Listening recommendations from the past, present, Portland and the periphery.
Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, the best funk album ever made, turns 50 this year. Sly Stone's self-loathing portrait of a politically apathetic coward numbing himself through times of turmoil ("feels so good, don't wanna move") is expressed through guttural shrieks that predict both the hieroglyphics of Young Thug and Playboi Carti and the early 2020s struggle between staying woke and staying sane. Larry Graham's performance is funk bass before it had seen itself, his slaps and growls vocalizing discontent rather than a good time.
Hendrik Weber is best known for his bell-obsessed techno records as Pantha du Prince, but his new album under his own name strips his sound down to its organic elements: eerie woodblocks, sawing strings and, of course, tons and tons of bells. 429 Hz Formen von Stille (Forms of Silence) is named for a frequency that's said to be in sympathy with the universe. But 429 Hz isn't great because of some arcane cosmology—it's because of Weber's raw talent and knack for sound design.
"Lo-fi house" belongs to the internet now, but its genesis lies in mid-2010s Pacific Northwest labels like Mood Hut and 1080p. Steel Clouds, a new split by local producers Dorosoto and Body San, reminds us what a fertile environment this rainy corner of the country is for earthy, wet-sounding house music. The kick drums sound like feet splashing through puddles, the chords are like clouds gathering overhead, and the production makes the whole album sound as if it's been buried for a few days and unearthed.
Florian Hecker and Okkyung Lee's new split album groups together two of the world's most interesting sound artists. Hecker's "Statistique Synthetique" is all whitecaps of static avalanching into each other. And Lee's piece, "Teum (The Silvery Slit)," uses the tension of her bow on the cello to create a world that's seemingly being pulled apart. It's a little like standing on the surface of Venus, and for those who thrive in extreme conditions, it doesn't get hotter than this.