Category Archives: Portland

Hadals – “The Dog”

Here’s a fresh batch of noise coming out of Nashville. Hadals’ “The Dog” is available on cassette from the Portland, OR based label Nailbat Tapes.

Opening the release is “Hound of Golden Light.” It’s squealing feedback refuses to be kept at bay, while the track plows forward aided by the heaviest of bass lines. Vocals are relegated to the background, and despite being pushed into the red the punishing discord of the guitars are clearly at the fore here.

“Claws Stretching to the Sky” starts off one part Wolf Eyes and one part punishing death metal, choosing to focus mostly on anxiety inducing wails and distant sounds of torment. Following that “My Teeth on Your Neck” picks up exactly where “Claws…” left off – with the crushing bass-heavy backbeat and feedback taking over once again.

Closing with “Sink Into the Earth” solidifies the fact that this release really is of two minds. On the one hand there is the noisy, Wolf Eyes/The Thirteen Ghosts elements, casting an unnerving pall around the distorted guitars and drums. Slowly building from one to the other the last minute and a half finds Hadals absolutely punishing their instruments into apparent oblivion.

You can grab a copy of this limited cassette from Nailbat over at their bandcamp page. And while you’re there you should check out a few of their other new releases including the Portland-based death/grind of Maltheist, and dark/ambient/noise of Red Boiling Springs.

 

Stream: Sons of Huns – “Banishment Ritual”

People may think of Portland as the place where all hipsters either live or aspire to live, but the fact of the matter is that there is a pretty lively metal scene in the Pacific Northwest and Portland’s own Sons of Huns comes pummeling through your speakers with a bone crushing album that’s packed with crunchy riffs and chaos.

This one just needs to be turned up. All the way. Every track introduces riff after shape shifting riff, slithering through multiple time signatures and tempi all while putting their virtuosic fretwork on full display. A song like “Heliolith” just keeps churning out memorable riffs and then casting them aside, moving to the next one.

Though, to be honest, calling this an all-out “metal” album isn’t completely fair. It’s not that far off, but really the songs show a lot of the influence of classic rock and garage rock. Think something like Ty Segall’s latest band “Fuzz.” That band chugs along thanks to the shredding of Charlie Moothart, and Sons of Huns shreds in a very similar way, but are just a touch heavier. The bass-work is more detailed and finely tuned, sometimes taking the opportunity to double the guitar lines, like on “Horror In Clay.”

“Banishment Ritual” offers the best elements from the worlds of thrash metal, and garage/psych rock with even a little classic metal thrown in for good measure (think Motorhead). And, hey, “Rollin’ the Dice” even shows that they can throw a little bit of swing into the mix. There’s also the classical guitar “Leyenda” style opening to “Super Kanpai Rainbow” and the dual guitar riffage of Iron Maiden lurking in the buildup after the guitar solo of the same song. Nothing’s off limits, and they can pull it all off exceedingly well all while plastering things with extended blues based guitar solos.

The album came out this past November and was released on limited edition Coke Bottle colored vinyl, with only a few still available. You can still, of course, download the album. This is their first full-length, so expect much more to come from these guys in the future. They are currently out on tour, check the dates below and listen to the full album above, and also check out some earlier tracks, also available to listen to on their bandcamp page.

Apr 26
Aftershock
Shawnee, KS

May 08
Launchpad
Albuquerque, NM

May 09
Club Red
Tempe, AZ

May 10
Cheyanne Saloon
Las Vegas, NV

May 13
Echoplex
Los Angeles, CA

May 14
SLO Brew
San Luis Obispo, CA

May 15
Strummer’s
Fresno, CA

May 16
Thee Parkside
San Francisco, CA

May 17
Branx
Portland, OR

May 18
Highline
Seattle, WA

May 20
In The Venue
Salt Lake City, UT

May 21
The Marquis Theater
Denver, CO

May 23
Red 7
Austin, TX

May 24
Fitzgerald’s
Houston, TX

May 25
Three Links
Dallas, TX

Stream: tracks from The Woolen Men & Eyelids

 

