[MELLOW CELLO] You’ve probably seen him at the Portland Farmers Market, various outdoor festivals, and other gatherings around town: straw hat, perched on a stool, gracefully sawing away on a cello or viola. Adam Hurst is a Portland staple.
Hurst’s seventh release marks a departure from the drone-grounded, solo modal improv of those performances and his recent CD outings. He overdubs spare piano accompaniment that allows a richer harmonic language, more through-composed moments, and, notwithstanding a couple of cuts (e.g. “Radiance”) laced with Middle Eastern rhythms and drone, a more European classical sound meets the old Windham Hill melodic acoustic style.
As track titles such as “Elegy,” “Absence” and “Lament” suggest, the prevailing mood is melancholy, sometimes mournfully so, exploiting the instrument’s dark qualities. Others range from dramatic (“Summoning”) to plaintive (“Fragments”) to pensive (“View from Within”), all riding memorable, song-like melodies.
The consistently somber mood across Hurst’s 15 concise tracks makes it easy to bask in the haunting atmosphere, ideally next to a fireplace on a stormy night at the coast. (I know of at least one local yoga class that uses Hurst’s CDs.)
The cinematic feel of Hurst’s moody music is no accident. “My biggest goal through music is to create evocative, introspective sounds which can accompany dream states,” he says. “I want the listener to have visual experiences.” It’s music best listened to with your eyes closed and heart open. BRETT CAMPBELL.
[GUITAR POP] I remember the first time I ever heard Ted Leo’s voice. It was the song “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?,” and Leo was just completely, unabashedly singing his ass off so hard that it almost seemed like a joke. Everyone in indie rock at the time was screaming or warbling, and Leo shocked me by putting his heart into really singing.
I bring this up for two reasons: The first being that Hutson frontman Bryan Larson, when he’s at his most bombastic, reminds me of Leo. The second is to once again pay tribute to the role that heart plays in pop music. You can hear Hutson’s heart on “Dying Dreams,” the trio’s shoulda-been title track that sounds halfway between the Clash’s “Train in Vain” and Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around.” Only Larson doesn’t waste our time complaining about a woman or quoting the bible—he finds a beauty in the art of giving up and giving in.
It’s not the only song about failure: The seven-song Reland EP’s closer, “Pretty Good Reason”—though it trudges through a miserable few opening chords that sound like Radiohead’s “Creep”—winds up painting a pretty compelling portrait of an aging rocker. “It’s been a pretty good season/ But I know that it won’t last,” Larson sings. “And what will you do/ When I get too old to rock and roll?/ Will you still light my cigarette?”
Reland isn’t the most technically impressive disc to come across my desk, but the Portland band has an awful lot of heart—even while its songs are about losing it. CASEY JARMAN.
SEE IT: Adam Hurst plays the Old Church on Thursday, April 22. 7 pm. $12-$15. All ages. Hutson plays Someday Lounge Friday, April 23, with Yeltsin and Ezra Carey. 9 pm. $5. 21+.