If you listen to underground hip hop, you know what the three-eyed smiley face emblem stands for. You understand how intense it was when Hieroglyphics, the group this symbol represents, formed in the early ‘90s, what it felt like to put Third Eye Vision into your stereo and realize that not only had an authentic and mature form of underground hip hop arrived, but it was bountiful.
Take a quartet of guitar-savvy gingers steeped in pedagogies of the Northwest, see them south to the sun and listen to what they’ve made since returning for a rain-soaked second-rinse — it’s something akin to sonic honey on crunchy toast.
Doomtree is a wild-style hip-hop collective from the rhyme-tundra of Minneapolis. With five emcees (P.O.S., Sims, Dessa, Mike Micilian, Cecil Otter), two DJs (Lazerbeak, Papertiger) and solo projects running the gamut of hip-hop mixtapes, spoken word poetry, creative fiction, visual art, punk bands and individual releases from each member, when Doomtree takes root, listen.
The band moe. is to Phish what Jefferson Airplane was to the Dead. The New York-based jam band is an East Coast amalgam of roots and jam, more apt to throw into the mix an acoustic string or two than other improv-based rock bands like Umphrey’s McGee or the Disco Biscuits.
Robert Sherwood (mandolin, vocals, guitar), August Dennis (bass), Marisa Korth (vocals, guitar) and Carlo Canlas (violin, vocals) are the musicians who make up Backwater Opera — a group that stitches the sound of bluegrass music into a classical indie-rock tapestry. It’s an aesthetic the band calls “chambergrass.”
Back in 1994, UO freshman Douglas Jenkins bought a cheap cello. The instrument was way too small for him and, what’s more, he didn’t know how to play it. But thanks to the generosity of a superb teacher (Eugene Symphony cellist Sylvie Spengler) and his own DIY determination, Jenkins — who’d played guitar in high-school punk bands — not only learned to play but also taught himself how to arrange pop music for lots of cellos.
There’s a rough and rugged synergy going on in Portland. This synergy is between two musical factions that you’d never think would combine forces. It blends the grungiest corners of the urban jungle with the “just-don’t-give-a-fuck” contigent of the Northwest backwoods. It’s jug band, it’s folk punk, rockabilly, punk blues, cowpunk and psychobilly. Call it whatever suits your fancy, ‘cause by the time the corn whiskey hits your bloodstream it’ll all blend together seamlessly.
Watching a carboy of beer or a jar of kimchi gurgle with life or erupt from a blow-off tube is like peeking into an alternative universe. At the Fun with Fermentation Festival hosted by the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, you can learn all about that and more.
Bend, Oregon — known for ski bums, sprawling subdivisions, beautiful scenery and ... experimental prog-influenced post-rock? No, I wouldn’t have guessed that either, but Bend’s Empty Space Orchestra is beginning to make a big noise both east of the Cascades and up and down the Willamette Valley.
Portland Cello Project (PCP) is an interlocking mass of classical and indie rock music that will make you stop and ponder just what else cellos are capable of when in the hands of incredibly talented and stylistically brave musicians.
Dubstep has become synonymous with blunt-force bass and overproduced breakless anarchy. Vibesquad and Kraddy, however, retain the grimy bubbles and ethereal space in their music that originally defined the style without sacrificing the raw modern power that fans eat up.
When I hear the term “world music,” I reach for my revolver. That category ranks right up there with such fallacious and vaguely ethnocentric utterances as “reverse racism” and “primitive culture,” and the queasy phrase contains all the smug bourgeois self-abnegation of a middle-age white dude in a beret reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead over a non-fat vanilla latte at Café Sniff.
It used to be rare to hear Oregon musicians play Baroque music the way composers intended rather than in the anachronistic styles that dominated performances till the end of the 20th century. Now, it’s happily becoming commonplace — but no less a delight.