V/A Oregone (Oregone.org)
It's always kind of exciting to tackle a compilation where you haven't heard of most of the bands. Could be awesome, could be terrible, one of the tracks might be from your new favorite band, one of the tracks might just be the worst song you've ever heard. You don't often get a chance to hear compilations like this (and there are millions of 'em) because why would anyone order a record filled with bands no one knew of or cared about? So we got sent this comp of underground outsider local bands from Oregon, and gave it a listen, and dang if it wasn't pretty great all the way through. The only band we had heard of was the Portland Bicycle Ensemble, who perform on contact miked bicycles, creating spacious and percussive soundscapes. Their track here is awesome, clattery and abstract, spare and spacey. But from then on out we were in unchartered territory...
Tonehenge open up the disc with a weird sound collage, beginning with a woman telling a story, she begins to sing, and suddenly, the track is a dense droning waltz, a swirl of strings and pianos, the main melody whistled, and beneath it all, crunchy looped and processed voices and glitching sound FX. Up next are Lindsay Kaplan and Andrew Wilshusen, whose track is delicate minor key piano, sweet female vocals, surrounded by all sorts of random percussive clatter and found sounds, another pretty and haunting number. JP Jenkins does some solo guitar, detuned and angular, with lots of shimmering overtones, string buzz and slippery slide, really nice, like Jack Rose meets Loren Connors. Another track from Tonehenge, a dizzying Tape Beatles like sonic collage rife with sixties horns, spoken word and lots and lots of record crackle. Next up, Doug Theriault, with a glitchy slab of freaked out, psychedelic music concrete. Followed by Shalloboi, who deliver a murky lo-fi dirge, with creepy piano (does every band in Portland have a piano player?) haunting monotone vocals, and lots of ambient grit and grime. We expected a lot from the band Metal, who were as we expected not metal at all, instead, their track is a drifting soundscape of distant melodies, soft shimmery drones, recordings of birds, and, you guessed it, piano! Next up, the strangely named Biathalon, who craft a sweet, melancholy dreamy abstract pop, soft focused and darkly dreamy, but with something ominous lurking just below the surface, a gurgling , glitchy rumbling drone. Owl Dudes give us a brief, burst of mumbly murk and stuttering electronic skitter, flecked with bits of crunch and sonic detritus. Cup Na Cup, who organized the comp, stretches bells and chimes and shimmering metallic reverberations, into a swoonsome high end drone, with subtle little skips and glitches adding some barely there rhythmic flutter. Every Drum A Star does their thing with swirling synth sounds, burbling water sound, and all sorts of squiggly whoomps and shhhhzts and bleeping bloops. Last but not least, Bryan Eubanks, with a lengthy drone piece, simple stretched out tones, slowly beating against each other, very reminiscent of Conrad, Cale Or Niblock.
So there you have it. Pretty dang nice. A brief glimpse into the underground experimental music scene in Portland. And what we learned was, we'd pretty much by a full length record from any of these bands, but more importantly, if you play the piano, get your ass to Portland, there are several bands who don't yet have a piano player!!! Black cd-r, packaged with nice full color artwork in a slim, clear dvd case.