Drats!!! Welcome To New Granada (Who the Hell Is Jim?)
The well-executed cinematography of the new Drats!!! album. Wait a minute...
[ROCK OPERETTA] Both the Mars Volta and Agalloch claim to be more influenced by film than by music. I never really understood how that works, but moments on the new album from Drats!!!, Welcome to New Granada—a rock operetta based (not only in content, but in form) on the film Over the Edge—help me make sense of such cinematic inspiration.
The penultimate track, "The March (Trash the Place)," for instance, depicts the climax of Matt Dillon's 1979 debut, during which a pack of about 40 kids lock their parents in a PTA meeting of sorts and then destroy their cars and most of the school—a plot fittingly captured by the song's anthemic, driving, Ramones-style punk. In the film, shots of destruction are cut with the parents panicking and screaming at each other to "remain calm." Drats!!! borrows this cinemagraphic strategy, switching to a funky, keyboard-led section a couple of times, which makes each return to the yelled refrain "Trash the place!" all the more intoxicating.
"Johnny the Mute" seems like a simple character sketch at first, until the final chorus—featuring a cowbell struck once, then twice accompanied by the line "one click for yes/ Two clicks for no"—suddenly recalls the speechless boy delivering tragic news by tapping over the phone. The scene is made more poignant on the record because it sneaks up on you. "Doberman's Theme," however, seems like a first draft; with lyrics arrhythmically crunched into verses that could apply to any jerk with a badge, the song fails to illuminate the character of the town policeman (Ed Doberman) or much of anything in general.
Nonetheless, most of New Granada (named after the planned community where the movie is set) is extremely polished and constructed to demand repeated listens—from both fans of Over the Edge and those who have never seen it (I heard the record first and liked it immediately). Even the occasional cliché classic-rock riff, like the one before the title phrase on "Resale Property Values," functions like the film's drab architecture, creating a tone of bleakness that anchors the work. Plus, like everything else on this record, those moments never last too long: All but two of the songs are under three minutes, and their frequent dynamic changes are packed with brilliant and fleeting moments—like the Bowie-esque opening to "Ballad of Richie White," which, for me, is not unlike the kind of glimmering favorite line that'll make you watch a movie over and over.
Drats!!! celebrates the release of Welcome to New Granada Thursday, Nov. 30, at Holocene with Digital Knife and a screening of Over the Edge. 8 pm. Free. 21+.
Various Artists 30 Seconds Over Portland (Hovercraft Productions)
Hovercraft Productions sends you an off-kilter rock 'n' roll love letter.
[ROCK] From Pond to the Decemberists, expertly recorded smart-guy fare has long been a PDX music specialty. But a good argument can be made that our city's greatest and most enduring audio export happens to be a 20-year-old garage band from Clackamas, a band that's had records rejected from pressing plants due to poor sound quality. Which is fine, because bleeding garbage rock is exactly the sound Dead Moon wants—and the release of a recent compilation proves that many other Portland rockers want that, as well.
For 30 Seconds Over Portland, brothers Tim and Mark Janchar of Hovercraft Productions (now a Pearl District art gallery AND rock-'n'-roll label) culled 22 local bands who specialize in just that: thin recordings prone to distortion and low-volume drop-outs. Many of the comp's tracks do not sound terribly "lo-fi"—a phenomena achieved by four (if that) -track bedroom recording that arguably played itself out in the mid-to-late '90s. But they do achieve a certain unpolished, financially stricken recording grade that, at worst, possesses the raw, immediate appeal of a demo tape (see "Mi Ciudad Natal" by the Clorox Girls) and, at best, erupts with the unclean, distorted genius attainable in only the best cases of accidental noise rock (see the Meat Sweats' "Ich On My Back," a track worth the purchase of this collection alone). In any case, this is not the music brought up in popular discussions of PDX indie rock.
