Thursday, December 15, 2011

about face : chelsea cain : stumptown's serial thriller

Climbing the concrete stairs to “the house that Heartsick bought,” you may step around a child-sized mass lying discarded on the porch. The pale violet coloration may be due to the ever-wintry nights, besides, who knows how long it has been neglected since the rains began.

But, upon closer inspection, it may just be the purple bicycle of a six-year-old girl, the kind that might have a clamorous bell and a white basket affixed to the front. As soon as you notice a pair of training wheels on a nearby patio table, the excited yips of two ankle-snorting Boston terriers greet you through the glass door.

Welcome to the petrifying, SE Portland house of New York Times bestseller and thriller author Chelsea Cain.

Penning gruesome tales of serial killers, Cain has written four bestselling thrillers in her Gretchen Lowell Series, but she points out that she may be the only “serial killer fiction” writer who does so with a pink Disney pop-up palace in the corner of her third-floor, attic office. Publishing almost a book a year since 2007’s debut Heartsick, Cain likes to refer to her genre as “detective fiction,” and with her fifth book now completed, she’s already beginning to nurture the seeds of book six, ready to “watch it grow,” as she puts it. “There’s not a story I want to tell any more than this one,” she swears.

But remember, her four-part series which also includes Sweetheart, Evil At Heart, and The Night Season, is the sadistic saga of a psychopathic, violent, female serial killer (named after her childhood elementary school) and the cops who hunt her—all conceived by a smiling, sociable wife and mother. But it’s possible that these all-too-common designations make Cain even more apt to write murderous thrillers... along with a few other peculiarities.

A childhood adoration of Nancy Drew alone will not craft a serial thriller. More morbid childhood fascinations with forensic pathology and disturbing medical texts help, but so does having a “formative serial killer of your youth” and presiding over the neighborhood pet cemetery. Cain’s thrillers are engulfing page-turners with a cinematic quality, which she calls her “big love letter” to British cop shows. So when she says, “My life is very much defined by movies, and also by TV shows, good and bad,” she means it. She married her local video store clerk and there’s a Gretchen Lowell film in the works. She has the ability to “get away with a lot” while terrorizing her audience just enough to enthrall, crafting thrillers that are guilty pleasures for all parties involved.

A NW native, spending her childhood in Bellingham, WA, Cain first came to Portland under “dark and muddy” circumstances when her mother’s cancer had metastasized. After trying to leave on several occasions, she’s not only found a home in Portland but also the setting for her bestselling thrillers—from the isolated corners of Forest Park to the flooding Willamette River.

“I had to come back enough times that I was choosing it rather than circumstances forcing it on me,” explains Cain.

What about Portland kept bringing you back?

There was something essential about this place. A lot of it is the natural beauty. And there’s something in my books that explores this feeling, in particular to the Pacific Northwest, of the danger and beauty of our surroundings. Many people move to Portland and sacrifice financially, but they live here because they want to be here and be a part of all that this city and the area have to offer. So they go up on the mountain and they’re killed by avalanches or killed by sneaker waves at the coast; they drown in currents, they get lost on timber roads, and I love that. And then new people put on their jackets and go out into the forest the next day. I think that the metaphor of the danger of beauty is very much at work in the serial killer I write about in my series.

Portland plays such an important role your in writing, not only as the place where your stories are set but also with regard to the events that happen in your novels. How much of your writing is based on real life events or actual experiences you’ve had?

A lot of it is based on real life. The whole Vanport backstory is all true in The Night Season, and the present-day flooding is based on the 1996 floods, which I was here for and paralleled my mother’s death—as she was dying the city was flooding. That probably influenced me a lot. But I wrap in a lot of what I love and know about Portland in the books. And in my version of Portland there are a lot of serial killers [laughs], and yet I hope that I still communicate a real love of this city despite that. I love that in my books—all of these people are being murdered right and left, there’s a new serial killer in town every two months menacing Portlanders, but in the book people still feel lucky to live here. I think that speaks to a certain sort of Portland spirit.

The books, because of the Portland setting, do very well in Europe and I will get international journalists who will come over and will want me to take them on a tour of my Portland. Inevitably they'll ask me to take them to Archie's house. Or to Gretchen's house. And I have to explain that they don't have houses because they're not real people. So they'll say, "Take us to a place that Archie would live in."

Where have you taken them for Gretchen's house?

I took them to Vista, the heights where NW 23rd sort of comes up to Park. I think I got out of showing them Archie's house.

Just show them any dingy apartment complex...

Right, exactly [laughs]. This [question] has become so unexpectedly common. Readers will try to find locations from the books, and in The Night Season, there is a house that I describe at 20th and Division. As any Portlander knows, there is no house there. I did that very specifically because it was a house where lots of bad things were going on and I had to give a specific address for the plot to work, but I didn't want some poor schmuck who happened to live there [laughs] to wake up every morning to see people with worn paperbacks standing in his yard.

Have you ever thought about choosing a different location as the setting?

No. I think this is such a great location. It’s a pleasure to live in a city that makes a great setting for these books because if I get stuck I can just walk to a street corner and look around. In the next book, book five, there are some scenes that are set in St. Helens. I’m trying to get out of town a little bit but not too far [laughs].

Do you have a title for the next book?

No. I have some working titles, but not one that’s set.

Will it have the word “heart” in it?

I’m actually trying to decide if I should go back to “heart” or not in the next book. Gretchen Lowell is back, but we moved away from the “heart” thing with the last book.

I saw a blog post you wrote that said, “Don’t put the word ‘heart’ in the title of your book if you want lots of men to buy your book.”

[Laughs] Right. And then there’s that.

There’s an inherent contradiction in Chelsea Cain. How does a polite, buoyant...

[Laughs] Buoyant? Ouch.

No, no, you’re very cheery...

I know, I get this a lot [laughs].

So, how does a friendly, warm mother and wife come to write about a twisted serial killer?

I used to think that this stuff went on in everybody’s head and I was just writing it down, but I think that that’s not right [laughs] based on the small sample size of people I’ve polled. I think I have a pretty violent imagination. It’s why I’m a vegetarian. Even as a little kid I always loved those books that would show pictures of terrible tumors and conjoined twins and things that could go wrong. When I would go out walking I would always keep an eye peeled for a dead body.

Or roadkill?

Yeah! When I found roadkill I would always want to bury it. I had a pet cemetery. I thought all of this stuff was very middle of the road until people started asking me ques- tions... actually I was kind of a macabre little shit [laughs] now that I think about it. But thriller writers are some of the happiest, funniest people I know and I think it’s because: one, we’re very well compensated, and two, we get it all out on the page. There have been times when I’ve been stuck in traffic trying to get over the Interstate Bridge, and the only thing that stops me from going ballistic is knowing that I can murder someone later that day. I can take all that...

In your writing?

No, no. Literally. [Long pause]... in my book! [Laughs] I can take all of that rage and I can find some really creative way to kill somebody.

So, how many of your ideas come from pent up personal rage?