“Life in Hell” by The Woolen Men is about as spontaneous a recording as one could possibly hope for. The bootleg recording quality of the track, allowing non-performance related sounds such as the clanging of dishes and glasses in the background just add to the aura of the track. The guitar holding its tuning in much the same way as a barroom honky-tonk piano (with the lowest string tuned down at least a step), while the singer’s voice carries over top with no amplification; it’s all part of the character of the recording, and it puts the listener right there in the middle of it. In a few words, I love the way that this song sounds from a recording stand point. The opening line, “I don’t belong here in this place, I don’t belong here with you” draws the listener in, with verse after verse heaping on the feelings of suppression and desperation.

The singers voice and style reminds me of an EP that I covered a few years ago by Andrew Lindsay & the Coathooks, particularly the track “The Boat Outside.” There is just something about the way that the singers’ delivery that sounds similar, or at least familiar.

And below is the claymation video for Eyelids’ track “Seagulls into Submission.” The subdued, throwback track instantly reminds me of “Twice Removed” era Sloan, or Yuck’s debut dialed way back. Either way it’s got the sort of neo-mid 90’s sound that combines elements of shoegaze’s hushed vocals, with the some chord changes and solos that sound something like Guided By Voices in a way. I know I’m throwing a lot of references around, but the track is basically a great combination of a few different sounds, and it comes out sounding perfect.

The Woolen Men and Eyelids have just put out a split 7″ with Off Records, which is where “Life In Hell” comes from. “Seagulls Into Submission” comes from Eyelids’ own 7″ of the same name, which can also be picked up through Off Records. Maybe you didn’t have a chance to get out this weekend for Record Store Day? Here’s your chance to make up for it and help support Portland’s Off Records at the same time.

The Binary Marketing Show – “Anticipation of Something Else”

It’s not too often that a release catches me off guard. Usually by about halfway through the first track I know exactly what to expect, for better or for worse.  Not so much with this latest tape from Portland’s The Binary Marketing Show. As the first track unfolded I was expecting an albums worth of slowly unfolding synth ambiance and atmospherics, but every expectation set up by one song was dashed as the next entered.

I’m not saying that every single track is a hard left-turn into unexpected territory, but the soundworld in which they are operating lends itself to so many different approaches, and infers much more than any one track could ever hope to capture. Sure the opening track is pretty atmospheric, but as “Picnic On Makemake” begins we can hear some guitar peeking out through the synths, and most jolting of all when compared to the first track, “I Could Live Without a Hand,” is the intense bass rumble and dual vocals. The thick low end that enters, and the way that it combines with the vocal is very reminiscent of Baths’ “Cerulean” album. Definitely a good album to be reminded of.

Midway through the album “Lost After Nightfall” takes us into yet another direction with something that starts out sounding like  Boards of Canada though eventually that fades to the background as a warped  undercurrent takes over. “Weather Balloon” immediately pulls in a different direction with buzzing synths, a bit of rhythmic crunch and a more standard song structure. “Out of the Void” brings things toward Starfucker territory, with a guitar more or less front and center at the outset, though it eventually fades back into the texture.

This is probably one of the most interesting tapes that I’ve heard in a long time. Every track is brimming with different ideas, unexpected twists, sometimes some catchy hooks, and a lot of experimentation. What more could one ask for?

Find them around the internet at the links below. They also have a show coming up on May 1st if you are near Portland, check their site for details. And check out some of their other releases as well.

Web//Buy “Anticipation of Something Else”//Facebook//Twitter//Soundcloud//Bandcamp//

Stream New Music from Field Hymns: Black Unicorn and Cane Swords

Some brand-new, not yet released, stuff coming your way today from Field Hymns records. I’ve written about some of their releases before and I’m always impressed with what I hear. In case you aren’t aware, Field Hymns is a small label based out of Portland, Oregon, and they release a fairly steady stream of electronic and experimental tapes. Today I’ve got two new ones to share with you.

