Listening recommendations from the past, present, Portland and the periphery.
Brian "Buckethead" Carroll wears a horror-movie mask and an upside-down fried chicken bucket on his head, and he was once in Guns N' Roses. Like John Frusciante, whom he auditioned to replace in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he keeps one foot planted on the arena stage and another in the art world. He's released literally hundreds of albums, but an obvious highlight is 2002's Electric Tears, a lovely collection of both acoustic and electric guitar self-duets that suggests vacant lots, deserted roads and endless skies.
Promises, Pharoah Sanders' new album with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra, is a marvel. The 80-year-old saxophonist solos—first sedately, then grandly—over florets of harpsichord and bells that eventually swell into the sweeping majesty you hire symphony orchestras for in the first place. It would've been ballsier, though, to credit the album just to Sanders: Most orchestral jazz albums have a legion of goons backing up a leader, and there's no question who's in charge here.
Failure Is the Feeling seems a distressing title for an album, but for longtime local rap ambassador Cool Nutz, failure "gives a n— heart." Sumptuously produced and guest-heavy, Failure finds the 48-year-old showing off both his supremacy on the mic and his dense web of connections. There are three remixes of "Pain" with rappers from different West Coast hot spots, including a "Bay Area remix" with Mistah F.A.B. And Swiggle Mandela shows up for another song-as-open letter, this time directed at the Portland Police Bureau instead of Willamette Week.
Tokyo drone artist Celer has dozens of albums to his name, and the process of getting into his vast archive entails hurling yourself into a dense personal mythology. Like Jandek (or Buckethead), his albums are more pages in an ongoing diary than individual statements. Much of his work is available only through a Bandcamp subscription, but there are plenty of highlights available for streaming. One of the best is Xièxie, an audio log of a train journey through China.