Oh, I get ideas from all over the place—a lot from the Metro section of the Oregonian actually. Just the weird little paragraph stories that you see about the demented way people behave in public toward one another. I think that my mind goes to murder sooner than most people’s. We’ll be talking about something and I’ll immediately think, how can that be used to kill somebody? So, I think I’m in the right profession [laughs].

As you sat down to write the first book, Heartsick, were you planning on writing a thriller? Had you ever written anything that gory before?

No. When I first sat down to write that book I was pregnant with Eliza, so I definitely think hormones were to blame for part of that. I came up with this idea and started writing it, but I actually had a contract to be working on another book, Confessions of a Teen Sleuth, a parody of a Nancy Drew book. I think part of what drove me to write Heartsick was that it was something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I wrote the first half of it without even telling my husband I was working on it; it was totally this book on the sly. I kept working on it and after a year of editing, I became a lot more attached to it and started seeing it as a series because I had all these ideas and I didn’t want to ruin that first book by cramming them all in. I took, what I considered at the time, a great personal risk by writing it as if it were going to be a series in the sense that I didn’t answer a lot of the questions. You can say you want to write a series but publishers kind of like to throw one out there and see how it does before they agree to sign a contact for multiple books.

Have you ever regretted writing certain details in a previous book because you want to change something in the current story?

Oh God... constantly! Here’s my advice to anybody out there who’s thinking of writing a commercial thriller series: Don’t ever mention a date. That is my greatest regret in Heartsick. I had all of these dates and once you do that then you are tied to them forever. You’ll notice as the books go on I become more and more oblique about time... “It was about two years ago...” [laughs] from whenever you’re reading this.

You began writing your first novel while pregnant and, amazingly, finished it after giving birth to your daughter.

Yeah, Eliza was a baby in the bassinet asleep by the desk as I was finishing it.

Did being a new mother influence or even change the ending of your first book?

Umm, no. Maybe it should have [laughs]. And she’s—for the record—a very well-adjusted child [laughs].

Because it is a story about teenage girls being brutally raped, mutilated and strangled before being ditched in the Willamette River.

Yeah... I think it will be harder to rape and mutilate teenage girls when Eliza is a teenage girl. Until then, frankly, they’re thrillers; teenagers are fair game. But I think it certainly will be harder. When she’s thirteen I doubt I will be murdering thirteen year olds.

Or maybe you’ll have more material to work with?

Right. I’ll be murdering scads of thirteen year olds! [Laughs] There’s something about pregnancy; my husband and I took these classes at the hospital before Eliza was born and they’d show these childbirth videos over and over again. They’re really graphic bloody, gory videos in which nothing ever went right. There’s that aspect to pregnancy, something kind of essentially violent to it. And there’s something about the way that your body changes that I think definitely changed my relationship to gore.

In what way?

When you’re pregnant and certainly when you have a little baby, your life is all about body fluids. You know, it desensitizes you in a way that’s very natural. You’re just up to your knees in it all the time. In some sense that may have been why I was able to be as graphic as I was in a way that I didn’t really even see. When I sent that book in my agent made some comment about it being “graphic” and I wrote back, “Really? Graphic? Moi?” [Laughs] I wasn’t aware of it because my world was very graphic. The books on pregnancy I was reading were much more graphic than anything I was writing.

Tell me how the Green River Killer inspired your first book.

I was watching this episode of Larry King in the middle of the night and he was doing this show on the Green River Killer. Having grown up in Bellingham, he was sort of the formative serial killer of my youth. [Laughs]

I don’t think I have a formative serial killer of my youth.

I’ve only just now learned that other people don’t have formative serial killers of their youth. I also have a favorite serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. Some people probably haven’t thought about this. I was ten when they found the first bodies, so growing up he was just the thing that went bump in the night. As kids we thought that it was quite possible that each of us might be his next victim. I was very aware of them finding some new victim every couple of years and that there was this task force of people looking for him. That narrative just played out on the periphery of my childhood. They caught him 20 years later, and so I’m watching this and it’s all sort of coming back to me.

On Larry King they had footage of one of the cops talking to Ridgway [the Green River Killer] in an interview room, and I was so struck at just how convivial it all was on the surface, that they seemed like old friends, laughing. On one hand, they were two guys who had known each other for 20 years on different sides of the same case. And on the other hand, there were all these levels of manipulation and this high-stakes agenda, and I loved that from a narrative point of view. I immediately thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if the killer were a woman? Because it adds that sexual complication, and that is where the idea of Archie and Gretchen sprang from. So, I have Larry King to thank [laughs].

Technology is really changing the publishing world right now. Do you know how many of your sales are electronic?

Evil At Heart, which came out two years ago, was 11% ebook sales. A year and a couple months later The Night Season came out—52% ebook sales. [Imagine] that growth in a year, and sales for The Night Season were way up. In my genre, ebooks do very well because people really want to read them right away but they don’t need to keep them.

I have very mixed feelings, like every author. I think ebooks are great—it’s content. We’re not in the business of selling paper, right? We’re selling content. It gets people content and makes it easy for them to read books. I worry a lot about bookstores because bookstores are where record stores were ten years ago. Just like there are still some really cool record stores, there’s still going to be some really cool bookstores but there’s going to be 90% fewer out there. People get to choose now with their wallets which bookstores they want to keep. We’re already making a choice by ordering from Amazon rather than walking six blocks to Powell’s or some other independent bookstore. And that’s fine, but I think people need to be aware that they are making those choices.

Favorite bookstores?

[Laughs] That’s a very political question for me. I grew up in Bellingham, WA so Village Books is not only one of my favorite bookstores, but I literally spent hours there every day. My mom had a garden nursery right next door. When I was a kid, they just let me sit there and read books for hours every day, so I owe them a great debt of gratitude. The smell of downtown Powell’s when I walk in that store—there is no more beautiful elixir to me, all those used books. That is my favorite smell in the world.

What’s your place in the literary world? Do you ever see yourself writing something besides thrillers?

Writing a “real” book? [Laughs] No, I’m very happy here. I don’t have a nagging desire to write something “important” because I wrote that book. I was 23 years old. It was called Dharma Girl. It was a valentine to my parents, and especially my mother. She died two months before it came out, and touring with that little book was a way to keep her alive a little longer. I am lucky to have found a place in the world for that book when I was so young. Now I get to entertain myself. And I get to murder people for money. Why would I ever want to do anything else?

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Read this interview in About Face Magazine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

from dirty mittens to artifice : a band in transformation

OMN has fondly followed Portland's Dirty Mittens over the last few years, whether they've been playing Rigsketball or coveted stages at MFNW (two years in a row) or the Mississippi Street Fair.  We rejoiced when the quintet finally released their debut album, Heart of Town, this past summer after many years in the making and set out in October to tour behind the 12 tracks of indie-pop perfection they had definitively committed to record.

And now, just a handful of weeks later it seems that the band as we know it has conclusively come to an end.  Sad as it may be, the good news is many of the Mittens will be continuing under a new name: Artifice.

