Portland Cello Project’s newest collaborations
by Brett Campbell
|Portland Cello Project
You’d think an ensemble composed of eight to 16 examples of the same instrument would be limited, but the cello’s burnished voice and timbre, its capacity to play plucked notes as well as long lines and the orchestral sound achieved by putting a few cellos together make Portland Cello Project suitable for many different collaborations, from classical to pop. That’s why so many of Portland’s finest indie rockers (Weinland, Laura Gibson, Horse Feathers and many more) have worked with them, and it’s why PCP’s newest project, featuring two guest musicians, Justin Power and Thao, is so successful. The two guest singers blend easily into the rich, polycellic textures, and PCP’s assured arrangements often provide much more than simple string supplements. To help them celebrate their sumptuous new release at Cozmic Pizza on Saturday, June 13, PCP enlists omnipresent Portland indie drum star Rachel Blumberg (Norfolk & Western, Decemberists, Bright Eyes, etc.), L.A.’s Emily Wells and probably other guests. As usual, the repertoire might range from 20th century classical music like Heitor Villa Lobos’s haunting Bachianas Brasileiras #5 and John Taverner’s Byzantine influenced spiritual sounds to originals to covers of Pantera, Britney and Justin Timberlake. PCP is that rare band that can appeal to fans of both pop and classical music, and they’re rapidly evolving from a sort of classical crossover novelty act into one of the Northwest’s most compelling musical ensembles.
While living in Seattle in the late 1930s, composer John Cage changed the course of music when he invented the prepared piano, which involved attaching screws and other devices to the strings to produce strange and wonderful sounds that could be surprisingly gentle and nuanced. On Thursday, June 11, another Seattleite, Bill Horist, conjures unusual and evocative sonic landscapes with his prepared guitar. A fine improviser who’s much admired by guitar geeks and avant gardistes, Horist has worked with a slew of venturesome bands and musicians, including John Zorn and Bill Frisell, and composed for dance, theater and film. Surprisingly, he’s not playing at the usual center for such shenanigans, DIVA, but instead a few yards away at that other valuable downtown sound salon, the Jazz Station. He’ll be joined by the Danish electronic musician Jakob Riis, who has won admiration in European electronica circles for conjuring all sorts of imaginative, often improvised, soundscapes from his laptop. Together and separately, they create an immersive, subtly ear opening, avant experience that’s more about sonic texture and atmosphere than melodic development, wild screechery, rigid structure or even ambient’s background burble. It’s nuanced music that repays close attention, without insisting on it.