Wednesday, September 21

Heathered Pearls Mix

Heres a mix to thrown on the next time you put the Millennium Falcon on autopilot and smoke a jay with your co-pilot.  It's a daytime disco breakdown to help you space out and tune up. 
I've also found it to be great for late night biking.


Boards Of Canada – Ithcus Sound
Ikons – Honey (Coyote rmx)
Woolfy vs. Projections – Isabella
Tornado Wallace – Swimmin’
Worst Friends – Ski Hive
Clashing Egos – Aminjig Nebere (Joakim’s afrobot mix)
Motor City Drum Ensemble – Raw Cuts #6
Studio – Life’s A Beach (Todd Terje beach house mix)
Sourya – Anatomy Domine (Prince Language mix)
Blackjoy – Moustache (Prins Thomas diskomiks)
Tiger & Woods – Deflowered
Spoon – Don’t You Evah (Matthew Dear mix)
Seth Troxler – Aphrika
John Selway – Shake The Snow
18 Carat Affair – I Wanna Love You

You can download this mix by clicking the arrow on the right.


Friday, September 16

MFNW - Day Four

Typhoon in Pioneer Square
Explosions in the Sky
The Antlers

Portland's Living Room was the perfect setting to experience the instrumental post-rock of Explosions in the Sky and the big-picture ambient droning of Eluvium.  Pioneer Courthouse Square is a brick covered park in downtown Portland that is surrounded by skyscrapers and constant city life.  

If you bought a wristband to MusicFest NW you were able to go to every club show and one of the big three shows (Iron & Wine, Band of Horses and Explosions).  Having seen Band of Horses before (excellent) and being not so enthused about I&W's newest release I opted to see Explosions in the Sky again given the urban setting.  The fact that you had to put some thought into going to this show meant that everyone there really did want to see one of these bands.  You could tell this type of crowd could get into emotionally charged power chords and maybe even a Friday Night Lights episode or two.
Can you count how many people are wearing feathers in their caps?
I have been a big fan of Matthew Cooper's ambient releases as Eluvium for a long time.  Ambient music requires a certain setting and the listener to be in certain mood in order for it not to sound like overhyped nonsense.  Don't click on these links and expect to immediately "get it".  Don't even try to listen.  Instead I encourage you to listen to something like Indoor Swimming at the Space Station  as you go to sleep tonight.  Eluvium excels at transferring emotion and atmosphere into long pieces that truly transport the listener to a different level of consciousness.  Time seems to slow down and reality is observed rather than experienced.  I believe they call it "an out of body experience."
   Going to an ambient concert is bizarre in that nothing much happens in the way of visuals but yet there is an incredible layering of sound for your brain to process.  Eluvium's Matthew Cooper (Portland via Kentucky) came on stage in a humble manner, picked up his guitar and slowly hypnotized everyone in attendance.  It didn't make sense at first, but once he had looped a few guitar lines without you noticing, the streetcar that could be seen over the venue wall slowed down and the sun on the skyscrapers turned a little more orange as their shadows shifted to the right.  By the time Cooper finished Underwater It Glowed I had to shake my head to remember where I was.  He played a few gentle piano pieces like Radio Ballet that didn't quite hit home for me like they do on the album.  He ended by looping a dark, sustained piano tone to the point where it absorbed every other sound. 
  And then it stopped.
Typhoon huddle up before the show.
Oregon native Typhoon was next up.  Kyle Morton could put on an interesting singer-songwriter show all by himself but he takes it to the next level by inviting 12 or 13 ragtag musicians to bounce through his serious harmonies with him.  I was getting hints of Arcade Fire.  Two synchronized drummers made the live show pretty fun to watch and the band has a clear chemistry on stage as if they're delighted to be together let alone playing to a big audience.
   The Antlers play some version of post-rock that I never care to listen to again.  Too many bad hairdos and I'm sure there's some street performing drummer that could have done a better job in the percussion department.  Although there was a cool moment when a fire truck drove by with its siren blaring and surprisingly, instead of ruining the music it went perfectly with the sparse, distorted guitars and moody keys.  
Explosions in the Sky playing that one song where the running back beats that one tackle only to turn around and see his girlfriend necking with the new kid in the bleachers.
The guys in Explosions have clearly been seeing some success.  They know which songs people have played on repeat late at night while they waited for sunrise or walked by that one swing set.  First Breath After Coma and Your Hand In Mine definitely steal the show.  They also have somewhat of a light show that adds to the "epic" effect.  

Seeing them again reminds me why they were so cool to begin with.  They play conventional rock instruments in a different manner entirely.  Instead of simply picking a rock beat, drummer Chris Hrasky will do a build up on the cymbals to set the scene and then fire off machine gun snares.  Basic song structures are nowhere to be found and stories are told through quiet periods (there were literally a few moments of complete silence) and suspenseful, quick passages.  Long before Friday Night Lights hit the small screen EITS evoked the stark desolation of small Texas towns (its home state).  Yet despite this bleak setting their is a sense that change can occur, that there are bigger players at work here....that there is hope.
Musicfest Northwest wraps up under a harvest moon.