Former Mittens Patrick Griffin (bass), Noah Jay-Bonn (keys), Josh Hawley (keys/guitar), Ryan Hanzlik (drums), and Chelsea Morrisey (vox/guitar) "decided to continue working together to explore where this new approach goes," says Morrisey.  But on the surface, the choice seems to leave guitarist and longtime member Ben Hubbird as the odd man out.

Hubbird told OMN:

It's been a long time coming. They're really excited to be moving in a more electronic, sample-driven direction and I'm not really into all that stuff. On our last tour, for example, everyone was programming beats on their laptops in the van, and I was left strumming an acoustic guitar and writing sad bastard songs. There's always a certain melancholy to any ending, and certainly this is no exception. Sharing sweaty rooms, stinky vans, and cramped stages with those folks has been one of the best experiences of my life. But it's definitely time to move on.

I know they're going to sound fantastic, and I'm stoked to be able to go to shows as a fan and dance my ass off and not worry about playing guitar!

So, what will Artifice sound like?  Their Facebook profile doesn't offer much but it does simply proclaim: DARKDANCE.

Another Facebook note from Chelsea Morrisey describes the sound a bit more:

If Dirty Mittens was the Talking Heads meet Booker T and The MGs at Col Summers Park in summer 2002, Artifice is Portishead braving the '79 Berlin winter to meet ESG at a warehouse party DJed by New Order. It is drum heavy, there are electronic and synthesized elements, but this will take nothing away from the energy and spectacle that we will bring with our live show. The show will be a different kind of animal.

Before the above message was published, OMN conducted the following interview with Chelsea Morrisey via email on the break up and plans for the new act.

How would you describe the sound of Artifice? Will it be taking a different direction than the Dirty Mittens?

I imagine that people will be shocked to know that the same group behind the sunny, indie pop of Dirty Mittens are behind Artifice. Artifice is heavy, almost moody, and much less reliant on traditional approaches to band performance and songwriting. Our goal is to create danceable music with a focus on textures and soundscapes rather than a typical four-on-the-floor format. Similar to Dirty Mittens, we will hold our live performance to a very high standard.

Okay, so what happened with Dirty Mittens?  Why are you guys "disbanding"?

I wish I could give you one of those really interesting and dramatic break up stories, but the truth is that we just really felt like we needed to hit reset. We loved Dirty Mittens and we will always have nostalgia for the project, but we have grown up so much as people and more importantly as musicians and songwriters. Over the last year we've incorporated more and more computer-based approaches to songwriting, which have altered our sound in such a way that we really felt like our new material was a different band.

[There are] no personal problems whatsoever. I have viewed the band as family and have actually spent more time with these guys than my biological family in the last five years. I wouldn't take a day of that back.

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Read the rest on OMN.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the business of ‘kool’ : a q/a with serious business

When Serious Business announced that their "long-awaited debut album" would be ready for release on December 8th, plenty of party-going Portlanders likely declared: "It's about damn time!"

Since their inception three years ago, it seems like the team of Jason Mampel and Danny Diana-Peebles has consistently been somewhere in the process of creating an album. After several demos, some scrapped attempts, and countless live shows, the rapping duo of electro-hop nerds have been working in earnest on fresh material, which can finally be heard on their debut Kool, for more than a year.

Known their silly, energetic, and erotic performances, Serious Business finally feels they have a recording that represents their talent while exploring their comical, geeky personalities through the magnifying glass of hip-hop. Co-produced by Karl Kling (RAC) in his NE Portland home studio, Kool, which will be a released as a free digital download on Futro Records, is also chock-full of Futro collabs from artists like Winston Lane, Stacy Peltier (Starlight & Magic), and C Bag (Sistafist).

Listen to three of the new album's tracks below plus the demo classic "Hot Damn":

After ample time honing their live style, the rascally sarcastic rappers always look forward to throwing a good party so let Serious Business host a free show at Holocene on Thursday, December 8th with Atole, VTRN, A Gentleman's Picnic, and DJ Winston Lane in honor of Kool.

This record has been quite a while in the works... how long exactly?

We started writing the album in October of 2010.

What took so long?

Prior to this album, we had written and self-recorded over 15 songs. There were several attempts at recording those songs and turning them into a record, but every attempt failed in some way. It became so frustrating that by the time we stumbled into working with Karl Kling, we wanted to do something fresh to represent our growth as a band. We wanted to focus on our songwriting and production, since we had only focused on live material previously. Our process involved a lot of back and forth between Karl and us. We’d record bits and pieces and then assess what we liked and didn’t like. We didn’t want to rush the writing process even though we knew we’d been around for quite a while without a record. We wanted to make something we were really proud of.

You've stated that Kool is "ultimately about achieving self-acceptance and confidence." What's the significance behind the title?

There is a lot of significance behind the title. Kool with a K is our metaphor for creating your own "cool." We play into a lot of hip-hop stereotypes on this album, but we’re boasting about things like wearing bow ties and playing Sonic the Hedgehog instead of having money and fast cars. Everything we brag about is true. We’re proud of our nerd, eccentric personalities. Hip-hop is filled with arrogance and confidence. It’s about being big and boastful. With Kool, we’re saying, “Hey, we’re the most confident nerds you’ll ever meet.”

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Read the rest on OMN.

Friday, December 2, 2011

marrying nature + technology on lost lander’s debut ‘drrt’

“I’m currently sitting in the woods on a very steep cliff… just noticing some hunters that are walking around about 1,000 feet from me,” said Matt Sheehy over the phone on a gray Tuesday afternoon. ”I spend a lot of time in the woods because I’m a forester, and it’s hard for me to put a finger on how exactly me spending this amount of time in nature affects the recording. But what it comes down to is the sense of wonder that I get from looking up at the stars or hanging out at a planetarium or studying trees or looking at the eccentricities of plants–that’s one of my favorite types of feelings. I try as hard as I can to recreate that [feeling] in the work I do in music and art.”

Sheehy’s latest musical endeavor, Lost Lander, reflects his amazement. Crafting an auditory world of wonder, Lost Lander’s delicately elaborate tunes teeter on organic surrealism like the natural marvels that awe and inspire whether it’s the brilliance of aurora borealis, the intricate beauty of ice crystals, the perfect rings of Saturn, or even the glow of a lightning bug.


“It’s that feeling that you get when you discover that there’s a whole other universe that you didn’t even know about and how it makes you feel kinda small,” continues Sheehy. ”Sean Flinn calls it ‘the big small,’ where you realize how big you are and how small you are at the exact same moment. It’s trying to capture that. I try to spend as much time as I can in that headspace.”

And thankfully, now you can too with the release of Lost Lander’s debut album DRRT. The wondrousness that surrounds us all and influences Sheehy now has a somewhat tangible form and a release date: January 24th, 2012.

The album’s title digs even deeper into depths of Sheehy’s artistic process. Stylized as leetspeak-esque spelling of “dirt,” the name is both organic and technological at the same time, a theme relevant to record’s creation. Teamed up with producer Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls, ex-Menomena), the duo recorded separately and together at the Oregon Coast and in the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, amongst other locales, before inviting a bevy of Portland musicians to provide support.

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Read the rest on OMN.

