Saturday, December 29, 2012



I'm early to Holocene, a bit of a ridiculous stratagem, I realize, but when it's a band like The Soft Moon I'm seeing, a show I've been anticipating with not a modest amount of drooling eagerness since it was announced a few months ago, I just can't sit at home waiting, I get too antsy, too twitchy. Gotta go to the club, pant pant.

No more than three dozen attendees at this point as Portland band We Are Like The Spider gear up and plug in. Simple trio set-up, guitarist (Gozu Lamonde), synth (Lucia Luna, also, as it will soon turn out, the main vocalist) and bass (Kait Autonomy). Immediately it's programmed beats, a deliciously distorted guitar and chilled hypnotic vox that on first (and lasting) impression strikes a kind of Siouxsie/Lene Lovich/EMA chord on my inner ear which my inner ear likes very much. Sound-wise overall WALTS are delivering a disturbed post-punk throb, insistent hypnotic textures like a glowing static blanket simultaneously laying over us and unraveling, however that works. Not for the first time the stumbling over of a local support band has excited the antenna with enough electricity that I immediately want them for my show. Odd, detached black and white film montages projected on the fabric folds behind them enhance the dark and powerful shadows living in their sound and can't help but suggest, to me, some strobing, tucked-away club in North London in 1981. In case you haven't been able to tell, I'm sold.

Fourth song of the set is a new one and it's a stomper, sung this time by Gozu and it carries a hooky progression not a long way from a dance floor. A hit, I tell ya, a hit, bass-propelled, rousing, and jumpy. As it turns out this is Kait's first ever gig with the band and not to over-flatter but you'd never know it, her playing melting into the mix with a percussive ease, a perfect fit.

Though many splinters of influence and inference were spiking around inside my head while they played, one of the most intriguing was the way We Are Like The Spider somehow manage to inject that somewhat deliberate (some would say plodding) automotive synth drone of Gary Numan with a renewed verve and, ahem, drive, with a kind of razor-sharp metallic sass. Not an update, mind, but an improvement. I can't wait to see them again (see the SFUTF facebook page for news of coming shows) but as much as that I can't wait to have them on the show, which, at this writing, will be either January or February. What a great night and it's only begun.

Group Rhoda is, in fact, one person, a young woman from San Francisco that I'm going to be bold and guess (probably incorrectly) is named Rhoda, and she's, well, singularly impressive. It's just her and a modest synth cluster with a Medusa-like tangle of cables snaking out behind and beneath it, and though it's all technology, computers and programs and pre-set patterning, it feels organic, looming and lingering echoic rhythms wafting about in warm harmonic (dark)waves and it's no surprise that there's a sort of macrame-ish tassley thing hanging off the back of her keyboard. The sound overall is bassy and spacey and inventive, something along the lines of Elisabeth Esselink fronting Kraftwerk. She's certainly busy, knob-twiddling at a furious rate yet thoroughly relaxed doing so. In fact, as a one-woman band she's positively sanguine, with an almost jazz player's demeanor. The vocals veer from plainly declarative to mildly angelic and the last song has this pulsing plaintiveness to it, a yearning mixed with resignation, mashed together in a sorrowful dancefloor beat and there's the essence, I'd say, to Group Rhoda, wringing emotion out of a bank of synths and ancillary programming.

The Soft Moon is Luis Vasquez is The Soft Moon and, like me, he also comes from San Francisco, a place I still find magical despite its boom makeover and where, yes, a significant portion of my heart still resides. But I swear on a stack of Joy Division singles that this isn't the reason I like them so much (oh, OK, it's a bonus factor). No, the overwhelming reason to like The Soft Moon is sound baby, sound, sheets and rolls and runs of it, a truly glorious noise I'm going to go ahead and dub 'epic sonic' and in fact let's just coin a neologism right here and make it one word ('epicsonic,' you heard it hear first) Not epic in the swath-y Big Country/Waterboys way but epic in the sheer rising power of the thing. When you're listening to The Soft Moon's albums you don't just get chords and drumbeats and tunnels of bass runs, you get vistas wrapped in thought, you get thrall, you get your central nervous system handed to you in a shuddering suite of sound. Yes, it evokes that sound from those times but there is nothing remotely tribute-like or nostalgic in it, or if there is it's of the most disorienting type: nostalgia for the current moment. Think of it as the quintessential idea of post-punk made manifest in the soon-to-be christened twenty teens. Or, just think of it as excitement, unvarnished yet exquisitely varnished excitement. Plus, if I may just say this: I love the smell of dry ice in the night time. The fog appears from behind the wires and pedals, modest mists of it that whisper 'It's time' and we're off.

