This was a perfect synapsis of the varied depths of the experimental underground. 6 bands packed into Plan B’s scarlet interior on this Saturday evening, playing to a small but hardcore following.
Acroyear was leaning over a laptop as i entered, churning out a smooth mixture of breakbeats, glitchy percussion, and New Age ambiance in a smooth, seamless whole. The head-nodding vibe was hypnotizing, visions of vast diamond seas and ships with golden sails painted themselves on the back of my eyelids. The sound of an adventure. One of the thrilling things about electronic music, as a whole, is how quickly it evolves, a new permutation nearly every nano-second. Acroyear was adept at meshing divergent styles to create mutant strains. My only beef was the sound quality sounded a might thin, had me yearning for vinyl or hardware. The smoothness of his set, however, and the wide range of ideas, definitely out-weighed the minor technicalities. He was reaching for a guitar, when he got cut short. Wonder what he would’ve done with that?
Chad Carver was a perfect gentleman, playing an unadorned set of harmonium and singing. For those of you that don’t know, a harmonium is a traditional Indian instrument that is often used to accompany Indian classical music. The instrument itself brings a real old-world, ritualistic religiosity to the proceedings, and Chad played it like a pro. His set had everything: humor, tears, melodrama, sanskrit. It was like a roller-coaster ride, always veering and toppling, kept aloft and entertaining by his good humor, natural stage presence, and the emotional core of the songs. There was some real witchcraft at work here, i highly advise you seek him out, for those that enjoy Indian music or pagan goodness.
Just starting to settle in, get into the zone and have a good time and HOLY SHIT! a doom metal bass and drums duo! NOSTALGIA! Their MySpace page lists them as Ambient/Experimental/Hardcore, and that is fairly apt. Hardcore blast-beats met post-rock drifting bass guitar, run through a battery of pedals to create a thicker, fuller sound than seems possible to come from two people. At times, it almost seemed like there was a guitar player with them. I’m not sure if there were loops being triggered or the bass was being processed, but the overall effect was like an invisible band, rocking out. Nostalgia’s tone was flawless, and their song arrangements were badass, full of beefy hooks and meaty drops. There were some girls headbanging. I approve.
Cult of Zir with Exquisite Corpse are two pillars of Portland’s ritualistic noise scene, and on this occasion they played together, creating a double-headed cyborg sphinx, rusting in the desert, spitting sparks and growing wise. The table was strewn with homemade analog electronics, laptops, and a mixer, sprays and tangles of wire everywhere. The set was quite unlike anything i’d seen Cult of Zir do previously, rather than his ritualistic beatscapes, the pair conjured 40 minutes of machine drones and old school arpeggiators, surprisingly danceable at times, before being swallowed up by the growl. Smooth and controlled, a sure sign of a successful noise performance.
Last up was Nonsequiturus Illogicuus, from Oakland, Ca. They delivered a perfect improvised set, in the old-guard art gallery tradition. Amplified trombone and melodica met processed cello and haphazard drum-set, with 3 tape players playing random audio out of various speakers in the back of the room. Occasionally, someone would go up and change the tape, chucking the old tapes across the room. The drummer would sporadically pelt the audience with little glowing bouncy-balls, as well. The music was pretty slipshod, the band members seemed to be responding to cues, but it was hard to tell what they were. There wasn’t really a narrative flow or climactic build. It was more like they were responding to each sound, which was refreshing and creative. People were bouncing balls against the walls and spazzing out to the trombone blasts. We were having fun.
In this city, where there are thousands of great concerts almost every single night, it can be intimidating to ferret them out, and easy to get jaded on what is going on in yr own backyard. The goings-on at this gothic dive bar in SE Portland is the kind of thing you’d read about in The Guardian or The Wire and think, ‘Gosh, that sounds sweet.’ Let me be the reminder, its all around you, folks. Good music of every make and model, and often times for cheap or free.