Aug 10



Mark McGuire (Emeralds)
Tenses (Smegma)
Eye Myths
+ DJs Spencer Clark + Mark McGuire

WORK/SOUND Gallery / 820 SE Alder St. Portland OR

9:30PM / All Ages

Come see Cleveland guitarist Mark McGuire play his first solo Portland show before Emeralds begins their fall tour with Caribou in support of their amazing new record ‘DOES IT LOOK LIKE I’M HERE’. Portland icons TENSES + synth duo EYE MYTHS will open. Spencer Clark + Mark to DJ jams all night afterwards…

While the synths still sputter, sparkle and swirl, Mark McGuire’s guitar is the crafter of the tracks’ tuneful underpinnings. Below the thick drones and twinkling arpeggios, the guitar draws out its tranquil melodies, providing palpable emotion that’s not been common for the band on previous releases.


But there’s something about Emeralds’ sound that really is theirs alone… The way they set loops against loops, with super-fast pinwheeling oscillations buzzing out of control on top, turns their tracks into perpetual motion machines, gathering incredible force as layers accrue. It’s a big part of the magic of this band, and what distinguishes even their most new age-flavored compositions: the overload of information, the spray of frequencies, the thrilling, viscous rush.”



Jul 10

Signal to Noise: Eskimo King and Afternoon Penis S/T [Abandon Ship]

[From the summer 2010 issue of Signal to Noise]

Eskimo King / Afternoon Penis


Abandon Ship Records LP

Nearly eight years into its inception, the Brooklyn/Baltimore duo Mouthus has become synonymous with dense, sludgy industrial noise. On a new, untitled split 12” (Abandon Ship Records), Brian Sullivan and Nate Nelson – the hardworking pair behind the viscous noise-rock duo – have splintered off into their solo projects, and granted listeners some clarity into their murky, unknowable aesthetic.

As the acoustic guitar-wielding Eskimo King, Sullivan – who also delves into mysterious places as Chaw Mank and White Rock, alongside members of Sightings and Double Leopards – paints with a melancholy and subdued palette. The elegiac “Born Again” is Sullivan’s most convincingly ‘song-like’ effort since Saw A Halo’s unexpectedly heartfelt core, “Your Far Church” (Load, 2007). As disintegrating, muffled vocals are buried by his subterranean guitar tunneling, this side’s centerpiece evokes the isolation and restraint that soaks early Eskimo King works like Tooth-Shaped Migration (Our Mouth, 2006). At his most cosmically ambient (opener “Gjoa”), Sullivan tangles toy pianos and wind chimes into a sparking, distended mass, while the closing piece, the looping, churning “Dry Strike,” is Mouthus-lite, a tumbling washing machine rusted into uncertainty.

Nelson’s current Afternoon Penis aesthetic couldn’t be more dissimilar. Nelson – whose singular percussive attack laces both Religious Knives and White Rock, too – explores a single, maddeningly catchy melodic theme on the side-long track, “…Jack of Hearts.” Disfigured, slurred vocals chant a simple refrain while an accordion and percussion link limbs in an endless carnivalesque dance. It’s the fodder of sleep deprivation, but very good fun.

The LP is a little like reading the imaginary Mouthus diary: it illuminates as much as it exposes. Though the two sides couldn’t be more different aesthetically, listening to the record as a whole is a curious opportunity to see how the halves of Mouthus dovetail and intersect. Their strengths – Nelson’s rhythmic intuition and sense of humor and play, and Sullivan’s surprisingly graceful passages of sonic beauty – are distilled into one, brief side each. It’s not anything like the brute demolition of Mouthus, and it shouldn’t be.

Jul 10

Signal to Noise: Ken Camden ‘LETHARGY & REPERCUSSION’ [Kranky]

[From Summer 2010 issue of Signal to Noise]

Ken Camden


Kranky LP

In the last five years, many musicians seem to be newly fascinated with outer space. Chicago-based guitarist Ken Camden — currently a relatively unknown solo artist and apparent Terry Riley and Popul Vuh acolyte — recently released his first full-length for Kranky Records, Lethargy & Repercussion. It is an engaging, measured debut, if a bit sanitized. Each of the album’s six guitar-centric tracks was culled from multiple live takes, recorded in real time with no overdubs (the notable exception being the guitar duet “Jupiter”). Camden weaves the more controlled aspects of contemporary classical and minimalist composition with the spontaneity and error of live noise and drone performance.

