brain to a blinding sheen. 

Andrew Black, Petals

Another lovely collection of ambient pieces from Andrew Black. At times his work evokes the sensation of a rhythm-less Boards of Canada with its haunting synth blossoms. But even that duo couldn’t come close to the lovely sonic pictures that Black paints with piano on “Bloom,” nor the jagged, experimental piece “Wilt.”

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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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