Playing a gaffer-taped Fender Jaguar, Vasquez from the start spins out some intensely minimal guitar textures and it takes approximately 17 seconds to find myself in some sort of time-lost post-punk heaven, and in fact I must confess that I'm too wildly wrapped up in it to do much reporting. I should be writing down what tracks when, I know that, but the sound is far too mesmerizing and, for me, too transportive to the very heart of a time when Siouxsies and Curtises and Magazines first roamed the earth for me to stop and take note. I do know that "Total Decay," from the, umm, 'Total Decay' EP,carries a thunderous, distinctive rhythm along with synth tones set to 'hypnotically ominous' and that it amounts perhaps to the soundtrack to the end of the world (still days away at this point) but I gotta say, if it sounds like this, bring it on. Vasquez is singing in an almost lilting falsetto, though it's wrapped in such lovely doomsday dynamics it's rather buried. Then comes the keyboard bit, equal parts world-falling-apart and, paradoxically, sustained hope, before the song is ushered out on what sounds like an interplanetary wind blowing over a lonely empty lot. We react in what becomes a not atypical manner throughout their set, with a half-second of stunned silence then a roar of approval.

All three band members are dressed in black but what's being produced on stage never feels gothful, there isn't a single smear of eyeliner. If nothing else (and it's so much else) The Soft Moon sound is one that throws sharp, echo-layered shapes that are both stabbing and mellifluous, deeply textured but not in the least overworked. When I check my scrawled notes later I find the phrase "suitably gauzy and lustrous, heart-stopping and bliss-inducing" and I'll stand by that, except to say they're a band that invites an avalanche of superlative adjectives of this kind. Like me, I'd bet that most everyone here tonight keeps thinking to themselves 'This is The Soft Moon in an intimate little club in Southeast Portland on a cold Tuesday night. How lucky can we be?'

For the final two songs - the set-ender and the encore - Vasquez eschews guitar altogether for tom-toms, and though he attacks them with the same vigor and commitment we've seen all night, still, it's just a set of drums, no guitar, yet the effect is no less powerful which by any calculus shouldn't really work but does. And how exactly does it work? Well, in truth, I dunno, it's a mystery, but of course it doesn't matter. The sound delivers, and as I swirl trance-like back out onto Morrison and walk back to my car in the late-night midweek silence, I am buoyant, I feel as ageless as the music I've just heard, it's been another absolutely splendid night out in Portland and the sound I carry with me drowns out the quiet, drives away the cold and blots out any and all concerns about getting up in five hours to go to work. If what we ask of live music is to make this moment timeless, tonight's show has succeeded fabulously. Thanks to all three bands, thank you Holocene, and thank you Portland.

Monday, December 24, 2012

DJ Klyph presents: The Movement


Simply put, it's been a great year. So many great artists passed through the Neighborhood in 2012. I've become an even bigger fan of the local hip hop scene after getting to build with so many good people. To be able to use the this opportunity to share these gifts with the masses through KZME has been a real blessing, and I'm grateful.

With one year coming to an end, I'm looking forward to continuing to help build this NW Hip Hop movement in the next, and I hope you come along for the ride.

2012 in the Neighborhood

See y'all in 2013!



Friday, December 21, 2012


Scott Gallegos (pronounced Guy-eh-gos) stopped by the KZME studios not too long ago to drop off his music.  Fortunately, I was in the studio to visit with him and receive the CD he brought along!

I picked one of the songs off of that CD as the KZME Song of the Week for December 20, 2012:  Off the Hook.  It is off his CD, est. 1976 on the Bottom of the Well label.

Meet Scott Gallegos!

How long have you lived in the Portland area? I was born in Milwaukie, Oregon on October 4th, 1976 - so, 29 years!

Give us a brief history of your band/project: I started writing and playing around Portland in 2005 with my older brother.  We formed the band Taco Meat that went on to become Hillside Lane.  In 2007, I released my first solo album, "est. 1976". In 2010, I released a "live @ Mississippi Studios" album, and just last month, on November 10, I released my latest studio album "Somehow Divine".