Images: Noel

Wednesday, September 14

MFNW - Day Three

Sharon van Etten bears her soul.

Sharon van Etten
Blitzen Trapper
@ The Crystal Ballroom

Glass Candy @ Branx

The Gaslamp Killer @ Rotture

Friday was all about Blitzen Trapper.  BT comes out of Salem, OR and has seen great success in recent years.  By now everyone is eager to see them blow up and make Oregon proud in the process.  It's not just that they're from Oregon, but they sound like Oregon too - Americana rock with storied vocals. They're kind of like a quirky Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  Anyway I wanted to catch them and especially Sharon van Etten so I headed to the NW part of town.  The Crystal Ballroom is a restored 1914 ballroom with a wooden "floating floor" that provides extra bounce to your two-step.  It is a mid-size venue and attracts some of the bigger names in the Portland area.  Weinland was finishing up when I came in.  They consisted of lots of screaming and a token long haired tambourine player.  (Eh, maybe I just wasn't in the mood.)

   Sharon van Etten was next up and flat out blew me away.  It took me a little bit to get over her full band set up (I had only seen her play solo), but then it became apparent that her companions were matching the musical backdrop to her emotional crooning.  They became an extension of herself and her hurt.  I felt like we were all witnessing something very personal and that, perhaps, we should all leave and let her go through her suffering in private.  I am not the only one when I say I really hope she has a long and successful career (She did just sign to Jagjaguwar).  She has a pretty awesome story too: after a rough breakup in Tennessee she moved back in with her parents in New Jersey, recorded a demo and happened to get a chance to hand it off to TV On the Radio's Kyp Malone.  Surprisingly he listened to it and loved it.  The rest is history.  Highly recommended.
   Blitzen Trapper put on a good show and must have a loyal following, because a few people were singing along and doing some serious dancing.  It's feel-good music.  Definitely scouring through their discography for roadtrip tunes.  My experience was slightly hampered by standing next to quite possibly the drunkest duo in history.  About halfway through the show (and 48 beer spills later) I figured I had gotten the gist and looked around for something else.

This guy is clearly loving it.  Glass Candy at Branx.
  As it turns out "something else" was just across the river in a warehouse where a hundred huge balloons were being tossed around to mediocre disco.  The act was Portland's own Glass Candy.  All I will say is that the pictures make it look better than it actually was.
  The real reason I came to this part of the town was to see Los Angeles' Gaslamp Killer.  A raucous Hip-Hop DJ that samples everything from Dr. Dre to Sonic the Hedgehog, TGK is like an ADHD kid's dream.  I swear he never stayed on one song or groove for more than 30 seconds.  It was exhilarating and fascinating at times to try to figure out what he was sampling and how it all fits together, but if you stick around for too long you start to think that this is what it must feel like to be inside the brain of a meth addict.  Nonetheless it really hit the spot after a lot of acoustic-driven music at the Crystal.  I was in the mood for some heavy bass.

The Gaslamp Killer

On the way out I heard some hyphy music coming from down the alley which turned out to be a girl dancing atop a large mobile speaker with a green spotlight pointing skyward.  She was surrounded by about ten latenighters all dance-walking through the streets.  I think it was the Freegan's version of MFNW and I thought, "Well you don't see this everyday."  So I joined them.

Sharon van Etten - Much More Than That
Sharon van Etten - One Day
Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer
The Gaslamp Killer myspace

Images: Noel

Tuesday, September 13

MFNW - Day Two

The global sounds of Little Dragon.

Sun Angle @ Holocene

Little Dragon
Unkown Mortal Orchestra
@ The Hawthorne Theater

Thursday started out at a relatively empty Holocene with some noisy bursts of energy from Sun Angle.  Noise rock was never my thing, but you get the feeling that this trio is on to something.  With a well known DJ on bass (Copy) and a quirky drummer with enough energy to power a small car you feel compelled to do a little dancing.  That gets lost in the rough distortion and feedback from synths and guitars, but hey, maybe it's an intellectual thing.

After reaching the conclusion that Little Dragon was not to be missed I decide to head to the Hawthorne Theater early.  It doesn't hurt that opener Unknown Mortal Orchestra had been compared to Led Zeppelin and Big Audio Dynamite.  Packing into the back room of the Theater, it was evident that something was in the air.  A noticeably more vibrant crowd had come out to get down.  UMO lived up to the Zeppelin reference with big funk rock drum beats and loaded bass lines.  Ruban Nielson knows how to write a vocal hook.  It sounded like white people's response to hip hop - still playing rock instruments but with a goofball attitude and fun vocals.  It doesn't surprise me that they have opened for Toro y Moi.
  But the real treat of the night was Little Dragon.  Having heard a few mellow remixes I wasn't quite sure what I was in for, but was intrigued by an "electro-soul" tagline that someone had given them. Hearing that they were from Sweden sealed the deal.  If there's one thing I've learned it's that the Swedes know how to make good music. 
   They came out in typical rockstar fashion, one at a time, layering their individual sound on top of one another - it doesn't make sense at first but once they're all moving you realize the submarine has left the dock.  I can really appreciate the hybrid dance bands that are creeping up, because I often get bored with the extremes - authentic rock bands and straight 4/4 DJs.  Bands like Little Dragon take a little bit from both and manage to put on a great show.  They played two 10 minute percussion-driven jams that scared away the straight-edge crowd, but brought everyone else that much closer to ecstasy.  This was the most animated I have ever seen a crowd of people in Portland - we're pretty reserved here.  But people were screaming at almost every change in the music and masses were grooving.  It's been awhile since I've seen good dance music so this might be commonplace, but I doubt it.