Lethargy & Repercussion harvests from the music of the cosmos, from Tangerine Dream (cheerful, nimble opener “Birthday,” “New Space”) to Brian Eno (“Jupiter”) to Cluster (the metallic, flange-lite “Raagini Robot”) to Krankymate Tom Carter (the acidic psyche-drone “Raga”), yet the album’s celestial komische scatter is strangely immobile. Heavily processed guitar slowly shape-shifts through generous additive and subtractive processes, yet transcendence is only grasped at. The exception is “Jupiter,” which stands alone in its greatness. Echoes of Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope” vibrate throughout: “Space began to weave its strange voices in and out, on a great dark loom, crossing, recrossing, making a final pattern.” “Jupiter” is remarkable; two extraterrestrial drones race on a parallel track and occasionally collide, and the resulting humming textures and sense of paranoia are unnerving.

Despite its shimmering patina of retrograde textures, Lethargy & Repercussion is so carefully made it approaches a point of sterility. Unlike some of Camden’s sonically similar peers – Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, Stellar OM Source and White Rainbow all come to mind – the album ultimately feels as though it was mapped out on graph paper. “It was so very odd. Space, thousands of miles of space, and these voices vibrating in the center of it. No one visible at all, and only the radio waves quivering and trying to quicken other men into emotion,” Bradbury wrote in 1951. Odd, indeed. On Lethargy & Repercussion, Camden’s works move in circles, like elliptical, rusting spirals or a slowly rotating cog, beating to a steady pulse. Who knew outer space could be so reliable?

Jul 10

Paris Transatlantic: Le Révélateur ‘MOTION FLARES’ [Root Strata]

[From summer 2010 issue of Paris Transatlantic]
Le Révélateur
Root Strata
Earlier this summer, Montreal-based musician Roger Tellier-Craig made his official release debut as Le Révélateur with Motion Flares, a cassette on the San Francisco label Root Strata. Tellier-Craig, best known for his work with post-rock ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fly Pan Am, began the Le Révélateur project the summer of 2008. (His nom de guerre is a reference to the French experimental filmmaker Philippe Garrel). Motion Flares was recorded over the past year, with the first official Le Révélateur live performances held in the last month (and a notable upcoming appearance at this fall’s Root Strata-curated On Land Festival).
At a sprightly, focused 36 minutes, Motion Flares has a peculiar kind of Roman efficiency that evades other modern analog synth enthusiasts like Emeralds, Expo 70, Stellar OM Source or Oneohtrix Point Never, some of whom prefer the hazier, more seductive afterimages of new age and space kraut. It is to Tellier-Craig’s credit that Motion Flares — while strewn with plenty of kowtows to Edgar Froese, Dieter Moebius, Florian Fricke, and Klaus Schulze — is never overbearingly referential. (Perhaps that is why he runs the excellent blog Panorama Patchwork, where he professes his love for 60s, 70s, and 80s modern electronica through brilliant rips of weird and obscure new age, drone and ambient records, instead).
Ever the preservationist, Tellier-Craig’s sonic vistas may sing of buried times, but the pebbled terrain underfoot operates solidly in the present. A gentle nudge to sonic historiography is envisioned as an archaeological dig through fading kosmische edifices, revealing the brilliant mosaic textures beneath. Naturally, those golden timbres come almost exclusively from analog synthesizers: Tellier-Craig told me that for Motion Flares he used a Univox Maxi-Korg, a Korg Trident, and a Farfisa Fast 4. With both rib-sticking melodies and burbling arpeggios vying for attention, Le Révélateur’s rhythm layers sigh in and out of focus like day passing into night. Picture not lens flare, but bokeh — the aesthetic quality of the blur, the way his pieces shift into its melody like a lens clicking into place.
On the starry-eyed “Costiera Amalfitana,” Motion Flares loosens up — how’d he get those synths to sound like a pair of steel drums, anyway? — and it’s a loose-knit, dreamy end to a tape that gives us a modern and energetic take on the now-classic Kosmische genre. Those who are looking for essential summer Naples haze, Motion Flares is unquestionably it.

Jul 10

Paris Transatlantic: Usurper ‘USURPER STICKY FOSTER’ [Chocolate Monk]