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?  Paul Simon's "Slip Slidin' Away"...still my favorite Simon tune!

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?  I was pretty honored to play the Aladdin last year and have always enjoyed our shows at Mississippi Studios.  Mississippi is also a great place to see bands at as well.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?  Without question, Portland has an amazing local music scene and I have had a fantastic opportunity to become very close with many of them.  My favorite local guy is also one of my dear friends, Michael Sheridan of National Flower - everything he touches is gold to me.

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had:  I don't have any great "Portland" stories.  I hope that doesn't mean that I am too much a part of it to notice. ;)

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without_____”:  Not to be too cliche, but my family.



Friday, November 30, 2012


 This Seattle musician has put out a CD that required a minimum of two listens when it was put into my hands. The music takes me to the place that reminds me why I live in the grand Pacific NW conjuring up memories of big trees, strong coffee and great music. I went somewhere in my past when I heard I heard Above the Water and the journey, albeit via my imagination, put a smile on my face.

I caught up with Rocky via the internet and asked him those questions I love to ask - meet Rocky Votolato!

--  Dennise M. Kowalczyk, host of Trixie Pop

How long have you lived in the Portland area?

I live in the Seattle area - does that still count?  I love hanging in Portland though!

Give us a brief history of your band/project:

My name is Rocky Votolato and I've been writing songs and putting out records since 1999.  I have 7 full length albums that fall mostly into the "singer-songwriter" category.  I signed with the Seattle based indie-label Barsuk Records in 2005 and have 3 releases on the label, but I self-released my latest album "Television of Saints" with the help of my fans and Kickstarter.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have you ever seen the rain?

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?

My favorite place to play and see bands in Portland is Mississippi Studios.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?

M. Ward
The Thermals
Laura Gibson
The Shins

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.

I had the some of the best Donuts of my entire life at Voodoo Doughnuts.  My son loves the Maple Bacon Bars.

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without__air___”.

Connect with Rocky Votolato:

Sunday, November 18, 2012


LA SERA / EMA / JD SAMSON & MEN (Mississippi Studios, Nov. 8, 2012)

Ahh, this is nice, back at Mississippi Studios, what I like to think of as Portland's other (and much more intimate) living room. The rugs on the floor, the sconce lighting, the red dragonfly-patterned skirt hugging the lower half of the stairs, this is home, a place for KZME to kick its feet up and drink in a show or, more likely, jump all around crazy-like on those cozy Middle Eastern rugs.

That's later, though. For now Katy Goodman of La Sera, of Vivian Girls (not 'ex-of,' I later confirm) wanders our happy little premises like she's playing hostess. Frankly, given her profile, I'm a bit surprised to find her opening tonight, the first night of Portland's Siren Nation Festival (a 4-day, yearly event featuring women in art, from music to film, from studio art to crafts and workshops; it's very cool and growing and, given this year's offerings, expertly curated). I would have thought...but thinking's not always done me all that much good. At any rate, La Sera on stage is Katy on sprightly bass, friends Tod on guitar, Danny on rhythm and Mike behind the drums and rather immediately they are sparkly garage pop good. Third song "Devils Hearts" has that devil's heartache wrestling with vintage AM radio gold but whatever sorrow might have lingered gets driven to ground the instant "Behind Your Eyes" starts, a Nuggets-era charger - and charmer - played at triple time, Tod just plain going off. Early as it is in the evening, it rocks the house, marking La Sera as an inspired choice to open Siren Nation, for the sense of lure is unmistakeable, in Katy's lilting but commanding alto to the band's muscular but deft back-up. Perfectly versatile they are as well. On "Love That's Gone" they tear it up like they eat bar bands for breakfast. Next song ("Please Be My Third Eye") is all boardwalk lope end-of-summer and "Drive On," straight after that, sees them providing dark pop accompaniment to Ms Goodman's angelic vox. Final (and new) song "Control" promptly promises to lose just that but of course, this is La Sera so it's as tight as it is simultaneously crazy. Great set, great night to get to the club early.

