Review: The Wood Brothers’ “The Muse”
Feb05

Review: The Wood Brothers’ “The Muse”

Review by Rich Messmer Images courtesy of The Wood Brothers Folk music is back, haven’t ya heard? Of course you have. After a decades-long stint in the margins of popular music, the genres of folk-rock and Americana has cycled their way back into the mainstream at a level perhaps greater than that of Bob Dylan’s sixties. For those who never left the program- this tidal wave of a resurgence has swept in plenty of “Uh oh” along with the “Ohhh yeah.” For a moment, top radio hits from the likes of the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons were some of the most surprising sounds that FM radio has had to offer since Nirvana flipped the script in the early nineties. However, along with this renewed wave of popularity has come an incessant and incestuous parade of watered down, commercially-driven releases. It’s an unfortunate, yet inescapable, result of the growing popularity of the genre.  That being said, when you hear that three chord, clap driven, candy-pop harmonized “folk” song for the fifth time in as many hours today, instead of grabbing your ear-plugs grab a copy of The Wood Brothers‘ latest album, “The Muse,” and remind yourself that the “real deal” is still out there, probably right where you left it, working its magic a little left of center stage. If I had to write a synopsis of “The Muse” (or any of the Wood Brothers previous albums for that matter) in 140 characters or less it would be something like, “Great folk-rock band makes another great folk-rock record,” because in its simplest form, that’s really what it is. From top to bottom the songs are catchy and delivered with excellent musicianship. The lead vocals are intoxicating, the harmonies are smartly placed and the lyrics paint vivid stories wrought with soul. However, there is so much more beyond the obvious that makes “The Muse” a great record and The Wood Brothers a great band. From the beginning, The Wood Brothers have had a distinct sound of their own. They are a group formed by two brothers that come from very different musical backgrounds- and it shows. They write traditional music, but rarely without a few borrowed components from a swath of different genres. As a result, much of their work can sound both instantly familiar yet enticingly foreign at the same time, a brilliant contradiction that leaves the listener both content and insatiably intrigued at the end of each listen. However the genius in their unique sound doesn’t just rely on their ability to bring various influences to the table, but more importantly on the graceful subtlety in which they...

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An Artist In Transition: Asher Fulero and his new album, Liminal Rites
Jun20

An Artist In Transition: Asher Fulero and his new album, Liminal Rites

By Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso, except where noted Asher Fulero is a really nice guy. On our first meeting, he greeted me with a glass of homemade juice, eventually leaving me with a hug, some bumper stickers, and a handful of CDs. His easygoing and natural friendliness makes him easy to like — and it’s obvious I’m not the only one who feels this way. The pianist’s many friendships and connections (not to mention his talent!)have twisted and turned his musical career in a number of directions. He’s been a part of Matt Butler’s Everyone Orchestra, the Floydian Slips, and Scott Law Reunion Band, and it’s not surprising to find him behind the keys at many other Portland area shows. Anyone that’s into music in the Northwest has probably seen or heard him at one point or another, whether they know it or not.  Fulero’s world is a little bit wider than most of the rest of ours. Musically, he refuses to be boxed in. This is apparent during his many tributes to other musicians: during his recent residency at Al’s Den, Fulero featured the music of Genesis, Elliott Smith, Phish and Pink Floyd. Last year’s residency featured a tribute to Ani DiFranco. Fulero’s piano work is pendulous. One night he may be playing his solo piano work, closer to classical than anything else, or another he may be part of a fusion-esque jazz trio. He might be filling the keyboardist spot in a jam or rock band, or maybe he’s a session pianist recording with a singer/songwriter. Researching Fulero’s background before our first interview was a bit muddling. I couldn’t pin the guy down. I already knew of him from appearances with all kinds of bands around Portland, but the recordings I found sounded nothing like his live work. I first stumbled upon Fulero’s 2010 solo piano release, “The Green Piano.” Beautiful and hushed, the album’s sound was mature and contemplative. The very next find, however, was the direct opposite: dirty, whompy, glitchy electronic music released under the moniker Halo Refuser (an anagram of Asher Fulero). How did Fulero’s work become so oxymoronic? It’s not entirely unintentional. “I’m constantly finding myself embodying that definition of being pulled to opposing extremes,” Fulero explains. “Whatever it is I’m doing, I also want to do the opposite.” Fulero’s latest release is a full-length piano opus called “Liminal Rites.” Recorded at his home in a series of late night (read: early morning) sessions over the course of many months, the album is brooding, reflective, and at times, intense. “It’s not funky. It’s not dancy, or boogie, or fun,” says Fulero...

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Album Review: Bonobo, The North Borders
May08

