farnell newton

Now Hear This: October edition

Electronic pop, future folk birthday celebration, and live experimental

By ROBERT HAM

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. 

illmac, SMMR

Embattled rapper illmac (aka Illmaculate) has shifted into a new creative gear in 2020. He plans to release four mixtapes before the year is out, and with the drop of SMMR last month, he’s now halfway to the finish line. And like its predecessor SPRING, this new collection musically embodies a warm seasonal vibe that evokes ’70s soul and ’90s hip-hop. illmac adds the humidity with rhymes that speak to the continued civil rights protests (“Tear Gas Like Roses”) and his own personal struggles along with a nice array of laidback, blunted boastfulness. 

Pulse Emitter, Performs

Daryl Groetsch, the true synth believer who performs and records as Pulse Emitter, is doing his best to make up for the fact that he won’t be playing a show any time soon by releasing a collection of live recordings captured throughout his career. These seven sets, recorded here in Portland and at shows in Washington, California and Germany, track his evolution from a creator of rumbling noise to a caster of spells that use glassy synth drones and floor-shaking bass notes. 

The Daphnes, Spring Cleaning EP

The new collection from dream pop duo The Daphnes might be just what you need to help you with the slow transition from summer to autumn. The music is crisp and clean in the spirit of Laura Stevenson and Tiger Trap with warm emotions that give way to chillier sentiments. Better still, the pair are donating the proceeds from sales of this EP to Don’t Shoot PDX and to BIPOC Oregonians affected by the recent wildfires. 

Farnell Newton & Toranpetto, WAKE UP

This new release from the versatile trumpeter Farnell Newton and producer Toranpetto was originally called Two Minute Warning, as they originally built this material based on a challenge to write 10 songs that were only two minutes long. WAKE UP pairs Newton’s easygoing flow and humble solos with the cozy beats of Toranpetto’s “Lofi Hip Hop,” the perfect soundtrack for easing into the morning with a home-cooked breakfast and nothing on the agenda. 

Various Artists, Boathouse Experimental Studios Compilation

Boathouse Experimental Studios, the underground movie house/performance space/cultural center, closed its doors permanently this year—a sad, slow death brought on by the ongoing pandemic. The space isn’t going away quietly, however. To commemorate its short, two-year existence, the people behind the venture have compiled a cassette release featuring artists that have performed at the Boathouse. It also serves as a great overview of Portland’s experimental music scene with tracks from the ever-prolific Daniel Menche, future jazz ensemble Halfbird, and warped beatmaker Ballooga. 

Omni Gardens, Moss King

Steve Rosborough recently moved operations for his label Moon Glyph to Portland and has been settling into the music scene here nicely, releasing work from locals like Secret Drum Band and Grapefruit as he continues to make music of his own under the name Omni Gardens. The latest from Rosborough was recorded in the early days of our pandemic and is meant to serve as a balm for these unsettled times, with blossoming synthesizer melodies and a quiet ambience that is perfect for meditation or contemplative thinking as you watch the trees shed their leaves outside your window. 

Yaara Valey, Deshecha

The title of this new release from the artist formerly known as Indira Valey translates as “undone”–which, looked at from different angles, could be terrifying or beautiful. The spiritual aims she has for this work make it feel more like the latter—as a way to use these simmering compositions that bring singing bowls, electronic piano, trumpet, and field recordings together to help let go of what’s weighing your spirit down and allow it to float blessedly free.

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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.

Continues…