EMA, Mississippi Studios and I have a special relationship. On the strength of her debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, I came to see her open up here for Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr a year and a half ago. Lamenting the lack of audience mere moments before her set, I mumbled my dismay to the empty space in front of me. As it turned out, however, behind was one Carl Singmaster, then-music director for KZME, which at that point I'd never heard of. After a fevered conversation about music and, of course, all things cool, well, here I am, with my own show (plug time! "Songs From Under The Floorboards," Monday nights 8-10) and I kind of owe it all to Erika M Anderson.

All that said, I know few more intense performers than EMA. The intro by our compere quotes her as saying she likes to overcome her Cat Power by letting her Iggy Pop out, and truer words have never been spoken (and in fact, if that description at all intrigues you and you're unfamiliar with EMA's work, do yourself a huge favor and remedy that. Oh, and see her live first chance you get). Just her, a drummer (Billy) and a guy (Leif) on keys, laptop and an electric violin the size of a ukelele. That keyboard, though, on second song "Perfection" (off of 2010's Little Sketches On Tape, which I don't have and am now reminded to remedy that), is both bass and a chorale of background singers, making for powerful stuff. Drumming, too, is enhanced by effects and, I have to say (sorry), very effectively.

Watching her perform, words come to mind: primal, visceral, beautiful, serrated, heartful, inspiring, fearless, innate, immutable, passionate, punk rock (especially on song #3, provisionally titled 'Superpower' and one of the number of new songs aired tonight, boding well), committed, riveting, emotional, draining, exhilarating, amazing, intuitive. "California," off PLMS, is, of course, a tour de force, powerful in a way that makes your heart bruise and exult and recoil and soar. "Marked" is, well, remarkable ("I wish that every time he touched me left a mark"), haunting beyond measure. This is the third time I've seen her and I've never seen her so possessed, her presence is exquisite, there is no turning away. To say that she's this generation's Patti Smith is no exaggeration and, if anything, diminishes a bit. EMA treads an edge that Ms Smith, as deserved as her legendary status is, would, I believe, shy away from.

With appropriate synchronicity I run into Carl after the set and we share and compare each others stunned, ecstatic reaction. The word 'transportive' comes up, not surprisingly, and both of us are counting the days until we get to see her perform again.

JD Samson & MEN is the product of ex-Le Tigre member Jocelyn Samson, dubbed an 'icon of nerdy cool' by the New York Times, a sobriquet that both fits and, I imagine, she gladly embraces. She emerges tonight sporting a hat with crazy braided fringe hanging over her face like some pop tribal shaman and, as it develops, that's not far off. Opening track, new song "You Are Invincible" (or so I have written down; seems it might be called something else) leaves no doubt as to what kind of territory we're in. This is electro-pop and we're not a long ways from Arthur Russell as interpreted by some nervy (nerdy?) irreverent street punks into, well, new wave post-punk dance-a-rama madness and fun. Second song "Boom Boom Boom" dispels any doubts about that initial impression and the floor of bopping heads in front of me confirms it all that much more. By the third song, another new one, I'm sorry but I just gotta get out and join them on that floor. This is, after all, dance music. Somehow they manage to draw us out without a drummer, just a drum program but hoo boy is it programmed to a wicked perfection, it's got our hearts' number, our entire nervous system has been dialed in. After EMA it's like dessert frosting with a wobbly gelatin beat. Like Ms Samson sings in "Life's Half Price," it's better than therapy.

Would be a mistake, though, to think that JD Samson & MEN is naught but happy beats and escapist dance. Quite the opposite, in fact. "Off Our Backs" is a jouncy, pure dance number, sure, but, as its title implies, it's not exactly lacking in sly, sexual-political content. More pointedly, a new song released on youtube two weeks prior, "Let Them Out Or Let Me In," was written for and is dedicated to Pussy Riot, but it's also another barnstorming floor filler (though the floor's already full) that by sheer funk delight alone should free the members of Pussy Riot from whatever stalag pretends to hold them. Buoyed by a classic 808 synth groove, it also boasts a relentless guitar scythe a la Gang Of Four.

Suppose it bears mentioning how every member is decked out in black and white with two large red dots planted somewhere on their ensemble, making them as much a delight visually as aurally. But mostly what they are is stupendous and liberating, not least on set closer "Who Am I To Feel So Free?" By this point no one's immune to the boundless irresistibility of beat and joy and crack musicianship we're being treated to, the message is in the movement and next thing I know Erika is dancing jumping and just generally losing it right in front of me. What a way to end it all. Phew!