Album Review: Bonobo, The North Borders

Review by Joseph Ritrievi When I first learned that Bonobo was releasing his first studio album since 2010 I thought, “Well, I’m sure there’s going to be at least one really dope album coming out in 2013.” Thus far, this is my understatement of the year.  From its onset The North Borders showcases the multi-layered talents of an artist still evolving, despite the fact that he is already at the absolute pinnacle of his genre. “Emkay” infuses Dub effects into a delicate guitar dance over up-tempo Glitch cadences as the album embarks. Strings texture the kaleidoscopic movement of Bonobo’s newest offering, the North Borders, as the album’s musical mandala emanates from the heart center of its creator. “Cirrus” is a microcosm demonstrating the depth and intricacy of Bonobo’s musical conceptualization. The music video, directed by Nicolas Devaux, begins as a few clips of random stock video footage are compiled to paint a picture of middle class 1950s America. The video quickly fractals into ever expanding layers of mechanized video clips taking on a life of their own until it culminates into a modern Koyaanisqatsi highlighting the everyday consumerism and repetitiveness of contemporary life. A work of true genius, “Cirrus” immediately catapults the North Borders to “classic” status upon the first few listens. Bonobo continues to bend rules and intentionally employ his accumulated musical knowledge to reinvent himself with each new project. Almost entirely devoid of vocals The North Borders takes its listener on an ancestral journey through a musical mindscape that opens the consciousness to a continually flowing stream of unfolding ingenuity. Seamlessly blending sample recordings with live instrumentation highlighted by post-production mastery Bonobo has raised the bar for anyone getting into the beat-making game, and has once again left an indelible impression on the musical imagination of a new...

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Dark Matter Transfer: An Infinite Constellation of Dreams
Mar27

Dark Matter Transfer: An Infinite Constellation of Dreams

Review by Kenneth Harris Here we are again, fortunate to be at the right place at the right time! Dark Matter Transfer is perhaps the best way to describe this band and their music. Electrons merging with protons to form atoms and other ethereal aggregations are among the ideas that arise when contemplating the sounds of DMT. Three strong musical forces merge together creating a space for improvisational exploration. The level of comfort exuded by the musicians on this album, especially after realizing that it was all performed without any rehearsal, is not only notable but quite impressive! This psychedelic, groove-sailin’, cosmic train trio may send you off into the stars but has its roots well-anchored in a solid background of musical languages and live performances. Joel Davis, Justin Pacuska and Alan Krassowski are the pilots on this ship. Joel played bass for Mars Retrieval Unit, which was known for their ability to become musical chameleons. Joel’s playing with DMT is definitely reflective of his ability to comfortably explore new horizons. As a multi-instrumentalist with an extensive background in jazz and rock, Alan’s certainly no backbeat drummer! Although he can easily play that way, the musical medium created by the trio allows this drummer to also exercise his extensive skills with the authority of a lead man. Justin Pacuska, we know from Garcia Birthday Band. He brings his experience and notable, relaxed improvisational skill to the project and BOOM: we have an “Infinite Constellation of Dreams”!   This album opens with a strong psychedelic sound. Extended guitar and bass solos with tight drum accompaniment give us the meat and potatoes of this album. With gradual tempo changes, funky bass and guitar jams, we hear the results of strong musicianship. Again, I can’t emphasize enough how engaging this album is and how well it flows, especially with regard to these musicians just beginning to know and perform with each other. Being a longtime fan of the Grateful Dead, I couldn’t help but notice Justin’s Garcia-esque style of guitar playing. This album, having a rock -n- roll jam sound with some digital enhancement, is sure to be enjoyed by both electronic and jam band music lovers alike. These guys all share familiarity with and have their own personal connections to the abstract. This seems to bring a very unique convergence of sounds and color together with all this potential energy shared through DMT. This album has a very fresh strength! We notice the album taking on a life, seemingly of its own. Chaos transformed into music, delightful and sometimes scary, with flowing rhythms and surprise crescendos, are aspects of the music that I...

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World’s Finest Drops New Album, 33
Feb11

World’s Finest Drops New Album, 33

Review by Rich Messmer If you talk to people in the know around the PDX music scene these days, there is a lot of buzz surrounding a quintet of local musicians who have come together and formed the not-so-bashfully named,World’s Finest . Blending some of the “world’s finest” musical styles and sounds, these guys bring a unique and undeniably fun-loving sound to stages right in your backyard and all over the Northwest on a very regular basis.  What World’s Finest, brings to the table is a truly North West experience. Like many things cultural up here in this strange little corner of the universe, there isn’t a singular niche that dominates the local musical landscape. Whether it be food, art, or music — Portland is truly a cornucopia of tweaked traditions, a mish-mash of old ideas re-tooled for a new frontier. World’s Finest, as well loved and supported as any new act around town, seems to truly grasp this Northwest musical paradigm, making it sound easy all the while; whether it be on stage or in the studio. Their newest project, an ambitious 15 track album, titled 33, is a groovy testament to the broad absorption of styles and motifs that this group loves to boast. Whether it be laid back dub beats, skank- dance inducing ska, folksy rhythms or funky sax solos that pickles your cucumber, this band, and this album, has got it all. The album opens with a spacey, smile-inducing head bopper titled “1814.” It’s a beautiful little tune with delicate, but infectious layers of banjo, guitar, and sax, riding blissfully over top of the rhythm section. Its a great way to kick off the album — a mood-lifter that lets you know the type of good vibes that this band intends to shower you with. Its the type of tune I would like to lose myself in while I drive into a beautiful Oregon sunset, windows down, left hand keeping the rhythm atop the tin roof of my car. This track segues nicely into a stripped down dubbish reggae tune, “Feelin’ Good”, that would leave any old-school reggae fans feeling great. The third track “Cincy” is an in-your-face heavy hitter, speeding up and slowing down with the vocals throwing down an angst-ridden tale of hard times growing up in the Cincinnati area. It has a fist pumping quality reminiscent of the Sublime classic “April 1992.” The fourth track “Sure as the Wind Blows” picks up where the first song left off, bringing up the beat just a little bit, and with an even more contagious melody and chorus. Another early highlight of the album comes on...

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