[From Summer 2010 issue of Paris Transatlantic; Photos by me]
Usurper and Sticky Foster
Chocolate Monk
For the better half of this decade, Giant Tank founder Ali Robertson and ace cartoonist Malcy Duff — better known as the Edinburgh-based improv duo Usurper — have burrowed an delightfully mischievous tunnel within the more refined landscape of contemporary electroacoustic improvisers. On their most recent release, Usurper Sticky Foster, released earlier this spring as a CD-R on Dylan Nyoukis’ Brighton-based label Chocolate Monk, Robertson and Duff are joined by the mysterious troubadour Sticky Foster (so infamous that Aaron Dilloway’s Chihuahua has his namesake), who currently lives in Bogotá, Colombia.
Formally, the album is cleanly divided between the live recordings of the opening half and the pen-pal correspondence (via Edinburgh and Bogotá) of the closing half. The first two pieces feature performances from Ithaca and Brooklyn, NY, presumably their best sets from a 2008 North American tour with Nackt Insecten and Prehistoric Blackout (full disclosure: I helped organize the free Ithaca concert). During their brief performance, I couldn’t look away — like an unsavory group of witches, they brew a potent chemistry indeed — and no one dared utter a word during their racket. Huddled on the ground, surrounded by a semi-circle of tiny toys, including bells, rubber bands, marbles and springs, the trio were like a group of oversized mice transfixed by a fetid piece of cheese.
Usurper occupies a strange place between musique concrete, sound poetry, EAI and free noise. The first time I heard this disc, a friend remarked that the Scottish threesome sounded like “a flock of geese in an industrial slaughterhouse being fed their own giblets and then giving birth to an antique clock.” He’s not wrong, either; there is a remarkably naturalistic quality to their minimalist acousmatic improv, due in part to the lack of electrical amplification and humbleness of their tools. Their invented vocabulary is vast, often conjuring up the most disparate of images — a pair of babies wailing, a rainforest’s early morning din, a few disgusting bodily functions.
Despite the impish attitude and skittish sound, there is an admirable resourcefulness that drives their aesthetic. A few minor fidelity issues towards the end of the disc notwithstanding, the tone is playful, the mood conspiratorial, and their collaborative approach endlessly inventive. Ever wanted nmperign to sound slightly brattier? Your wish is granted.

May 10

June 1 + 2: Makino Takashi comes to Portland!

From our friends at Cinema Project — this is not an event to miss!

Join Cinema Project next week for two nights of dynamic images and sound!

World Premiere + Live Score + Artist-In-Attendance



JUNE 1 + 2 [7PM]

Cinema Project @ Clinton Street Theatre | 2552 SE Clinton St.

$7 Suggested Donation

Cinema Project brings Japanese video artist Makino Takashi to Portland for two nights of dynamic images and sound, including the world premiere of his newest work Inter View with a live score composed and performed by Portland-based musicians Tara Jane ONeil and Brian Mumford. Preceded by a night of short recent videos with soundtracks composed by Jim O’Rourke, Takashi’s work is experimental and abstract, exploring dark and crackling landscapes heightened by the transfer process from film to video. He will be in attendance to present and discuss his work.


No is E [2006, video, color, sound, 23 min.]

Elements of Nothing [2007, video, color, sound, 20 min.]

still in cosmos [2009, video, color, sound,18 min.]

All music by Jim O’Rourke


The Seasons [2008, video, color, sound, 30 min.] music by Jim O’Rourke

while we are here [2009, video, color, sound, 15 min.] music by COLLEEN

The Low Storm [2009, video, color, sound, 16 min.] music by Lawrence English

Inter View [2010, video, color, 25 min.] original score performed by Tara Jane O’Neil and Brian Mumford

Supported in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council

May 10

Interview with avant-garde cellist Charles Curtis up at Paris Transatlantic

[Marlboro Festival, 1985. Photo by Steve Sherman]

Many composers search their entire lifetime hoping to find a performer as resolutely dedicated, adventurous and talented as Charles Curtis. Perhaps the San Diego-based cellist is best known as a longtime collaborator of minimalist icon La Monte Young – their intense working relationship spans 24 years – yet Curtis is also renowned for his defining performances of works by Eliane Radigue, Morton Feldman, Terry Jennings, Alison Knowles, Alvin Lucier and many others.

Over the course of one month, I met with Curtis to discuss his life and career. The first time we met, at a dinner party at my house, to which he brought a hefty sack of lemons straight from his garden, I was immediately captivated by his sly sense of humor and forthrightness. We met three more times, once at his colorful, seaside home in Ocean Beach, and twice more at my home in La Jolla. Over pots of green tea, small scones baked by his wife Annegret, a talented chef, and with cats swarming around our ankles, we discussed his life in its entirety. His story is extraordinary, from his sheltered youth in Laguna Beach to his current standing as one of the world’s foremost practitioners of experimental music.

[I recently conducted a series of interviews with the San Diego-based avant cellist Charles Curtis for this month's Paris Transatlantic. Visit their site for the full interview. An excerpt below.]