Monday, November 5, 2012

DJ Klyph presents: The Movement

DJ Klyph presents: Sounds of the DJ

I remember when I was a kid staying up late on Saturday nights listening to WBLS out New York, Mr. Magic's Rap Attack with DJ Marly Marl. DJ Red Alert was also on the air on Kiss-FM and between the two I got my weekly fix, setting my tape deck to record so I could listen back to the mixes they brought to the masses.

Fast forward to today. Mixtapes available for download, a market that makes rap music so much more accessible... but there is something about getting that FM signal, hearing the DJ blend live. It's that element of hip hop that is most readily available to those who frequent local venues, but not as well represented on terrestrial radio. I decided to change that, if only for a minute. The month of October on Welcome to the Neighborhood I presented mixes for some of my friends, some of the best DJ's in the northwest. Hopefully you were able to here them presented live on KZME but if not, no worries. Check the links below:

October 2 2012 - Liquid Beat Records' Matt Nelkin - Premier R&B

Matt Nelkin has been spinning in and around Portland for a number of years, doing a regular monthly event Rock Box Dance Party with DJ Kez and Dundiggy. They'll be celebrating their 6th year bring the party to the people and you can hear more about the event when Matt makes an appearance on WTTN later this month on November 11th with members of The Love loungers. Be sure to heck out the website and listen to the mix via the link below.

From the Liquid Beat Records website: "As a tribute to what I consider to be this underappreciated aspect of his catalogue, I wanted to create a mix of some of my favorite DJ Premier produced R&B Songs. Included are original tracks, remixes, and a few blends of acapellas over a variety of Premier instrumentals. Hope you enjoy!"

October 9 2012 - From The Mind Of Vol. 1 feat. StarChile and DJ Juggernaut

StarChile made a visit to KZME with DJ Juggernaut in early October. Aside from stories of hosting radio shows in the past, the monthly event, Live & Direct PDX which is celebrating it's 3 year anniversary this Friday Nov. 9th the fellas gave some behind the scenes of the latest project from the mind of. On the 9th I was able to play a portion of the mix on the show. Check out the full 60 minutes at the link below: **NOTE: Contains Adult Language**

October 16th 2012 - DJ Roane mix on Welcome to the Neighborhood

Roane made his first visit to discuss the Cloudshine the project he did with vocalist Reva Devito. Truth is, Roane is one of the first DJs I talked to about doing a project like this. He's an artist who truly flys under the radar with a distinct sound that adds so much to the NW scene, it was really a pleasure to have his as a part of this series. Be on the lookout for more from Roane as their are a few projects coming from him over the next several months including a remix he did for The Love Loungers latest release Last Night Changed It All Check out the special mix Roane did for the Sounds of the DJ series:

October 23rd 2012 - DJ Klyph mix for Sounds of the DJ

It's such an honor and blessing to have this platform to provide an outlet for these artist that I respect, who have become my friends. Here is my contribution to the art:

October 30th 2012 - Ohmega Watts special mix for Welcome to the Neighborhood

One of the first artists I met when I moved to Portland is Ohmega Watts. An original member of The Fix which was one of the greatest experiences musically of my life. A member of the group Lightheaded who are scheduled to release their next project in 2013 and a solo artist setting up for his third album also due next year. There is a prelude mix coming before the end of the year entitled Ohmega Watts Presents: Pieces of a Dream and you'll be able to catch him live in Portland spinning with DJ Rev Shines and DJ Cooky Parker at Holocene on Friday November 23rd. It's a privilege to present this special all vinyl, live exclusive mix via the link below:

Be sure to catch Welcome to the Neighborhood with DJ Klyph every Tuesday from 7-9pm pacific on 107.1FM KZME and streaming live at

Until next time, be blessed


Saturday, November 3, 2012


HEAVY HAWAII, CROCODILES, THE SOFT PACK - Doug Fir Lounge, Oct. 17, 2012

First off, happy to be back inside the woodsy confines of the Doug Fir Lounge. So comfy here for the likes of folks like us (Portlanders, that is), rather similar, I should think, to going to a show at your father's Elks Lodge while lost in a sort of Lynchian daydream. Makes me want to carve my name in one of the trademark logs with a day-glo knife. In short, feels like home. Thanks, Doug.

