Dolphin Midwives

Now Hear This: September edition

Rock lifers and PDX Pop, vintage country and moody drones, urgent hip-hop and more

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 some new tunes from rock lifers, a pair of diverse and dynamic compilations, and urgent hip-hop–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

Pete Krebs, All My Friends Are Ghosts

Singer-songwriter Pete Krebs is one of Portland’s most beloved musical sons, carving out a unique niche that has allowed him to explore everything from gypsy jazz to vintage country. On his latest album, he leans toward the latter with a lived-in collection of tunes exploring life’s ephemerality, the joy found in nature, and other simple pleasures. For someone who hasn’t released an album under his own name in nearly two decades, Krebs sounds like he hasn’t lost a step.

Various Artists, PDX Pop Now! Vol. 17

In a better world, Portland’s music lovers would have capped off the summer with PDX Pop Now!–the free, all ages festival that has been a fixture of the city’s concert calendar since 2004. The event couldn’t take place this year, but the team behind it has still graced our ears with a new double-CD compilation of fine local music. As ever, the latest installment runs the gamut from hip-hop (Eastern Sunz, The Dutchess), future pop (Jan Julius, Courtney Noe), heavy rock (Mane of the Cur, Mare), and a ton of indie rock. For a quick temperature check on the state of Portland music ca. 2020, you can do no better than this. 

Death Parade, lost in her eyes

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MusicWatch Monthly: Mayday!

Strikes, unions, and the unpaid labors of love

Today we’re going to talk about one of the oldest musical traditions in the world: getting screwed. But first, we’d like to invite you to open a new tab and go cancel your account with Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more, Inc. If you can’t bring yourself to do that (but why not?), you should at least boycott them today, along with all the other government-sized corporations that can’t be bothered to attend to their employees’ needs. The virtual picket line is the easiest to cross–don’t give in, dear reader.

And now, here’s Oregon Symphony principal cellist Nancy Ives with a Sarabande:

Alrighty, let’s talk about Music and Labor. We’ll start with Portland Musicians Union Local 99 and their page of resources for musicians. These folks (led by trombonist Bruce Fife) are a part of the American Federation of Musicians, who in 1942-44 prosecuted the longest entertainment strike in modern history. The strike itself is worth looking into, and you can do that right here (and read about the 1948 follow-up here), but there’s one specific part of the story we’d like to call attention to on this unusually bizarre International Workers’ Day: the divide-and-conquer part.

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MusicWatch Monthly: American mestizaje

Caroline Shaw, nyckelharpa and hardanger fiddle, Carnatic voice and violin, harps and drums, and American gothick

As we said a few weeks ago, American musical culture–whether we define “American” as USA, North America, or the entire New World–is above all immigrant musical culture. This seems to hold true for a broad interpretation of “immigrant” which includes, at the very minimum: Puritans and other English-speaking immigrants, with their blend of English, Irish, Scottish, and European traditions; abducted Africans with their own blend of classical and folk traditions; indigenous Peoples across North and South America who found their musical cultures decimated, consumed, and alienated by the arrival of Wendigo; and the successive waves of cultures pouring out of war-torn regions across the world, from Italy and Russia to India and Japan, all bringing their cultures with them and adding to the great and glorious New World Melting Pot.

To be fair, there’s another word that covers all this melting pottedness, and we’d like to follow Gabriela Lena Frank’s lead and adopt a term she borrowed from Peruvian anthropologist José María Arguedas: mestizaje. So let’s go all out and say that American culture is mestizaje culture. Sound good? Great!

The week ahead

Of all the living traditions that thrive in fair Oregon, the one we most enjoy paying attention to is the Contemporary Classical Tradition. We just love the way contemporary composers–like Portland’s David Schiff and this month’s guest star Caroline Shaw–tend the gardens of American Classical Music by embracing both the musicks of their predecessors and the distinctly mestizaje aspect of American culture. (Read more about Shaw and Schiff here and here).

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MusicWatch Weekly: Federale February

Indian classical, Super Bach Sunday, and a chat with Collin Hegna

Normally we like to contain all our monthly previews in one tidy column. But since February starts this weekend, we’d like to tell you all about the first stretch of Februarial concerts now–and we’ll tell you about the rest of the month next week. We’ll start with local supergroup Federale, playing with local “desert surf” act Plastic Cactus at Polaris Hall this Saturday.