Black Unicorn - "Traced Landscapes"
Black Unicorn – “Traced Landscapes”

First up is Akron, Ohio’s Black Unicorn with their album “Traced Landscapes.” Trance inducing, retro synthed out 8-bit landscapes come in and out of focus. One minute pulsing delicately, while buzzing melodies cut through the atmospherics the next. Tracks are focused squarely upon one idea, and that singularity holds time in place for just a little while before it’s gone, only to be replaced by the next hypnotic transcendence.

Listening to a track like “Seafowl in Silhouette” one can’t help but focus their thoughts inward. Think of Boards of Canada slowed down 100x. The waves of sound don’t so much crash over you as they do envelop you. Black Unicorn is able to create the kind of sonic space that, in some pretty amazing ways, completely shifts our temporal perceptions.

There are also songs like “Trans-Dimensional Railway” that pay due to Kraftwerk. The kraut-rock, electro pulse is definitely there, even floating there in the background after everything around it completely falls apart, leaving us with the sensation of temporarily floating through space. It’s as though the ground has been pulled completely out from under us and instead of falling we float off into the night sky. Pretty interesting way to have temporal considerations create the divisions between sections of a song.

 

The next release that I have is “Temple Swords” by Cane Swords (also from Akron), a self described “synth exploration.” Comparing and contrasting with Black Unicorn, Cane Swords also create music that breaks free from music’s traditional treating of temporality, but they are doing so in completely the opposite way. Where once there was a homogenous landscape that created hypnotic trances, there is now an ever changing and intricately woven fabric of sounds that whirl in and out of range. Much more spacey, ethereal and in a lot of ways, kind of intense. Recommended if you like Morton Subotnick, as it says on their release, is pretty accurate. Tape composition practices are given an updated process, creating similar highly descriptive sound collages.

They do also have their darker, more ambient moments. Slower development across a long form composition, such as the “Telegraph One” and “Telegraph Two” suites, take a bit of a different approach to sound collage, stripping away some material to create a more homogenous sound. Overall the entire tape is full of some pretty enchanting stuff.

Both these tapes will be released on February 14th and will make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special person in your life. Check out all the stuff that Field Hymns has to offer over on their site, including info on future releases, and listen to the tracks above. There are plenty more on the Field Hymns Soundcloud and Bandcamp pages.

Stream/Purchase: Sun Angle – “Diamond Junk”

Sun Angle - "Diamond Junk"

Sun Angle – “Diamond Junk”

WOAH! This was a good find, and a complete accident to boot. I think this marks the first time that a site has said “you may also like…” and gotten it right.

Last night, as I was writing while listening to a track on soundcloud, after which the site decided to start playing things it thought were similar. Though this isn’t similar really at all to what I was listening to, it sure is a damn good find. And it gets better too, as the band, Sun Angle, is from Portland. Close enough.

I only wish that I could have somehow come to know about this band earlier, as their debut album was released back in November. Better late than never.

Somehow the mix of jammy tendencies with psychedelia and a surf-rock vibe makes complete sense. It makes more than sense, it works incredibly well. I’m picking up a distinctly Akron/Family influenced sound. Title track, “Diamond Junk,” could fit on Akron’s “Meek Warrior” for sure. The sound is perpetually in danger of going into the red, and everything is just ringing and feeding back, creating a beautiful, energetic sound that is exploding with ideas. And that one note in the opening ascending guitar line that becomes somewhat of a motive; that note just sounds so shockingly wrong upon first listen. Listen for about 5 more seconds, though, and it sounds so very right.

“Raspberry” places the jam band-type sound up front at the very beginning with it’s bass groove and sharply echoed guitar. Though, it isn’t very long before the distortion comes blasting to the surface, obliterating everything in its path. “Time Snakes” similarly starts out with the understated bass, a complete fake out before the surf-rock/Bow-Wow-Wow guitar comes in, drums rumbling behind at breakneck speed. It’s got that ramshackle quality, where it sounds as though the entire thing might fall apart at any second, that I wish more bands would embrace. These guys are really putting themselves out there on a tight-rope and taking chances.