[My father] lived in NYC for a time and gone to Columbia the same time as Allen Ginsberg and the Beat poets and sort of moved in those circles in the 40s. He was a bit like a captive in my mother’s perfect German outpost in Laguna Beach. Classical music was a very natural element of that environment – my mother encouraged it. Even though she wasn’t what you’d call a classical musician, she was very musical. With her family, part of it was striving to get to a higher social level, to play instruments, to be musically outstanding. Church music, singing, choirs – those are all very German things.

She’d also come from quite a poor family – her father was a cobbler in a little village – but she played recorder, flute, a little bit of violin and a little bit of piano. And she played that very distinctive German instrument, the zither. It’s a little bit like an autoharp. She played it very beautifully and had a beautiful singing voice. The zither and her singing – those are really deep musical memories for me.

In what way?

The thing about the zither that I think is particularly important for me is that it’s a very soft instrument. It sits on the table and you play it with both hands and it resonates with the surface of the table. And it’s very, very quiet. When someone plays the zither and sings ancient German folk songs, those strange melodies and strange accompanying chords, the typical thing is to sort of lean forward into the zither and sing very softly into it. The voice and the strings and the wood of the instrument all resonate together in an incredibly intimate way.

I think my mother’s zither playing and singing was an expression of her longing for her childhood and her past. Sometimes I would come into the house and see her, alone, in her room, playing. It was very private. I would sneak past and listen to it in the background. She had a beautiful singing voice, and incredibly in tune. It wasn’t a developed voice, but when she sang those simple German folk songs, the precision of her intonation was incredible. It really primed me for a particular kind of very intimate musical expression. Something so soft and so precise. It’s funny to think of that, because I don’t know what she would make of the music of La Monte Young (laughs).

Read the full interview here.

May 10

Animal Hospital – Memory LP review on Paris Transatlantic

The May issue of Paris Transatlantic is out! First, my review of the Animal Hospital LP, Memory (definitely one of my favorite releases of 2009), in which I obnoxiously reference Frederick Buechner:

As the ambient, post-rock outfit Animal Hospital, Boston-based musician and sound engineer Kevin Micka is a veritable one-man band. Memory, his 2009 debut full-length release for Barge Recordings (he also has records on Mutable Sound and Mister Records), is a tautly constructed, salient work, with sonic elements slathered like concrete into the earth. The effect is of a constructed summit, a man-made elemental force.

Formally, Micka utilizes a versatile hybridic approach, blending acoustical elements — throbbing bass lines, rich string sections, loose drumming, occasional vocals, and plenty of guitar — with a big pile of electronics. He navigates his mixing consoles, amps and delay units like an architect, painstakingly aligning loops into long, supplicating compositions. (Live, his multitasking is even more impressive). Animal Hospital seems to fall somewhere between The Books and Daniel Francis Doyle; fittingly, Micka’s indie and math rock background occasionally peeks through the experimental vapors, particularly on the lively, hop-scotching “…and ever.”

Memory is loosely arranged around three major tracks, each of which lasts about 15 minutes (“His Belly Burst,” “…and ever” and the remarkable closing title track), while the remaining four pieces hover between two to four minutes each. The album begins with the tentative winding up of a music box, the promise of a stuttering lullaby, and ends with fading, sonorous strings signaling towards mortality. The effect is lasting, the tone often elegiac. There is an emphasis on repetition, but also repentance; small, powerful moments, like the shadowy timbres of Micka’s vocals or a solitary guitar wash, scatter the album like gut-wrenching landmines. Amidst the cleverly timed loops, virtuostic playing and special effects, Memory is ultimately a deeply felt human record, one that is as hopeful as it is melancholy.

The writer and theologian Frederick Buechner once theorized that the purpose of art is to fortify faith, to spread mystery, to provide significance to human existence. “Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless. Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we’re in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us.” Memory asks us to do just that, to get lost in the swell of the past, to reimagine the ache as it spreads in our gut.

[Support the artist - buy it at Boomkat]

May 10


Sir Richard Bishop / Karaoke.

Runaways / Jandek.

Makes sense. God I love Portland.

Apr 10


In the grand tradition of booking shows where I no longer live (Mouthus, City Center, et al), a show tonight in San Diego with Jooklo duo! Unfortunately Chris Pottinger / Cotton Museum couldn’t join this leg of the tour but there’s a ton of amazing local noise rounding it all out. Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, April 28th

Spring Festival Jooklo Duo (Italy free jazz), Ignaz Schick (Turntables) with Adam Tinkle (electronics), Jeff Kaiser (improvisation on trumpet and electronics), Ian Carrol (Trombone) and Aquapuke (death/noise/drag with voice and tuba) – $6, 8PM