The show ended shortly before midnight and while everyone was pulling themselves together in the sweaty exit hallway I had my eyes on Phantogram at the Doug Fir.  Apparently there are a lot of "pysche pulse" fans in Portland because the line was around the block even after they started playing.  I decided that latenight hypnosis was best served on a weekend so I hit the road.

Sun Angle - Vague Light

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Thought Ballune
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - How Can You Luv Me
Little Dragon -Ritual Union
Phantogram -Mouthful of Diamonds

Unkown Mortal Orchestra brings the New Zealand brand of psychedelic funk

Little Dragon gets weird.

Images: stereogum, Hannah Gregg, Noel

Sunday, September 11

MFNW - Day One

 Besides reading up on Portland's Music Fest Northwest through the publication that hosts the event, I didn't know what to expect.  Every lineup description had a "you have to seen this band" feel to it, but let's face it - do I really want to see a band named CJ and the Dolls?  So in an effort to get to the bottom of what this city has to offer and find the pulse of the Northwest's music scene I picked up a pricy wristband and began my quest.  

   Let's get all the SXSW comparisons out of the way now so we can get on with it.  If SXSW is the bigger older brother with cool clothes and a connection to good parties, MFNW is the young, scrappy brother who is kind of quiet in person but makes damn good music in the basement.  SXSW has been going on longer (since '87) and attracts bigger names.  It is also seen as the proverbial "headphones" of international label heads and music/culture bloggers.  And what I like most about SXSW is the fact that the majority of the action all takes place on 4 or 5 parallel streets. If you don't like a band, no problem, just walk next door where a Japanese punk band is sampling the Sega Genesis theme song.
   MFNW (which used to be co-hosted by SXSW's management) is more spread out which noticeably detracts from a music festival's vibe.  If you happened to be visiting Portland during the event you might notice the big stage in Pioneer Square, but you probably wouldn't make the connection that there is a city-wide festival going on.  The distance means there is a lack of community to the festival that is so apparent in Austin.  That being said, this encourages festivalgoers to take part in the PDX past time of biking.  You feel pretty cool when your waiting at a red light with six other bicyclists all headed to an underground latenight DJ set in a warehouse.  

What MFNW lacks in proximity, it makes up for in style. 

I think the bottom line is: not as many shows, but you're bound to really like one of the bands you see at each venue.  Also whoever was in charge of pairing bands together did an excellent job.  Each show had a general genre or vibe that permeated throughout the night.  (i.e. Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium).  

Kelly Blair Bauman at Bunk Bar
Day One
Crooked Fingers
Sean Flinn & the Royal We
Kelly Blair Bauman
The Heligoats
 @ Bunk Bar

 The Festival got off to a great start at the Bunk Bar with The Heligoats. Bunk Bar is a cool, 200 person spot that makes great grilled cheeses.  Despite the mellow acoustic guitars on most of their albums, The Heligoats new-ish full band lineup really leaned into some imressive punky jams.  The vocals remind me a bit of the brilliantly simple Jon SwiftKelly Blair Bauman cooled it off a bit with distinct basslines and dark, atmospheric folk.  Sean Flinn & The Royal We clearly spend time on each song.  Everything revolves around Flinn's vocal inflections to the point that I thought I was listening to Conor Oberst perform a musical.  It wasn't my cup of tea, but my friends visiting from Corvallis could get into the lyrical orchestration.  That was it for me.  I had listened to Crooked Fingers beforehand and opted for sleep over another acoustic sideproject (Eric Bachmann is from Archers of Loaf fame).

The Heligoats Goodness Gracious
Kelly Blair Bauman - Wedding Day
Sean Flinn & The Royal We - Flightless Bird

Images: Noel

Friday, September 9

MFNW Preview

All my new-playlist-digging time has been devoted to biking around to different shows at Music Fest Northwest this week.  (Think Austin's SXSW, but smaller and with more moustaches.)  Now I don't see this blog as a music journalism site, but when an expertly curated music festival happens to occur in your city and you find yourself blogging about music, then well, I guess you should at least mention the highlights. 

All that and more is still to come, because the Fest is only getting started (it began on Wednesday), but in the meantime here are some well-crafted songs that I have come across while sifting through the largely underground lineup.

 Celilo - Baroque Blues myspace

 Blind Pilot - The Story I Heard

Typhoon - The Sickness Unto Death/The Honest Truth (first video)

The Heligoats
- Goodness Gracious 

and Glass of Water (second video)

p.s. If you have time look at the Willamette Week's write-up on each artist.  They manage to capture each act's essence, history and hook in a few sentences.  Excellent reporting. 
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