"A lot of the press spotlight shows in Portland now seem to focus on more mellow "indie" bands," says Tim. "However, there is a great scene of more lo-fi garage type music going on here, and [we] wanted to share that with people." That drive to share is the strength of 30 Seconds, a collection that does a more than credible job of documenting the style-spanning breadth of the lo-fi aesthetic. Bands range from the smooth, organ-driven tones of Lost Dimension to Pelican Ossman's angular dissonance to the clipped pop swing of the Bugs.
Ear-rattling distortion does appear (and doesn't hurt) on the opener "I've Had It," a scuzzed-out blast of garage-punk by the Silverkings (and easily the disc's crudest-sounding track), but following that with Hey Lover's "Hey TB," a rousing rock shouter far more balanced in sound, makes the case that "lo-fi" doesn't have to mean "unlistenable." As 30 Seconds Over Portland's liner notes read: "This is a love letter, but not of the usual kind." Far from usual, indeed.
Hovercraft Productions celebrates the release of 30 Seconds Over Portland Friday, Dec. 1, with the Silverkings, Cafeteria Dance Fever and Reptilian Civilian at Acme. 10 pm. $5. 21+.
Mise En Abyme Do You Hear The Hum (Marriage)
Mise en abyme places lounge "into the abyss," so to speak.
[EXPERIMENTAL LOUNGE] There's no box on the "good record" checklist for coherency. (What, you didn't know about the checklist?) And mise en abyme's third record in three years, Do You Hear the Hum, pulls off incoherence nicely, normalizing without neutralizing the style collisions between Nudge-y chill-out atmospherics, noisy crunk and the dramatic big beats and harmonic stacks of an artist like Quiet Countries. The immediate reaction to hearing what feels like at least three different bands/producers in the course of 12 songs is a lot of "Goddamn! Who changed the CD?" moments, but that initial shock wears itself out, leaving a record of very odd, very cool moments—theme music for a groove-medicated schizophrenic.
Of course, as with any legitimate offspring of Marriage Records, anything less than ferocious eclecticism would be a disappointment. If there must be a root to Do You Hear the Hum, though, it's a sort of multiform lounge that plays between sexed-up chill and sexed-up robot chill. Vocalist Ahn Mae, for instance, doesn't give a whole lot of humanness to her incantations; instead, she pulls listeners along with a hypnotic monotone, the sort well-suited to pseudo-nihilist nightclubs. M.L. Mae (the foursome shares the Mae surname) has something of Brainiac's Tim Taylor in his voice, though—just enough of a busted-up quality to elicit a spike of emotion (yet, like Taylor, he's quick to hide it inside a vocoder). But when M.L. lets his desperate, vaguely threatening voice run on a song like "Hypnogogue"—where there is a full-on battle between that voice and a bee-swarm of analog synth—it's so much the better because he's losing.
When Ahn and M.L.'s two voices battle amongst themselves, the effect is even more startling and cool. On "The Next Country," Ahn picks up a notable affectation and moves up and down her range with a more humanizing breathlessness. But, in the same song, M.L. has also picked up a megaphone, and he follows her verses with crudely amplified shouts, the only discernable phrase being "Make it stop!" Propelled by crunchy junkyard beats (again, see also: Brainiac) the song is a grand fireball of a collision. It's a near-perfect climax in an album full of them—an album that, as a whole, is pretty goddamn strange considering it's still bound for the "lounge" bin.
Mise en abyme plays with Weird Weeds and the Music Population Project Saturday, Dec. 2, at Holocene. 9 pm. $6. 21+.local cut | album review
Buttery Lords Buttered For Her Pleasure (self-released)
Local rap crew proves good at everything except, well, rapping.