Monday, November 28, 2011

watch : dj shadow's pet monkey escape from a speed fighting little dragon

Very much in love with this. The song (DJ Shadow featuring Little Dragon on "Scale It Back") and video concept (kudos to director/producers Ewan Jones Morris and Casey Raymond) are both brilliantly done, and now I'm watching on repeat.

Seems like the world can't get enough of the vocals of Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano lately so here's another treat: SBTRKT featuring Little Dragon on "Wildfire," a track that could easily be another LD single if not for the added post-dubstep sounds of South London.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

watch : nkor — 'savage coasts'



Am impressed and enjoying the math-y, complex rhythms of No Kind of Rider's new track/live video for "Savage Coasts," which emanates a palpable UK vibe (Bloc Party, Foals). Plus stream the whole Mississippi Studios set from earlier this month on AudioGlobe.

Check out the Portland five-piece's most recent EP, Away Colors, below and purchase it on Bandcamp.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

rekindling the smashing pumpkins

My love/hate relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins has been reignited. By this account of Courtney Love. In Brazil. Last Sunday.

Before another epic tirade devolved into commanding the crowd to chant "the Foo Fighters are gay," apparently Love

"claimed she was the inspiration for almost everything on the Smashing Pumpkins' landmark mid-'90s albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. She even took credit for the key lyric on SPs hit 'Disarm,' saying she wrote the line 'The killer in me is the killer in you' in a letter to Billy Corgan."

Somewhere been repulsion and amusement, I found myself on The New Smashing Pumpkins' Facebook page, unconsciously listening to sunnier SP tracks from the baby talk titled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.

Now, Billy Corgan is not without his own absurd antics (forays into pro wrestling, the control freak causing band drama, allegedly "dating" (or aspiring to snog) Jessica Simpson, etc.), but it had been years since I'd personally pressed play on a Pumpkins song, apparently seeking that unmistakable, shrill whine. And even though Billy Corgan tried his damnedest, I had a hard time letting go of the Pumpkins the first time around.

Through the Machina years and the slow demise of the band, as original members left or faded out of the picture, I still looked forward to the future, holding Corgan in high esteem--at least, I was anticipating what was next.

Believing the glass was still half full, I reveled in the fact that Corgan contributed to New Order's comeback album Get Ready and was overjoyed to find out he'd be filling in for Gillian Gilbert on Moby's inaugural Area:One Festival (the second would be the last) when it came to the Gorge--a trip that was a first (and only) for many things: New Order, the Gorge Amphitheatre, The Roots, OutKast (only). A SP-emblazoned guitar pick that Corgan flicked into the audience was a prized trophy, forever framed alongside a piece of Moby's t-shirt in my childhood bedroom.

I embraced Zwan and even regularly listened to both Billy's and Jimmy Chamberlin's 2005 solo records. But the thought that the band would reunite five years later under the same name with just two original members stretched my sentimentalism a bit thin. I stopped paying attention and failed to get into Zeitgeist. I had given up on the band--or what was left of it.

Then things only got more ridiculous when it was announced that a 19-year-old kid from Beaverton was going to be the band's new drummer in the absence of Jimmy Chamberlain. From the outside, it always felt like Billy broke the band up. It seemed that the things that made him a great musician and frontman made him a terrible compatriot in close quarters. And yeah, it may have been his band to break up and then "reunite," but the rest of us, and maybe some former bandmates, cared about that band too. (Teenage Pumpkins devotee speaking here.)

So, at that point I did something that my former self would've thought unfathomable. The next time the Pumpkins came to town for MFNW 2010 (playing what would've been an intimate show at the Wonder), I chose to watch Menomena--who would soon shed their original lineup too--instead.

And now we're finally to the point of this post. The Smashing Pumpkins are reissuing their first two albums, Gish and Siamese Dream, in a package that includes tons of unreleased rarities and two DVDs of period performances--we're talking hometown Metro gigs in Chicago from 1990 and '93--out November 29th via EMI.

My indifference might've allowed me to gloss over these releases except I also stumbled across four streams--four previously unreleased demos from the upcoming reissues including "I Am One (Reel Time Demo/2011 Mix)," "Rocket" (Rehearsal Demo)," "Today (Broadway Rehearsal Demo)" and "Disarm (Acoustic Mix)"--posted on Seattle's 107.7 FM The End, which of course have now been taken down.

But hearing those old originals roused something within me, made me remember the band I once loved. So I got on the horn (email) and demanded my copies, which should be on my doorstep ASAP. And I'm once again excited to listen to The Smashing Pumpkins.

I've still yet to like that Pumpkins page on Facebook although I've been back to listen to the tracks--more for background noise than due to any deep attraction to the music. (Besides, these freebies are better.) The voice is the same, so maybe the songs are growing on me?

I guess I'm open to the risk.

Friday, November 11, 2011

fast forward : apes tapes cassette label turns one

Cassette tapes championed by local tape labels have helped the industry-obsolete format make a resurgence around Portland over the last several years.

Although the anti-digital, pro-physical format may lack the quality, fidelity and longevity of vinyl or digital incarnations, it retains a portability and an idiosyncratic classicism as the diminutive, teethed spools move tape from reel-to-reel in a ritual manner. Not quite vintage at this date, but retro in some circles, tapes still brim with nostalgia for all those children of the '80s and early '90s when the mixtape was the same format that ignited gangsta rap careers, catapulted DJs from the streets to clubs to MTV, and may have won over Molly Ringwald in your dreams, or even your real life sweetie, with the perfect mix. Plus, these days all that minuscule magnetic tape can come housed in quiet the variety of neon colors.

As of late, it's been a conscious choice for Portlanders to establish record labels that serve as manufacturers and distributors of tape-recorded music, and one of the rising players in the current scene, mostly due to their curation and connections, has been Apes Tapes.

One year old this fall, Apes Tapes will celebrate their first birthday and the release of Mixed Ape 3 (a 16-song compilation tape, also available digitally, that features cuts from the below performers as well as Aan, And And And, Support Force, Youth, Rico All The Time and more) at Holocene on Thursday, November 17th with Onuinu, Adventures! With Might, Vanimal (reunion performance), XDS, and Pegasus Dream. Plus there will be a surprise DJ and three surprise, guerrilla mini-sets from specials guests--one of which we can reveal: DoublePlusGood!

"Continually exploring what it is to be an artist and an artist-run label, walking the fine line between musician and businessperson, maximizing quality and quantity, often with little-to-no money, the label is as much a project as the music itself. It is the epitome of the DIY Portland music scene, and that’s what makes Apes Tapes important."

OMN spoke with Apes Tapes founder Cameron Spies (also of Radiation City) about the label's history and future and caught up with a few of the bands featured on Mixed Ape 3 plus performing at Holocene to answer some questions on their involvement as well. But before that, watch Onuinu's "Ice Palace" directed by Andrew Sloan:

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Read interviews with Apes Tapes' Cameron Spies and the performers on OMN.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

download : free starfucker demos

Over the last few days, Starfucker has dropped a couple treats on us via Soundcloud and Facebook in the form of demos from the Reptilians recording sessions.

