bro zone (States Rights Records)
Label combines indie ingenuity with a smorgasbord of influences to stunning effect.
[ECLECTRONICA] Following last year's Own Zone, local label States Rights Records' latest compilation, Bro Zone, features new and exclusive contributions from a predominantly Portland-based crew of 26 artists, all of whom have been asked to explore the unifying themes of friendship and pop culture. The results are eclectic and consistently rewarding. E*Rock, YACHT and DJ Hot Air Balloon kick things off with a brilliant and hilarious attempt at hip-hop's current "chopped 'n' screwed" style (most famously employed by Houston MC Mike Jones), which moves quickly into Dirty Projectors' fever-dreamed digital afropop, Bobby Birdman's laid-back zydeco jams, and a lovely steel-drum workout from recent Portland imports Hooliganship. Other highlights include Jib Kidder's gorgeous booty-meets-IDM track, Atole's bonkers south-of-the-border techno, Golden Shoulders' shambling guitar pop, and a Fleetwood Mac cover from Bobby Birdman and Little Wings (as elucidated by WW's Mike McGonigal-see "Threesome," Aug. 17, 2005).
Taken as a whole, Bro Zone presents an exciting glimpse into a new kind of Northwest music, one that is mindful of the indie legacy of the region while looking to influences beyond the rock canon and fervently embracing the new possibilities afforded by cheap digital technology. For proof of this vision, check what may well be the centerpiece of the comp: Lucky Dragons' chopped-electro bootleg of Nirvana's "About a Girl." Bro Zone starts here and emanates outwards. MATT WRIGHT.
wrong way (Tres Records)
This Portland hip-hop crew's intentions are pure, almost too pure.
[HIP-HOP] Soul, funk, rapping and God? With a name like Lightheaded, one might automatically assume drug innuendos-but this four-man Portland hip-hop machine has its eyes set even higher. In fact, the name Lightheaded should be taken literally (as in headed toward the light)-and as far as its musical message goes, Christian morality seems to be at the cornerstone of its mission. But before you write the group off, give it a listen. Its sound belongs to what some would call "the golden age of positive hip-hop," with obvious Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Del influences mixed into the underground sound that reigned in the mid-'90s-think Jurassic Five (circa their LP) and Ugly Duckling. Muneshine's production is solid, funky and street-driven, and the three MCs-Braille, Ohmega Watts and Othello-undoubtedly have been graced with the coveted gift of gab. The trio's lyrical content is a bit of a yawn at times, but that's probably because of my less-than-pure thoughts-coincidentally the name of the band's first album. On its recently released sophomore album, Wrong Way, Lightheaded's moral stance remains solid and intact-despite a recent tour around decadent Europe. The sound, content and overall flow remain consistent throughout the record, often becoming a bit repetitive at points. Nevertheless, it's danceable and summery, and I could picture it as the soundtrack in a skateboarding video (although it would probably be one of Stephen Baldwin's Christian skate videos). Basically, if you're tired of rappers talking about bagging on their girlfriends and puffin' the reefer, then Lightheaded might be a refreshing change. On the other hand, if you're looking to dabble in something a bit more edgy and progressive, you might want to pass. ALEX VALDIVIESO.