[EXPERIMENTAL POP] Though landing a berth on PDX Pop Now!’s annual compilation CD is an auspicious occasion for any Portland musician, the members of At Dusk had extra cause for celebration when they found out they were to be included on this year’s LP: At Dusk’s members—Cary Clarke, Greg Borenstein and Will Hattman—were instrumental in founding the popular annual festival for which the disc is named.
Thursday will mark the group’s final performance, and the trio could not have asked for a better send-off from the scene it helped build. “When we came to town [in 2002], I feel like it was hard to find a community,” says Borenstein. “So PDX Pop was how we met a lot of people in bands, how we kind of got to be part of the community.”
Since forming during middle school in its native Los Angeles, At Dusk has been largely inseparable, eventually gravitating toward Portland to continue making its compositionally ambitious pop punk.
“It’s obviously emotionally complicated to have the band coming to an end. It’s been the central part of my life for the past seven years,” Clark says. “My whole Portland adventure has been predicated on this band.”
At Dusk’s Portland tenure yielded three progressively tighter albums, but the true culmination of its talents has been stewing for
2 1/2 years in the form of Small Light, the group’s final disc. After deciding to disband last August to pursue other interests, At Dusk has gone the surprising route of throwing its stylistic considerations to the wind and reimagining itself as a folk band.
“I think we all felt like we’d fulfilled the trajectory that our original sound could follow,” Clarke says. “This new style is more of a natural fit, I think.”
Indeed, Small Light is At Dusk’s most cohesive work to date. The record chooses obscured, overdriven guitars over dense vocal harmonies and ambient percussion (“Jacaranda”), and the band’s inflated composition is replaced by singalong hooks (“For A Reason”).
The musical about-face may seem sudden, but it’s fitting with At Dusk’s try-anything ethos. And though the trio bids farewell this week, it does so at the center of a thriving community to which it can happily claim to have been essential.
SEE IT: At Dusk releases Small Light on Thursday, July 2, at the Artistery with Team Evil and Alan Singley. 7:30 pm. $6. All ages.