In a Facebook post, the band said, “We’re thinking about releasing all of the Reptilians Demos as a 12-inch vinyl someday… that’s even the Demo Artwork!! >>this is what ‘Julius’ used to sound like…”

Here are the four other tracks they’ve shared so far: “Astoria,” “Bury Us Alive,” “The White of Noon,” and “Mystery Cloud”




The expanded line up heads over to Europe in ten days for 20+ dates in November and December before playing an NYE show in Seattle and heading south to Cali and then the South. Sorry, no PDX/ORE show for now. Complete dates here.

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Read this on OMN.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

watch : i spy portland

If you look closely, you may recognize that these Montrealers (or if Québécois you're trying to sound fancy) have been around Portland. The husband and wife duo of Handsome Furs have a PDX connection in the form of director/actor (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire) Scott Coffey, who directed the NSFW video for the single "What About Us," as well as the past Wolf Parade video "Yulia."

"What About Us" is sexually fueled and dark, full of despondent lust in hotel rooms, psychotic drivers, and voyeurs in the gloom spying frontal nudity from both genders. Coffey said, "It was all shot in Portland, Oregon in the cold and rain. But that’s good for nipple boners."

Maybe you'll recognize the MAX line, your room at the Palms, or the descending underbelly of the Fremont Bridge like a concrete maze above your head.

Plus get "Repatriated," the second single from Sound Kapital:


Or download both via this handy Sub Pop widget:








Wednesday, October 26, 2011

omn turns two! our second year in review.

Today marks two years to the day since Oregon Music News went live in 2009. It’s been an eventful year full growth and growing pains (a recent server move stagnated us for a couple of days), but a dedicated crew of OMNers has kept us afloat and flourishing through the trials and tribulations, chaos and triumphs.

As the story goes, the writers are now navigating the ship (or inmates running the asylum) as several key contributors stepped up to fill new roles, in addition to their normal written duties, during the last year. We’d like to recognize the efforts of Ana Ammann as Publisher, Mark Niemann-Ross as Tech Guru (aka Media Strategist), Alaya Wyndham-Price as Director of Business Development, Brandon Ellison as Social Media Specialist, Alex Jones as Associate Editor, Jessica Black as Promotions Manager, and Annette Zuzio as Production Director (who we will miss dearly as she recently moved to LA).

The days, weeks and months flew by, especially as we tackled numerous festivals during the summer months, accompanied by a slew of regular contributors. Our ridiculously talented and supportive team of photographers, writers and organizers allow OMN to publish fresh, local content on a daily basis–hardly a day passes without a new feature story, concert review, or piece of news. Just take a look at the homepage on any given day to see a swath of names covering a variety of genres and events across Oregon and the NW–some 8,000+ posts have been published in our first two years! From Classical to Metal to Family to the unclassifiable yet quintessentially understood, in Portland at least, Melting Pot, we cover it all in an attempt to comprehensively blanket the scene in Oregon.

We’ve also tried to build and support our community, sponsoring events like the Portland Jazz Festival, Mississippi Street Fair, Reel Music Festival, Silverton Wine & Jazz Festival, Soul’d Out and more, and we’ll continue to do so in the coming year.

We look forward to evolving technologically, capitalizing on mobile publishing opportunities, which we initiated this summer with two mobile, festival websites. Spearheaded by Mark Niemann-Ross and photographer/writer Kevin Tomanka, OMN went mobile with festival sites for the Waterfront Blues Festival and PDX Pop Now!, and we look to continue this success with future, local festivals.

As our readers, we’d also like to thank you for all your support, feedback and interaction here on OMN plus via Facebook and Twitter. (Psst… if you don’t already, like us! Follow us!) And we hope to see you all tonight at our free 2nd birthday party in the ballroom at The Secret Society. Doors open at 7pm with the Renato Caranto Project kicking it off with some fat, funky sax at 7:30pm followed by electronic alchemist Auditory Sculpture with collaborators (trumpeter Derek Sims and female vocalists Orianna Herrman of Oracle and Stephanie Schneiderman), and indie folkers Sunbeam closing it out.

Get more on the artists playing our party plus listen to a few songs in the opening minutes of KZME 107.1 FM’s Trixie Pop show (sound bite starts at 3:15) from last Thursday (and download the podcast here):



Thanks for all your visits.

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Read some our favorite stories from year two on OMN.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

reel music festival 29 : 'searching for elliott smith

“Playing things too safe is the most popular way to fail. Dying is another way,” laughs Elliott Smith. “Or like… killing your emotions is another popular way… with you know, drugs or alcohol or whatever.”

Although Searching For Elliott Smith has screened sporadically since it’s release in 2009, the Gil Reyes-directed documentary will premier in Portland on Friday, October 21st as part of the NW Film Center’s 29th Reel Music Festival. October 21st also happens to be the eight-year anniversary of Elliott’s passing and Gil Reyes will be in attendance to introduce the film.

The 90-minute film chronicles Smith’s life from his teen years at Lincoln High School to his controversial death in LA in 2003 through the eyes of friends and collaborators, girlfriends and confidants, like Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant (who used Smith’s “Miss Misery” in Good Will Hunting, rocketing him to national prominence), fiancée Jennifer Chiba (who witnessed his death), Sean Croghan (roommate and fellow musician), Robin Peringer (former band mate), Larry Crane (producer, owner of Jackpot Studios), and musicians Pete Krebs and Mary Lou Lord.

Touching on the major points of his career and his struggles with drugs, alcohol, depression, and fame, many of the stories are well publicized but it’s moving to hear them directly from the mouths of those that knew him best, working with him or standing by his side in his most intimate moments. Whether it’s a high school teacher remembering him as a great student (he was a National Merit Scholar) or fellow musicians remembering his early drive and ambition in bands like Stranger Than Fiction and Heatmiser, the film tracks each album Smith released beginning with his career-defining, 180-degree turn from noisy, post-grunge to whispery acoustics on Roman Candle. The angst, aggression and emotion in Smith’s music didn’t disappear, rather he expressed it lyrically, in a gentle yet macabre fashion.

The gems that really stand out in the film are the moments where you are really let into Elliott Smith’s life, via old footage Reyes has dug up or through interviews with his confidants. Larry Crane, Smith’s archivist who said Smith graciously gave him a co-producer credit on “Miss Misery,” discusses the musical genius of Smith in the studio coupled with a clip of his amazing skill as a classical piano player.

The chronology of Smith’s life and work is a nice retrospective but the most touching and private accounts come from former roommate Sean Croghan, who also struggled with many of the same depressive tendencies as Smith. He happily remembers Elliott’s dry wit, dark humor and idiosyncrasies as well as his indie music attitude–turning your back on the record industry. But he also reveals their shared suicidal thoughts and “young man’s disease”–a propensity to sabotage something when things got too good. As his fame grew, fucking up on purpose became an art form for Smith, and Crane also touches on this self-destructive notion. Smith would have to destroy something before he was satisfied; he was so talented that his first take would be flawless, yet, to make it unique, he’d have to carefully place his own mistakes within the recording–that was his form of perfection.

