Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.15.09

Never Ending Math Equations

A trickle of trumpet, a spurt of sax, lots of folk-dread lyrics wrapped in the gentle plucks of an acoustic guitar: That was Dragging an Ox Through Water prior to 2008’s The Tropics of Phenomenon. Then something shifted in one-man-band Brian Mumford’s consciousness (perhaps it was his move from Eugene to Portland). Suddenly multi-instrumental folk songs weren’t quite doing it for him. A finalist for Willamette Week’s Best New Band poll in 2007, Mumford went back to the electro-noise drawing board for his new album, with groundbreaking results.

Phenomenon opens with the Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie-like “I Would Understand,” a lo-fi introduction to Mumford’s newfound experiments with samples, tape hiss, homemade oscillators, bleeps, bops, coughs and squiggles. Each track on Phenomenon is like a page torn out of a frayed notebook filled with doodles, poetry and math equations. Only a single song, the flute-flitted “Dice Smiles,” breaks the four-minute mark. “Snowbank Treatment” is near-pop enough to be almost danceable while the FX-clouded folk rock of “Predictions” is like a neon tumbleweed knocked loose from NMH’s “Holland 1945.”

A close friend of mine says Mumford’s earlier work “just reeks of Eugene” and speaks to the “not-small-enough town loneliness and the overwhelmingly hollow loss … among shifting configurations of affection and loyalty.” Expect a triumphant glooming sadness, beautiful, rare and utterly personal, to pervade this show.

Dragging an Ox Through Water, Blast Majesty, Adventure Gallery and Firetruck play at 7 pm Friday, Jan. 16, at Wandering Goat. Free. — Chuck Adams

Thunder and Sweetness

Need some sturm und drang to go with the rain and fog? Eugeneans with holiday music hangovers can revel in the delights of a massive orchestral experience during the Eugene Symphony’s January concert when outgoing Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero leads the musicans in performing Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The Fifith, Guerrero says, is “like climbing a mountain” because of its complexities. He believes in the orchestra’s abilities to pull off Mahler’s most popular work: “They are artistically growing to such a degree that they are now an orchestra that could tackle any challenge.” Though the five-moment piece begins with a famous trumpet solo and a funeral march, Guerrero explains that as the work goes on, audiences “can hear the lighter side of Gustav.” The fourth movement premiered on its own and might be the most famous portion; older listeners may recognize it from the funeral Mass of Robert Kennedy or from the 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Former Eugene Symphony Music Director Marin Alsop calls the fourth movement “an intimate oasis,” a love letter to Mahler’s wife, Alma. Guerrero says he also looks forward to the final movement, which he calls “the most fun” and “very heroic.”

Of course, the Mahler comes after intermission, but audiences are in for a treat with Debussy’s familiar Clair de Lune and Korean violinist Chee-Yun (pictured) joining the Symphony for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. Guerrero, now the music director in Nashville, says he can’t wait to make his first visit to Eugene since November. “All of these trips are going to have personal meaning, and I’m delighted that I can do the Mahler with this orchestra,” he says. The Eugene Symphony with Chee-Yun performs at 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Hult Center. $15-$66.

Fiddle Narratives

Canadian-born virtuoso fiddler, stepdancer and composer April Verch apparently has a friend named Craig. It says so on the track listing for her new album, Steal the Blue. I don’t have a clue who this guy is, but Verch’s song “My Friend Craig” makes me want to meet him. Verch doesn’t say a single word on this lively fiddling tune, but the rhythm and tone of the track make Craig sound like a fun-loving kind of fellow. That is how a number of April Verch songs work — they paint a picture, stir your imagination and cause you to wonder.

Verch began playing the fiddle at age 6, knew she wanted to do it for a living by the age of 10 and has been mesmerizing audiences across North America ever since. In addition to winning prestigious Canadian fiddling and music competitions, being nominated for a JUNO Award (the Canadian version of the Grammy Award) and studying at the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston, Verch has had time to release six albums prior to this newest one. And she’s not even 30 years old. Talk about a heck of a start to your career. April Verch plays at 7:30 pm, Wednesday, Jan. 21, at The Shedd. $18-$26. — Brian Palmer

So You Like Hardcore, Eh?

Raise your hand if you like in-your-face, high-energy hardcore. Now, raise your hand if you don’t want to drive all the way to Portland to attend a show. If your hand is still up, you’re in luck — the young lads of Protest the Hero are coming to rock the socks off Eugene.

The members of this Canadian prog metal band have been wailing together for nearly 10 years — since they were 12 years old — and it shows. The band’s intricate instrumentation coupled with vocalist Rody Walker’s shrill screaming and melodic singing is awing. It’s hard to believe the members were still in their teens when they began recording their debut album, Kezia, and it’s no wonder the album got so much hype in the hardcore scene. With two years between that and their sophomore effort, Fortress, the boys had enough time to create a solid fan base. They have played with the likes of Against Me! and Dragonforce and as well as performing at numerous festivals, including the Vans Warped Tour. See Protest the Hero thrash it with As I Lay Dying, The Human Abstract and My Children My Bride at 7:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 18, at the WOW Hall. $16 adv., $18 door. — Katrina Nattress