I know that there are only 3 songs here, but I am still just sitting here listening to them over and over trying to figure out which one is my favorite. I think that the only answer for me is going to be to buy the album. It’s out now on vinyl, CD and cassette at New Moss Records. Come to find out, their lineup is pretty great. But, more on that later. And, on a side note, I’m wondering if this album is a response to that one Supergrass album

Buy//New Moss Records//Soundcloud//

Best of 2013: Washed Out – “Paracosm”

Washed Out - "Paracosm"
Washed Out – “Paracosm”

I guess I am about 5 years or more late to the party, but I just recently, maybe within the past month or so, started listening with intent to Neon Indian and Washed Out.

I missed the bus on Neon Indian the first time around for whatever reason. Who knows what phase I was in at that point that prevented me from paying attention to anything that was going on in the world around me. Let’s just blame Lightning Bolt. That was probably what I was listening to so much that prevented me from taking my friend’s advice and listening to Neon Indian.

But, actually, Neon Indian, is not the artist that I want to talk about right now, right now I am focusing on the release that Washed Out put out this year, Paracosm. It’s another album, like so many this year, that fell through the cracks for me and I’m only just now starting to give it the attention that it deserves. My only other experience with Washed Out is through hearing “Feel It All Around” about a million times (by the way, say what you will about the show Portlandia, they could have picked a more perfect song for the intro sequence. The way that the ambience makes complete sense to Portland’s grey and rainy atmosphere as pictured).

And that brings me to my main point, and that is the music of Washed Out (and Neon Indian, and Small Black etc. etc.) places a lot of focus on a visual aspect that runs parallel to the music. Sure, it’s called “chillwave,” and it’s good that this aesthetic has gotten a name pinned to it, it helps us to generalize a little bit, but I think that the music that fits the genre is more impressionist than anything.

The seamless construction, with synth sounds that smear the harmonies, preventing any harshness, or dry attack sounds. Everything on “Paracosm” seems to buff out all the harsh contrasts, swirls the colors together and then takes a few steps back, allowing the picture to slowly fade into focus. It’s music of great emotional depth and music of nostalgia, and it’s also music that depicts light and an aura, a landscape. It does this so well that somehow we are all able to pick up on it, and accept it.

More specifically, the songs on this album are a little bit more danceable than on (my only point of comparison right now) Neon Indian’s “Era Extraña.” Where they are both, in a sense, working toward the same aesthetic, Washed Out tends to, on “Paracosm,” tilt the scales a little more toward radio-friendly pop, or as close to it as chillwave will allow.

“All I know” plays elements against each other to great effect with its bouncing tempo and a soaring, yearning melody over the top, while the title track flutters into view, a bit more somber than some of the other tracks, vocals hiding a bit inside those blurred out colors. The addition of a slide guitar, awash in reverb and delay, is a nice added touch. Layers and layers of atmospherics continue to build, though never crowding the texture. Everything just floats out over top of everything else, there’s a sense of constant elevation that’s created; infinitely open and never claustrophobic, despite the dense fog of sound that grows and grows.

This album, and this music, is more about creating a picture than anything else out there. But that doesn’t preclude there from being great melodies and catchy pop hooks. That label that we are so ready to place on the music is merely a shroud that is draped over the form of the music. It’s the timbre that gives the music its defining characteristic, and I think the thing that I think most about when listening to this album is how good the songs would be if all of the atmospherics and aesthetic concerns were stripped away. I think that that is really the measure of an album, and it’s fair to say that had that happened with this album, it would stand up as a collection of great songs too.

I can’t help but hear “Mercy, Mercy Me” at the beginning of every phrase in the verse of “Great Escape.” And that’s a good comparison to leave you with, as it’s useful in summing up the sound that carries through the album from beginning to end. The soulfulness and attention to all the typical concerns of songwriting; creating a memorable melody, and a solid formal and harmonic structure, evoking a mood – all of those things are present here, and are what make the songs great. That extra layer of atmospherics are really what set them apart and keep me coming back again and again.