Now Hear This: November edition

Lo-fi Americana, unrelenting death metal, soothing slowcore

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 lo-fi, death metal, slowcore, rediscovered millennial punk, and plenty of pop and jazz–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

May Arden, Acts 10:38

Portland artist May Arden plays within the worlds of baroque, folk and avant garde, and on her latest album she threads those strains together into an alluring tapestry. The roughly-recorded collection, often featuring only Arden’s crystalline voice accompanied by guitar or banjo, includes a chopped up hymn, a piece of a Beethoven song cycle, and American standards like “Clementine” and “O Shenandoah.” The lo-fi quality of these recordings hearkens back to the days of Edison cylinders and shellac 78s, crackling and rustling through the speakers as they spin. 

Hannah Glavor, So Far, So Long

Recorded in Brooklyn and Portland and completed last year, the latest album by singer-songwriter Hannah Glavor finally saw release last month—and not a moment too soon. Her delicate compositions almost never get above the pace of an unhurried stroll, and her smoothed out, shimmering take on folk-pop is a balm to the soul. Capping it off is Glavor’s incredible voice, sinking into each song as if resting on a lush, mossy piece of earth. 

Elias Foley, Network 1: Post Human

The latest release from Elias Foley’s label Tamarack Music is an effort to seek community among his fellow artists and, as he says in the artist’s statement accompanying this collection, share his “creations outside of financial compensation and my own ego gratification.” To wit: all profits from sales of this digital and cassette release will be donated to Native American Youth and Family Services (NAYA) and ImpactNW’s Homelessness Prevention Fund. And he has gathered together a wealth of incredible electronic artists, including WNDFRM, Heather Perkins, and Solenoid to support Foley’s efforts by remixing his fractured, dub-inspired compositions. 

Cardioid, Fantasy Metal

Former Radiation City member Lizzy Ellison is finally returned with another assortment of whip-smart rock and pop that, according to her Bandcamp page, “took several years to make.” She’s joined again by regular collaborator Riley Geare and Erica Shafer, with the project shepherded along by the production help of Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk. Together, they pull out shapes of fuzzy glam (“Holiday”), explosive shoegaze (“The Time After This”), and throbbing synthpop (“Old Records”). Better still: there’s more music from Ellison and Cardioid on the way this year, via companion release Crystal Lattice Lullabies

Vulnere, Igneous

Vulnere likes to add “unrelenting” as a modifier when describing its death metal sound. Not a terribly original idea, but this trio walks the walk like they talk the talk. The group’s first full-length does not let up for one moment of its nine heaving, grinding tunes. If you can catch your breath long enough, pay particular attention to the drumming of Cody Pulliam. His speed and fury drives each moment of this album like a cluster bomb. 

Golden Retriever, Ansible

Experimental duo Golden Retriever expands upon Ansible, an immersive sound piece that they created for the Improvisation Summit of Portland, which found synthesist Matt Carlson and bass clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff joined by a quartet of saxophone players and percussionist Matt Hannafin. Their recording of this piece now features a fifth sax, and wise editing and production decisions render the album, by turns, icy and heated. Carlson and Sielaff have released their own version of Ansible along with a pair of remixes by their friends Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Spencer Doran of Visible Cloaks. 

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, The Peripatetic Piano Live EP

The members of the wonderful and inventive Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble came up with a novel way to stay connected and still create new music during this pandemic. Using a vintage Pianola upright player piano owned by PJCE executive director Andrew Oliver, the group recorded four musicians playing outside at Peninsula Park. Each artist brings their own flavor and flair to the project, with Charlie Brown III lending a gospel spin to his two tracks, Kerry Politzer adding a breezy swing, and Blue Cranes member Rebecca Sanborn going for a modern pop vibe. 

Alison Self, Honky Tonk Haze

Even if you don’t care for Alison Self’s rambling old school country, you at least have to show some respect for how she’s kept her head up and kept making music while making multiple moves across the country and also surviving colon cancer. But there’s little chance of you looking askance at her music, as it is undeniably great. Her new EP features forthright, funny, and brutal songs performed in a down-home, throwback manner, with shuffling drums, chugging guitars, and Self’s crisp, whiskey-tinged vocals. 

Peaceful Valley, Quiet Light

In the spirit of slowcore pioneers Codeine and Low, the trio known as Peaceful Valley don’t dare to hurry their songs along. Each of the seven tracks on their latest release Quiet Light is filled with empty space and languid tempos that emphasize the sound of a guitar chord or a keyboard melody decaying in the air, leaving ample room for Shelby Smith’s plaintive vocals. Available as a pay-what-you-wish download, any money the band does receive will be donated to NAYA.

The Red Sect, Curses

This six-song release from punk quartet The Red Sect comes with an origin story. The group apparently laid down all the music for these tracks in 2001 and promptly lost the tapes. The recordings were then re-discovered after being recovered from a fire. Finishing what they started, the group added vocals earlier this year and are finally releasing the completed work. The wait was worth it as, nearly 20 years later, these tracks remain full-throated roars of anguish and hardcore fury.

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