[SILLY RAP] What kind of hip-hop crew are the Buttery Lords? Well, they drop two Neil Diamond references on their re-issued debut, Buttered for Her Pleasure. The comedic rap outfit also weaves Trotsky, Howard Zinn, Pauly Shore and local bar Beulahland into its rhymes, along with plenty of bygone pop-culture references and clever lines: "I'm crazy like Sid Barrett"; "I'll even make you sadder than Robert Smith"; "You can't spell butter without the butt/ Say what?/ Churn it up." Unfortunately, when it comes to rhyme schemes, the Buttery Lords seem to have stopped listening to hip-hop with the Sugar Hill Gang. Each of the group's three "funky honkees"—one of which is folk-pop songwriter Leigh Marble (the Lords' Dr. Marble)—has a wacky persona, executed with varying degrees of success, but none of them has come close to mastering phrasing or flow.
Why should a satirical group with the line "I'm gonna unify your Germany like Helmut Kohl" care about phrasing or flow? Because the "white rapper" gag in itself hasn't worked for years, and satire should have at its disposal all the weapons of the art form it's satirizing. When it comes to busting rhymes, the Lords just don't. If these emcees could get their timing and delivery on par with their knack for smart/dirty humor (which is more mature and irreverent than most bands in the joke-rap genre), shit could get pretty intense.
I say this not just because the Lords are clever, but because they have a live rhythm section that makes the music sound, appropriately, quite creamy. The band's real live drums and bass are well-played and indispensable to its formula. The instrumentation also spares the Lords the potential pitfall of crafting their own cheesy 808 beats, and it grants them the ability to put subtle twists on their stolen bass lines (like that of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" on the Lords' "Hometowns").
In a genre that's so easily done wrong (see Rappin' Rodney, Chunky A, the Kottonmouth Kings), the Buttery Lords don't fare too poorly on Buttered for Her Pleasure. It's pretty funny stuff (the off-the-cuff "commentary tracks" are often funnier than the album itself)—and surprisingly funky for part-time basement rappers. If they're going to put this much work into it, though, they should probably just go ahead and learn how to rap.
The Buttery Lords officially release Buttered for Her Pleasure Sunday, Dec. 5.
Noah Mickens of Someday Lounge
[EXPERIMENTAL] Two years ago, the space now occupied by the Someday Lounge was instead occupied by dust and garbage. Today, it's the most styled experimental venue I've ever been to. Responsible for filling the Old Town space's stage is "Ringmaster" Noah Mickens—known on the Web as "5000. - N." Mickens has been a stalwart of Portland's avant scene since it was confined to the Jasmine Tree, and in the three months since Someday's been open, his booking has been a marvel of extremity in variety, and extremity itself. We had to have a few words with him.
WW: Who and what are behind Someday Lounge?
Noah Mickens: A number of deep underground arts people in Portland entered the space and began to put on shows there circa late 2004. We had run shows there for about a year when we started to hear stirrings from the owners of the Backspace, Kris and Eric Robison, about leasing the room and opening it as a full-fledged nightclub spotlighting the kind of experimental music and performance the space was already known for. Since then, we've been running a slightly dodgy game of temporary occupancy permits and adjusted construction schedules to get the place up to its proper shape. Really, we're just now opening in earnest.
Is there an ideal behind the club?
New forms of beauty are desirable: Unexpected collaborations, mastery of traditional forms, sincere expressions, bold juxtapositions, dangerous ideas, secret plans, rapturous moments....
Initially, Someday Lounge has an "establishment" vibe: very clean, and carefully designed. It seems antithetical to acts that would normally be found in warehouse spaces.
Surely this performance is deserving of a fine sound system, a large stage, a high ceiling, a beautiful house, a modestly funded advertising campaign and other perks that go, without saying, in the above-ground culture. Someday provides that. Within reason, I believe we can accommodate even the most ambitious productions: We've already had 50 gallons of water onstage...facilitated a collaboration between a Tuvan throat singer and the only Indonesian gamelan on the West Coast...thrown a packed, out-of-control gypsy dance party filled with marauding circus performers and spanking girls, more than I can properly go into. We've hosted performers from 10 nations and half the states in the Union. And we've only been open for three months.
Someday Lounge can be found at 125 NW 5th Ave., 248-1030. For the venue's upcoming events, see Headout, page 40.