This crafty, vintagey septet is among Portland’s greatest musical treasures, and last year they released one of 2019’s best albums, No Justice. We gushed thusly about it in our year end album guide:

This was one of those albums that made us stop everything and sit down to just listen–from the terrifying opening title track through the catchy-as-hell Morriconesco Maria Karlin showcase “Unchained Malady” to the apocalytpic Barryesque closer “When Snow Falls,” the latest from the local cinematic murder balladists grabbed us and wouldn’t let us go. If this year-end list were shorter and more objective, this one would still be near the top–probably in the number one slot.

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MusicWatch Weekly: Farewell to the king

In which we bid adieu to Neil Peart and comfort ourselves with winey classical marimba, saturnalian psalms, and an operatic sistah

Before we get into this week’s concerts, we’d like to spend a moment talking about Neil Peart, may he rest in well-deserved peace. Peart was always the present author’s favorite drummer to talk shit about. That’s true of all drummers, if they’re honest: spend more than an hour in any given drum shop and talk will eventually turn to discussions of most overrated drummer and so on, and Peart always tops everyone’s list. It’s a curious variant on sour grapes–we all begrudgingly admit the man’s skill, but we decry what often seems like metronomic bad taste. If I had chops like that (we all boast, twirling our Vic Firths), I would play more tastefully.

It’s a bad faith criticism, although it holds an element of truth. Peart was famous for his huge drumset and occasionally overblown playing, but the “human drum machine” jab doesn’t quite stick–not least because he used that oversized kit to bring a beautiful melodicism to his drumming, a musicality which is, in our estimation, the real reason so many drummers get touchy about him. There’s some sick drummerly impulse to talk shit on drummers who seem to get above themselves (consider Phil Collins), and lyricist Peart with his giant triplikit certainly fits the bill.

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MusicWatch Weekly: Dress up in metal

Balinese gamelan, Finnish black metal, and an early Halloween come to Portland

The present author normally adheres to a strict “no promoting your own shows” policy, but since I spent a month telling you all about band camp in Bali, I feel it’s only fair to let you know that the results of that experiment in cross-cultural music training will be on display at The Old Church this Sunday, when Gamelan Wahyu Dari Langit perfoms alongside grindcore duo Snakes, the analog oscillator witchcraft of Mulva Myasis, and Arts Watch fave Dolphin Midwives.

The next day, while gong reverberations are still echoing around the venerated old building, organist Michael Barnes plays spooky Halloweeny music on TOC’s eldritch old Hook and Hastings organ for this week’s weekly free lunchtime concert. I don’t recommend trying to hide in the belfry overnight–rumor has it Quasimodo hides up there, waiting to sing Disney tunes to unwary trespassers.

King Riddle

I can’t help thinking of Daniel Riddle as Portland’s Robert Fripp, though not as a guitarist; Mike Gamble and Ryan Miller would stylistically fit that description far better than Riddle’s Barrettesque psych-pop. Maybe it’s just the resonance if his long running band’s name: King Black Acid, the only constant member of which (like Fripp with King Crimson) has been Riddle. From their formation in the ‘80s through their quiet successes in film licensing up to their present semi-legendary status, the band’s line-up has constantly shifted. I have to confess a fondness for this sort of band history; it’s the sort of behavior that leads to Distinct Eras (consider The Fall, of Montreal, Crim themselves). KBA’s current line-up, like earlier incarnations, has its own name: The Rainbow Lounge. The band performs with The Ghost Ease and Miss Rayon at Mississippi Studios tonight–get moving!

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MusicWatch Monthly: A Septemberful of ‘music’

"Classical" music, "Hip-hop" music, "Queer" music, "Experimental" music

Well, friends, you’ve got a helluva nice September to look forward to. Oregon Symphony provides live backup to the greatest movie of all time and also Wyclef Jean. Cappella Romana performs a bunch of Byzantine music, Kalakendra and Rasika present Indian classical music and dance, Nordic folk band Sver comes to Alberta Rose, and local rapper Fountaine headlines a free Labor Day hip-hop fest.

FearNoMusic and Third Angle swing back into full Relevant Classical mode this month, while Oregon Repertory Singers perform local composer Joan Szymko. Portland State’s Queer Opera presents gender-bent opera scenes and art songs, Dolphin Midwives plays a Harvest Moon Cacao Ceremony, and the Extradition Series imports a Canadian trumpeter.

We’ve even got a few concerts for you outside the Portland metro area, in case the shame trolls decide they want another helping of bananafied humiliation optics, police cover, wasted city resources, and charitable donations.

“Drip, drip.”

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