natasha kmeto

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.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch

Now Hear This: September edition

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

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 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

Continues…

MusicWatch Halloween III: The Unveiling

The dead rise in Portland with a feast of tribute bands and other spooks

The world is already a haunted house. Killer clowns, mercenary robots, dystopian surveillance states, wildfires galore–what do you need a haunted house for? Instead, go lurk in the shadows with some dark music and costumed fun. There are dozens of tribute shows and other appropriately spooky concerts happening tonight (All Hallow’s Eve Eve), tomorrow (All Hallow’s Eve), Friday (Samhain), and through the weekend.

Hiding under the covers

Bands these days tend to turn their snotty punk rock noses up at the reviled “cover”–who wants to play someone else’s dead old music, when you could be creating your own new frankenstuff? Normally I heartily approve of this virtuous sentiment, as anyone who’s heard me ask “who the fuck cares about Brahms?” can attest. Local bands are your best source of folk-based contemporary composition, and even the worst among them have a creative joy that even established cover bands like the Oregon Symphony can only rarely match.

But every now and then, these folks like to turn their noses down and play dress up. And by “every now and then,” I mean Halloween season, when the veil between worlds thins to a viscous membrane and musicians reveal their secret hearts–this is the one time of year when it’s not only acceptable but downright Cool to learn Other People’s Music and play it for all your friends. Some bands do this sort of thing full time (Portland’s very busy Talking Heads tribute band Life During Wartime comes to mind), but Halloween season is when basically everybody gets in on the tribute game. Some of these bands are even making the rounds, trick-or-treating around various local venues over the next few days. Here are some of this year’s most exciting costumes.

A Bunk Halloween at Bunk Bar down on Water Avenue features Hell Beside You as Seattle ghouls Alice In Chains, New York Kids as aughts moodsters Interpol, and Victoria as dreamy duo Beach House. Up at North Portland’s stabby Kenton Club, Lobotomen does The Ramones, Danzig Fever does Misfits, Chippunks play “Rodent Punk Classics,” and The Hauer Things plays songs from the Nuggets crypt.

Continues…