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Read the rest on OMN.

following the nw to san fran for treasure island

A weekend excursion to San Francisco doesn’t sound so bad, especially coupled with the fifth annual edition of the Treasure Island Music Festival–a fest which featured a handful of NW-bred acts (YACHT, Shabazz Palaces, Death Cab For Cutie, The Head and the Heart, and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks) alongside Down Under dance (Empire Of The Sun, Cut Copy), riddling guitar work (Explosions in the Sky, Battles), sublime atmospherics (Beach House, Warpaint) and so much more indie rock, hip-hop, and electro with heart, soul and sweat.

Accompanied by the afternoon October sunshine and the wind whipping across the bay as concert-goers gazed towards the San Francisco skyline, TIMF 2011 was deftly curated by longtime SF purveyors of indie music, Noise Pop, which turns 20 next year. Alongside Another Planet Entertainment, the two have organized the nascent festival since 2007, booking a solid line up that truly fits Noise Pop’s indie ethos. From San Fran locals to blogosphere buzzers and hipster worshipees, the fest encompasses a fairly diverse swath of artists that attracted young audience members of all sects. With the pot smoke aplenty in the sea wind and everyone shelling out $9 for beers, here are a few highlights from Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.

Saturday, October 15th

Flying from Iceland to San Fran to play for us: All who witnessed also joined the Kingdom of YACHT on Saturday. A Portland band that has grown exponentially over the last few years through constant touring and supporting DFA label mates like LCD Soundsystem, YACHT’s fleshed out full band, The Straight Gaze (which includes drummer Jeffrey Jerusalem and guitarists/keyboardists Bobby Birdman and Katy Davidson), has breathed new life into their old tracks and allowed them to be more innovative on stage. Jamming out on “Tripped & Fell in Love,” YACHT brings a feral, bouncing energy to stage every time–Claire L. Evans struggled to keep her skin-tight white dress from riding up as Jona Bechtolt has perfected his showy mic swing ‘n toss.

Spending most of her time teetering on the edge of the stage, Evans engaged and controlled the crowd, either with intensity or quips, querying if the audience had any questions for the band. ”What are my boots? They’re Doc Martens… I got them at the mall.”

Whether it was “Dystopia” or “Utopia,” YACHT played plenty of cuts from their latest Shangri-La, and of course, YACHT would cover The B-52′s’ “Mesopotamia,” sung by the latest addition to the band, guitarist/keyboardist Katy Davidson.

Holy Battles! How a three-piece keeps up such an insane pace while swapping so many instruments (like Ian Williams simultaneously playing two keyboards with a guitar hanging from his neck) and sounds/samples plus pedals and more… most will never comprehend. All three lined up against the front of the stage with the drum kit at center as the art/math rock experimentalists managed to be creepy and danceable at the same time, almost coming unhinged yet remaining cohesive. With drummer John Stanier reaching for the tallest cymbal from the lowest seat and Dave Konopka wrangling a bevy of bass, guitars, and effects, the entire performance was furious, leaving stage and lawn breathless.

DJing the live set: Playing a truncated version of what they just delivered in Portland, the skinny, collared-shirted crew of Cut Copy orchestrates live sets that are transformative; and it’s all about pacing. The Aussie four-piece, with an additional touring percussionist, manages to blend and extend one song into the next, transforming beats live, reworking the material so the clip is seamless and always increasing.

Super tropical with guitarist Tim Hoey providing plenty of percussion himself, singer Dan Whitford opened his palms in a welcoming, “come hither” gesture; pointed his index fingers skyward and wagged them to the beat; or simply thrust his dukes to the sky, forearms bared, fist pumping to his own jams.

Cut Copy songs display a mastery of electronic ebb and flow, the breakdown followed by a build up until the track explodes. And these eruptions are all the more sensuously intense live, whether it’s one of many cuts from their latest Zonoscope or “Lights & Music,” “Hearts On Fire,” “Saturdays,” or set closer “Out There On The Ice.” On the final leg of touring behind Zonoscope, “yes, no, maybe,” we just didn’t want to hear that their time was up.

Most smoke, most costume changes: None other than Empire Of The Sun provided the grandiose ending to day one at Treasure Island. Narrating a futuristic tale, the exact story of which was lost but the elements that made it a musical spectacular (six costume changes for the four female dancers, a psychedelic video journey, props, capes, and hairy shoulder pads) were not.

It was an electro-musical fronted by Luke Steele strutting across stage in his tined headpiece, indulging in flamboyant guitar solos, giving the crowd exactly what it longed for. Dousing the stage in smoke from extinguisher-like hoses, Steele’s elaborate glam-influences felt most present on the downtempo ballad “Without You,” which felt like Prince crooning from Bowie’s mouth as Steele gazed out into the sea of people through a painted face, a stripe across his eyes.

Wonderfully active and theatrical, a blazing light show and the synchronicity of the dancers, even while wearing swordfish heads covered in lengthy blonde, mermaid locks, built and pushed the dramatic set forward until Steele stood silently, considering the audience’s cheers. ”Thank you San Francisco” and in a flash Steele turned and smashed his guitar leaving the white body dangling from the neck. (This was the final performance of their current tour.) Thirty minutes still remained in the set.

After several unsure moments, Empire Of The Sun returned for the set closer “Walking On A Dream” in Japanese-inspired costumes with Steele as a wild-haired samurai and his dancers geisha-like. But it was to be the final cut, leaving a sensational memory in their wake but also something to be desired as the set supposedly had 20-some minutes remaining. Exiting after several ostentatious bows, EOTS left the crowd with a feeling of needing more–more songs, or even another performance, as it was impossible to devour so many swirling elements in a single set. From the decorated, blue acoustic used to strum the opening chords to “We Are The People” to the Steele’s costumed support, viking drummer and Tarzan guitarist, it may be another while before we get our second act.

Sunday, October 16th

No better setting to watch Seattle’s The Head and the Heart as the audience basked in the bright sun radiating from behind the San Francisco skyline. Rich with singalong songs from their self-titled debut, the warm glow from the stage coupled with everyone clapping to the shakers and tambourines made THATH’s set feel like an old-time revival. Sharing a new song with an amazing violin riff, courtesy of Charity Rose Thielen, and a great drum and bassline, the whole lawn was humming along to the multi-part, guy/girl harmonies driven by sturdy backing chords on the ever-present piano and acoustic guitars.

The sense of love and community reorganized into a group hug and then a huge circle as it spread, culminating in an engagement. The couple spun around and around the inside of the circle until everyone collapsed inward to bounce together to the final building verses of ”Down In The Valley.” The wonderful slow build continued on closer “Rivers and Roads” as Charity was allowed a vocal moment to shine, leading the tingling chorus before the rowdy slamming of the kick drum and keys finished the song with a punch.

