(Hidden Shoal Recordings)
[FORGOTTEN AVANT-POP] Local experimental-rock quartet Iretsu is hardly a new band. The group has roots that stretch all the way back to 2002, when singer Ryan Cross and Kate O'Brien Clarke (now a member of AgesandAges) began working on songs in an old house in Sellwood—before Modest Mouse or the Decemberists broke out big time on the national scene. But Iretsu's sound—one that's vital, confusing and, in a rare change-up for these predictable days, unexpected—is still totally modern. Its latest full-length, Fang, proves that we all should have been paying more attention all these years.
Fang—recorded on the Oregon coast in bits and pieces the past few years—opens with a softspoken title track, which sees the band almost out-Menomena-ing Menomena. "Fang" opens with a quivering synth line and pitter-patter hits of glockenspiel, but soon a clean guitar washes into the beat, careful not to oversaturate the mix. Few bands work with space as well as Iretsu: Songs like the short instrumental "Swells" and the circular "Sleep" are given ample room to breathe, stretch and stumble along to a satisfying ending. Fang is not a bombastic record, but rather one that slowly grows on you after repeated listens.
That's also a problem: Fang isn't meant for anyone looking for instant gratification or "the next big thing." Of its 14 tracks, only one could be called upbeat, and it's the first single, "Humbuzzer," that sounds like its name would imply. Of everything on Fang, "Humbuzzer" is the easiest thing to latch on to, but it's just one of many treasures available if you're willing to give the band time to settle in. Iretsu obviously took awhile to make something it was proud of. The resulting record demands—and deserves—the same patience out of its listeners.
[FRENCH TROUBADOUR] Eric John Kaiser is not from Portland. In fact, he's not even from the U.S.—Kaiser was born in Paris and, until a few years ago, spent most of his life in France. But Kaiser now resides in Stumptown, moving here to pursue a dream and push his bilingual songwriting skills.
Last year, Kaiser released French Troubadour, a collection of songs in both English and French that cemented his reputation as a solid singer-songwriter. And though the album was recorded expertly at Type Foundry Studio by Jason Powers, its herky-jerky mix of two languages (often jumping from one to the other in the same song) didn't cohere as well as it could have, had Kaiser changed tongues on a song-by-song basis.
Fortunately, Kaiser has remedied that situation on Portland Rendez-Vous, a new four-song stopgap EP that is sung entirely in French and stays in step with the traditional French songs he covers. Rendez-Vous consists of three classics and one Kaiser original, the laid-back "Paris Rendez-Vous." The best song in the bunch is his take on Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam," a fantastic song that stays true to its original, smartly orchestrated incarnation. Kaiser's guitar takes a back seat to Anton Van Oosbree's accordion, which gives life to one of Brel's best melodies. The song is so beautiful that, even if you don't speak French (and I remember little from my high-school days), it still resonates. "Les Champs-Élysées"—originally sung by Joe Dassin in 1969—is also pretty wonderful, especially for its chorus ("Oh Les Champs-Élysées"), which is easy to sing along to even if you don't know the rest of the words.
Indeed, all of Rendez-Vous can be enjoyed without being fluent in the French language. And you'd best get used to hearing French in Portland: Along with garage-pop cover band Les Étrangers, Kaiser is leading a bit of a Francophone resurgence in town, and it's one you don't need a beret to dig.
on Friday, June 11, at the Woods, with Adam Arcuragi and DJ Lincolnup. 9 pm. $5. 21+. Eric John Kaiser releases
on Saturday, June 12, at the Someday Lounge, with Les Étrangers. 8 pm. Free. 21+.