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October 19th, 2005 WW Editorial Staff | Album Reviews
 

ALBUM REVIEWS

     
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Ohmega Watts

idle Idol

Andrew kaffer (Marriage Records)

Andrew Kaffer bites off a little more than he can creatively chew on his Marriage Records debut.

[PRETTY (WEIRD) POP] Andrew Kaffer's Idle Idol is a pretty weird album. Literally, the songs are both heartbreakingly pretty and inexplicably weird. He didn't even write the album's first track, which is a remix of "Transpontine," a song by Aussie buddies (and fellow ex-Magic Marker labelmates) the Lucksmiths. Though Kaffer produced the track, it's hard to get over the fact that he doesn't choose one of his own songs to initially suck you in.

The strangeness continues with "Domestic Partners Theme's." Previously released on Magic Marker's A House Full of Friends compilation, the song pays homage to Kaffer's old label—ex and current MM peeps abound on Idle Idol—and features a sample from the Mosquitoes' 7-inch. "Partners" opens with Kaffer's fantastic crooning: "How many times can you write a song/ that says you're sorry you moved on," and proceeds forward with melodic grace—until broken up by oddball editing, fuzzed-out noise and a guitar incessantly strumming the same chord. Other songs are unnecessarily complicated by such interruptions as choppy inhale/exhale sounds and soft, spoken-wordy stuff.

Unlike the charming tunes Kaffer wrote with previous band Kissing Book, the lovely, mellow pop on Idle Idol—out of nowhere—gets all experimental on your ass. Snappy, shuffling numbers like "Times Two," "Sonic Sounds" or the rap-pop of "The Fabion Stomp" are really successful, but instead of enjoying Idle Idol's moments of pop bliss, you're distracted by its contrived creativity. It seems like Kaffer's just gotten weird for weirdness's sake, but perhaps the title of track 7 says it all: "Weird Times (Call for Weird Measures)." AMY MCCULLOUGH.

Andrew Kaffer plays with Drakkar Sauna and Privacy Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Towne Lounge. 9:30 pm. $5. 21+. Also with Drakkar Sauna and Porlolo Sunday, Oct. 23, at Acme. 6 pm. Free. 21+.

the find

Ohmega Watts (Ubiquity Records)

Lightheaded MC's solo effort has sights set on city's sound.

[HIP-HOP] It takes a lot of concentration to focus on the deep lyrical messages found on Ohmega Watts' The Find. Not because they are incomprehensible, but because the production is totally captivating. Watts, who has performed for years in Lightheaded, pairs funk and electric jazz samples with huge, speaker-cracking beats that harken back to early hip-hop, but the sheer volume of obscure samples and original melodies gives The Find a sound all its own. This Portlander is a talented producer and formidable emcee who crafts deep, moving work that is both personal and danceable, a huge accomplishment for a first album.

After the crunchy "intro," The Find jumps into ass-shake mode with "Where It All Started" and "That Sound," both of which come straight out of Jurassic 5's singalong hook-laden playbook. But before you can say throwback, Watts switches up his style, combining spacey synth samples with Pharcyde-esque lazy rhymes via guest MC Adam L on "You Are Now Tuned."

"Mind Power" is a tenderly crafted slow-jam that tells the story of a woman fooled into sticking with a scandalous man, "Treasure Hunt" coolly fuses the echoes of dub with crisp hip-hop beats and on "The Find," Watts and company compare and contrast the hunt for hot new records with religious discovery over a roaming instrumental that again recalls the Pharcyde.

References to the artist's faith are planted throughout the album, but Watts steers clear of preaching to listeners who just want to nod their heads. The main message here can be found on the album's final track, which is accompanied by unedited snippets of Portland street noise. This seems totally appropriate for an artist who is successfully invigorating and redefining this city's sound. CASEY JARMAN.

Ohmega Watts plays with Blue Scholars and DJ Kez Friday, Oct. 21, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.

Two Wings

Lauren Sheehan (Wilson River Records)

Eclectic Portland songstress bares her balls.

[FOLK] In the tradition of "songsters" going back to the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Portland old-time artist Lauren Sheehan cultivates her eclectic repertoire from such disparate sources as blues, folk, country and classic popular music. The restrained intensity of Sheehan's approach to this material might first seem disarmingly casual, but as her album progresses, its cumulative power draws you in.

In addition to her impeccable taste in found songs, Sheehan debuts a pair of original instrumental compositions here, including "Farewell Swallowtail," a charming, wistful ditty that wouldn't sound out of place on an old Leo Kottke record. In addition to baby steps as a composer, Sheehan even has the, er, balls to thoroughly rework one of Robert Johnson's mightiest songs, "Kindhearted Woman Blues," here sung from a female perspective. The experiment is alternately illuminating and disorienting in practice, but the boldness of the attempt reveals Sheehan's growing artistic confidence. No gender rewrite is required for her to render a winning cover of Memphis Minnie's randy reminiscence "In My Girlish Days."

Celebrated blues harpist Phil Wiggins, who likewise guested on Sheehan's debut, amazes and amuses on Appalachian legend Clarence Ashley's "Drunk Man Blues," honking and wheezing like an off-kilter drunk struggling to speak while not aware that someone has stuffed a harmonica in his mouth. Another guest, Kate Power, adds brilliant high harmonies on a version of the Carter Family's "Are You Tired of Me," while Sheehan's knowingly contemporary lead vocal triumphs over the lyrics' occasional anachronisms. JEFF ROSENBERG.

Lauren Sheehan plays Sunday, Oct. 23, at O'Connor's Annex. 6 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.


Andrew Kaffer plays with Drakkar Sauna and Privacy Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Towne Lounge. 9:30 pm. $5. 21+. Also with Drakkar Sauna and Porlolo Sunday, Oct. 23, at Acme. 6 pm. Free. 21+.

Ohmega Watts plays with Blue Scholars and DJ Kez Friday, Oct. 21, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.

Lauren Sheehan plays Sunday, Oct. 23, at O'Connor's Annex. 6 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.

 
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