All or nothing: With eyes always downcast and of course hardly uttering a word, Explosions in the Sky created a complicated commotion of extremes. Minimum or maximum, always a million degrees emotive whether sitting cross-legged or kneeling–hunched over their beat up Stratocasters, introspectively communicating with their instruments–or shredding ferociously, a blur of hands in dim, colored lights. Munaf Rayani stood before the Texas flag, drapped from the largest Fender amp, with his guitar slung low almost seeming to graze his shoe tops as he swung from side to side like a pendulum.

An elaborate orchestra of clean and distorted, the four guitars, a stage floor filled with pedals, and drums crafted a ceaseless, intricate narrative that soared and dove, quietly wept and roared with rage. Haunting and full of sheer bliss, the intimacy, intensity and drama of Explosions’ guitar work could make you sweat in the cool night and also warm you up as the jelly fish, numbering 12, roamed throughout the audience to finish their set.

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Read the rest of the highlights on OMN and see more photos from day one and two.

Friday, October 14, 2011

always on the road : a q/a with seattle’s the head + the heart

After months and months of touring supporting some of their “personal favorite bands,” Seattle’s The Head and the Heart finally got their first headlining tour. And although they enjoy playing the corner stages of pubs–much like the Ballard bar, Conor Byrne, in which they met on open mic nights–this tour is no small potatoes, even if their self-recorded, self-titled debut has the intimate, inviting feel of a small hinterland orchestra. As the indie folk-pop six-piece headlines mid-sized venues across the nation, selling out a few along the way, they’ll be in Eugene on Tuesday, October 18th at the WOW Hall and in Portland on Wednesday, October 19th at the Crystal Ballroom before wrapping it all up with a (huge!) homecoming gig at Seattle’s Key Arena.

As the venues and audiences increase in size, THATH is learning to invite the masses into their performances laden with delicate vocal harmonies violin melodies. As the energy and emotion is amplified by the pounding piano and percussion, the band transforms into an ardent choir that begs for the crowd to participate by singing, stomping, clapping, swaying, and cooing along.


Just two years old, The Head and the Heart was formed in the summer of 2009 by Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion) and Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), and after a few more open mic sessions at Conor Byrne, the band soon included Charity Rose Thielen (violin, vocals), Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (piano), and Tyler Williams (drums).

OMN spoke to Charity Rose Thielen on the phone from Atlanta just after the band kicked off their current tour at Austin City Limits where their time was “really busy,” playing three shows in three days playing, which she called “three of the best shows” in recent memory. Watch a performance of “Rivers and Roads” live at ACL on September 18th, 2011:

Touring with openers Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and Seattle pals Lemolo, THATH is currently feeling like a tight, cohesive unit and the NW shows should be no different after that warm up.

Then again, the road is no place new for THATH.

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Read the rest on OMN.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

celebrate omn’s second birthday with sunbeam on october 26

Lead by Portland singer/songwriter Brian Hall and supported by wife Amy and friends, Sunbeam may be a fairly new band around town but their calm harmonies carry a confidence and a warmth like a ray of, well… a sunbeam. Self-releasing their debut album, Sunbeam & the Lovely Ghost, in August their rambling sweetness is typified by the stand out track “Honey” (below), a rhythmic effort that would sound good next to Americana-inspired folk rock like Blitzen Trapper or baroque-pop like Beirut:



The lovely melodies are helped along by band members Liz Palmer (keyboards/vocals), Charlie Morris (guitars/vocals), Adam Souza (bass/vocals), and Jon Collins (drums), and in their short career they’ve already shared stages with friends and collaborators like Nick Jaina, Norman, Mike Coykendall (She & Him, M. Ward), The Parson Red Heads, and The Ascetic Junkies.

On Wednesday, October 26th Sunbeam will also be closing out Oregon Music New’s second birthday party at The Secret Society where they’ll share the stage with the funky Renato Caranto Project and electronic producer Auditory Sculpture with collaborators Stephanie Schneiderman, Orianna Herrman and Derek Sims. And it’s free so you have no reason not to show–plus there’ll be cake!

Sunbeam’s 10-track debut is “an album about love and estrangement and forgiveness and hope,” as described by Brian, that will leave you with an affection for more airs of a Sunbeam summer, especially as the months get colder and wetter.

Feel free to warm yourself up at OMN’s 2nd birthday party on Wednesday, October 26th at The Secret Society. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 7:30pm with the Renato Caranto Project followed by Auditory Sculpture and Sunbeam. Get more details on the line up here; 21+, free.

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Read this story on OMN.

Friday, October 7, 2011

q/a with alicia j. rose on curating ‘that was then, this is now : portland music videos’ for reel music festival 29

Last January, Oregon Music News curated the first-ever Portland Music Videos showcase, in conjunction with the Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival 28, and for the 29th edition, we’re proud to have Portland director, photographer, musician and former booker Alicia J. Rose selecting the clips.

Last year we gave the nod to Rose by showing her music video for Loch Lomond’s “Blue Lead Fences,” and in just the last eight months alone, Rose has released gorgeously intriguing videos for Portland locals like AgesandAges, Menomena, and Holcombe Waller, among others.

On Tuesday, October 11th at the Mission Theater, Rose, alongside Sara Lund, will show her selection of Portland Music Videos, a presentation dubbed That Was Then, This Is Now–the theme is “a hand-picked selection of vintage and current music video offerings created by a host of talented directors and animators who call Portland home,” and Then includes videos from Elliott Smith (Jem Cohen), Nirvana (Lance Bangs), and Sleater-Kinney (Miranda July), while Now selections include Menomena (Stefan Nadelman), Fleet Foxes (Sean Pecknold), Modest Mouse (Nando Costa), The Decemberists (Dennis Fitzgerald & Greg Brown), Death Cab For Cutie (Lance Bangs), Miracles Club (Judah Switzer), Sallie Ford (Matthew Ross), and many more as well as the world premiere Rose’s own video for Talkdemonic’s “City Sleep.” The complete line up of videos is listed at the end of this article.

Always a crowd-pleaser, watch Whitey McConnaughy’s selection for Red Fang’s “Wires” and read bassist Aaron Beam’s comments on creating the video:

Alicia J. Rose answered a few questions for OMN on her theme, process, and new music video.

Tell us about your theme–That Was Then, This Is Now–and why you chose it.

I wanted to curate a video program that encompassed the spirit of the past and the present. Creatives have been flourishing wildly in basements around Portland for years, making music and film that defies both budgetary and logical means. To me there’s a connection between the scene in the early ’90s and what’s going on today. A certain authenticity and heart of expression has driven a palpable evolution in both artistic arenas.

I moved to Portland in 1995 after stopping through on tour in the early ’90s. I found out about the scene from working at college radio and booking The Chameleon in the early ’90s in San Francisco. I was a giant fan of bands hailing from here–Hazel, Unwound, Elliott Smith, etc. There was something really special going on. All the bands I saw from Portland had a certain kind of earnest passion that I instantly connected to. The videos I chose for the Then part of my program represent an overview of the cream of the crop. The Now portion is a sampling of the incredible directorial and musical talent that has been emerging since the “SLR revolution” and the crazy interwebs. Now, there is a new ease and motivation to creating video work and Portland is ripe with juicy locations and skilled crewfolk. Just like bands can now make records with their computers, directors can now make videos with their regular cameras. Whoah.

