farnell newton

Black Music Matters, Vol. 3: Smell the roses

Amenta Abioto takes a walk, Tony Ozier conceptualizes

Last year, Third Angle New Music released a list of local composers they’d be working with on their new “Soundwalks” series. It was an exciting list, and the series is now five episodes in, including this month’s episode with percussionist and sound wizard Loren Chasse. The biggest names in that lineup are Darrell Grant and Andy Akiho, with the entire series being a study in artistic diversity, but one name stood out: Amenta Abioto. Because out of all the various local and/or living composers Third Angle has worked with over the years (and in series like this one), Abioto is the Oregonian musician I’d most like to see in a Caroline Shaw-style profile concert.


Now Hear This: October edition

Electronic pop, future folk birthday celebration, and live experimental

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 powerful electronic pop, a future folk birthday celebration, and live recordings from one of the city’s best experimental artists–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

Natasha Kmeto, You’ve Never Danced Alone

Electronic pop artist Natasha Kmeto has long produced some of Portland’s best and boldest sounds, but her latest album You’ve Never Danced Alone takes her talent to another level. As the notes for this self-produced release spell out, these 11 songs are a reflection of a tumultuous period that included “a divorce, finding new love, exploring sobriety and re-connecting with forgotten ancestry.” What came out of these difficult times is an album that blends the bright colors, booms, and dissolves of a great fireworks show with slow, swaying grooves.

Various Artists, Graves Diggers

To celebrate the 40th birthday of Greg Olin, the neo-folk singer-songwriter who performs as Graves, a wealth of his friends and fans are paying tribute to his work by recording their favorites of his many tunes. As reflection of just how widely beloved Olin and his music is, the breadth of this collection encompasses Sad Horse’s rattletrap pop, dreamy psych-folk courtesy of Neisha D’Souza, and a soulful rock rendition of “Straight 9” by Nate Ashley. 


MusicWatch Weekly: Second summer chills out

Portland cools down with Montavilla Jazz Festival, two-score local bands, orchestral hip-hop, and a bunch of bleached assholes

Happy Indonesian Independence Day! Seventy-four years ago today, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands after three centuries of Dutch colonialism (I’ll bet you thought they were always just about tulips and weed). To celebrate, here’s a little video (if you can’t read Indonesian, skip on down):

So in a minute I’m going to tell you where to hear a zillion local composers rock out this weekend, and Senior Editor Brett Campbell has some things to say about the Montavilla Jazz Festival starting tonight, but the gamelan band I’m in Bali with just played its freshly blessed instruments for the first time this morning, so as soon as I wipe these tears of joy out of my beard I think it’s about time to give you all a little music theory lesson.

Caution: All comparisons to Western phenomena are meant as a starting point, not an accurate description of genuine Balinese music. The present author is no expert, but only an egg. Caveat emptor.

Start at your piano, accordion, Casio, or other Western style keyboard. All those white keys make up the diatonic major scale, and if you shift around the starting pitch you get the seven so-called church modes. Music students learn about all that in first year theory and never use them again.

Start with the note E on your white-note keyboard. Play the next two white keys: F and G. Then skip one, to B, and then to C. Skip up to E and you’re done. In the West we might call that a Phrygian Pentatonic. In Indonesia they call it pelog, and it’s everywhere. Even the ubiquitous roosters crow in pelog.