What were the criteria?

With only a couple exceptions, I stuck to Portland bands and Portland directors. The Then program was ’90s based, and the Now program, I wanted to keep more current–2000-ish forward. There are two directors that have videos in both sections–Zak and Lance–and they still live and work here. But of course I made a few choices that had only one side covered…

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Read the rest on OMN.

Friday, September 30, 2011

tropical success : a q/a with cut copy’s dan whitford

After six long months in a Melbourne warehouse, Cut Copy emerged with their third record, Zonoscope, in February of this year. Their most cohesive yet sonically complex effort to date, the album has propelled the quartet to new heights, seeing them travel the world and selling out gigs along the way.

And the Zonoscope was the part of process that has afforded them this success. As Dan Whitford (vocals, keyboard, guitar), Tim Hoey (guitar, sampler), Ben Browning (bass), and Mitchell Scott (drums) hunkered down in that “old, dusty warehouse,” they quickly discovered a tropical air permeating their sonic experimentations and soon this aura pulsated throughout all their new creations. This imagined world was in utter contrast to their homemade recording studio surroundings, but as the “tropical, tribal, almost exotic sounds” kept naturally flowing the Zonoscope became the “device for looking into the world that we created making the record,” explains Dan Whitford. “The Zonoscope is some sort of telescopic, weird contraption that you look through to see into this world.”

Finding inspiration in experimenting with new instruments and through reinterpreting their own influences, you can hear the innovation of vintage sounds in every track on Zonoscope. Swirling vocal patterns two-thirds of the way through “Where I’m Going” stir up hazy memories of The Beatles’ “Within You Without You,” minus the sitar and strings, over twinkling synths reminiscent of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” until the dance-ready beats, yeahs, and hand claps are reinjected.

“Need You Now” is a yearning, dramatic album opener that builds, like much of Cut Copy’s 5+ minute tracks on Zonoscope, into a dance-y bliss (watch above). The deep, commanding form of Dan Whitford’s opening vocals remind of Dave Gahan’s balladry (and so many other ’80s anthems) while you can’t help but hear the tiniest bit of New Order in the electronic drums of “Blink and You’ll Miss A Revolution.” And closer “Sun God” rocks like a funky Happy Mondays cut with repetitive, Shaun Ryder-touched chants and a jammed out, Euro house breakdown that goes on and on.

The layers are multitudinous and a challenge to recreate live but Cut Copy has been doing it across their “northern hemisphere tour” over the last several months and will continue as they move south. On their first string of North American dates the Aussie pack skipped Portland, but currently on their last set of US dates, Cut Copy will finally bring their tropical vision to Portland’s Wonder Ballroom on Sunday, October 9th with equally danceable performances from Washed Out and Midnight Magic.

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Read the rest on OMN.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

bon iver’s big band

Powerful may not be the first adjective associated with the serene indie folk of Bon Iver but as the Bon Iver big band took the stage on Saturday night, a sold-out Edgefield knew they were in for a stirring evening.

With nine musicians on stage including singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, the band of choir boys organically recreated the intricately melancholy moments from Bon Iver’s small but complex catalogue. Opening the show with the first two tracks from his recently released, eponymous second album, they demonstrated an impressive display of musicianship. Supported on the rear flanks by two drummers and their kits (Matt McCaughan and Sean Carey, who also contributed piano), the cast of many swapped guitars for violins and brass, from the French horn to the trumpet and sax, and a woodwind or two all masterfully played by Mike Noyce, Rob Moose, Mike Lewis, and C.J. Camerieri. Reginald Pace traded trombone for bells, chimes and an intensifying thunder of mallets on a cymbal, and the always impressive Colin Stetson blew the largest baritone sax known to man in his sleeveless Iron Maiden tee.

But the entire show was typified by the performance of “Creature Fear” where Justin Vernon traded moments with his band. Close your eyes and you might assume there were just one or two performers on stage until the full glory of the eight backing Vernon coalesced, scaling swift peaks and seamlessly transitioning between sparse and immense. Vernon’s solo falsetto gave way to robust choir boy harmonies, the careful, solo strum and brushed heads burst into an invulnerable uproar, and natural euphony became aberrant with experimental eeriness topped by trilling electric guitar and squeaking violin.

Like another Midwest boy who’s an incredible songwriter and performer, the commanding stage presence of Bon Iver recalled a less theatrical Sufjan Stevens. Confirming this straightforward bent, Vernon announced, “We’re gonna try a cover we learned today. This is for all you Ahmericans out there” as he embodied the opening verse lyric “The country I come from is called the Midwest,” doing his best Dylan imitation (but quickly dropping that act) on “With God on Our Side.”

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Read the rest and see a photogallery on OMN.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

listen : james blake interviewed at the wonder + gig review and setlist

Although fans that saw James Blake on his first American tour, including a sold-out stop at the Doug Fir in May, worried about the intimacy that would be lost as he plays bigger and bigger stages, Blake himself is excited by the prospect–larger venues mean bigger sound systems with more low-end to create the massive sounds he’s seeking.

And James Blake demonstrated on Friday night at the Wonder Ballroom that the understated, introspective nature of his performance is still enough to captivate a larger audience, ably pulling the crowd in and keeping their attention with his drama-filled pauses and fragmented laments. Blake does have reason to fancy the increased power–his minimalist songs did sound good on a big PA whether he was vibrating the floorboards with active, soulful dubstep on R&S released EP tunes “CMYK” and “Klavierwerke”–the most club-worthy moments of the night–or providing a brief glimpse of unadulterated piano playing and vocals on “Give Me My Month”–the moment that most embodied Blake’s desire to play serious, solo piano sets, aiming “to make an art of the songwriting for piano.”

As many struggle to understand how James Blake can possibly be classified as dubstep, let alone what dubstep is, Blake simply described dubstep to OMN before the show as an “intense focus on a feeling,” and his stage presence, or lack thereof, was perfectly suited to amplify this emotion. Shy and subdued, his tall frame seated behind two keyboards, Blake mumbled a few anecdotes and was visibly touched by the audience’s reaction to his “melodic bass music.”

Listen to the entire OMN interview with James Blake including his thoughts on his new, “more intense” EP, Enough Thunder, expected in November and future collaborations with Bon Iver, aka Fall Creek Boys’ Choir, but sorry, not tonight at McMenamins Edgefield.

Reverbed, looped, layered and vocodered to create an Auto-Tune effect, the ever-transforming vocals wavered alongside the rhythmically discordant beats, both always on the edge of cracking to pieces yet masterfully restrained. The live layering and looping of the opening lines to “I Never Learnt To Share” captured the audience’s cheers as the audio’s balance panned from side to side, and the song furtively built into a droning, intense frenzy, which if ill-crafted would’ve been offensive. The same was true of the shattering yet delicately measured bass pulsations on “Limit To Your Love,” which obviously received the loudest cheers of the night especially when the disco ball started to spin.

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Read the rest and find the setlist on OMN.