The term 'post-punk' is getting bandied about a bit again these days (as host of Songs From Under The Floorboards my ear is pretty attuned) and the ad copy for this show applied it to both Crocodiles and The Soft Pack, and in a sense - beyond just enjoying the hell out of myself - I'm here to verify. More on that later. For now, let's sit up and listen to Heavy Hawaii...

...and I'm rather immediately impressed, swinging straight into an emotionally tuneful plaint, led off by (yup) a near-tropical-sounding organ figure that's soon swamped in melody and a kind of yearning guitar pop I can never get enough of. Kind of American Music Club if they'd had more garage in 'em. Overall I'd ask for a stronger, more articulate vocal but in terms of hook and structure, I'm, umm, hooked. There's also an agreeable Velvety drone to them - even tossing around some teasing discord now and then - with a bit of Jesus & Mary Chain crunch added to the mix (doesn't hurt that the singer sports a Reid brother mein) that, despite the wobbly soundboard mix, makes for a surprisingly memorable set from an opening band most of us had yet heard of. Vocals, though, I dunno, seems an insult to the microphone somehow. Speak up, lads.

Crocodiles emerged to these ears in 2009 with their pithily-titled debut Summer Of Hate, an album of amiably cynical, intelligent post-garage garage that caught a lot of well-deserved attention, mashing up glam with (again) some driving echoey JAMC riffery. It was brash and unapologetic and one of my top 20 albums of that year. Recently Endless Flowers was released on French Kiss (I somehow missed 2010's Sleep Forever; my bad) and has also snapped not a few heads Crocodiles' way. At the moment, singer Brandon Welchez is walking onstage with a Miller in each hand, setting them strategically down and working at getting the mike right, while guitarist Charles Rowell stands slouchingly at the ready. Welchez's tweaking complete, we're off.

Often a band will, without perhaps even realizing it, exhibit a particular visual hook that catches one's eye right off. Strummer's stamping foot, Keith Moon's intuitive theatricality, something physical that's related to the music, sure, but also isolated from it. With Crocodiles it's Rowell's wonderful tic of throwing the guitar off his fretting hand after a chord or a fill, catching it, playing on, repeating, and even though it's strapped on, of course, it nonetheless conveys a kind of exciting, trickstery, daredevil passion for the loud, just-this-side-of-distortion pop noise the band is trading in. I'd go so far as to say he's a bit reckless but precisely so, if that makes any sense, ripping the fretboard to ringing pieces and giving each song its excoriating identity, the pinion of Crocodiles' sound.

So far as that ad copy goes, it's Marco Gonzalez's nimble, chest-deep bass makes people say 'post-punk,' I would guess, that and Welchez's blurred, darkly luring vocals. But in truth, the band, at least live, is as much shoegaze as post-punk, layering on rough sheets of sound on top of rough sheets of sound with a blasting sonic authority, like Ride in a high school gymnasium. When the singer straps on a Rickenbacker early in the set the assault begins in earnest, which I say in only the best way. The mysterious figure in all this is keyboard player Robin Eisenberg, Nico with black hair minus the icy vocals. Often, however, she too becomes lost in the mix, voice and keys both. Only way I could tell she was playing mostly rhythm runs was by the movement of her hands, a shame, surely. At least Welchez was clearly audible throughout their set and he's a singer with presence, his yelp often echoing through the Fir as if it's going to slice one of those logs clean in half, and in fact the band en totale just might have all that polished timber shivering a bit as Crocodiles produce a righteous, driving racket that could conceivably set the city woods afire.

First thing I notice about The Soft Pack is another Rickenbacker. Second thing I notice is a singer (Matt Lamkin) that's visually indebted to a young Jim Morrison. Musically, the initial impression is that I wouldn't exactly place them in the post-punk realm either, even as I have to admit that there is an Echo & The Bunnymen lean to them and by third song "Pull Out" off their self-titled second LP I might be persuaded to change my vote. Dave Lantzman's bass just grooves right into it, soon enough Lamkin is all tied up in Morrissey knots, Matty McLoughlin on that Rickenbacker is tripping away and I'm convinced that I'll soon be playing them on my show (which as of this writing I already have). "Chinatown," off new LP Strapped, does little to dispel this conviction which again comes down to, as much as anything, Lantzman's bass, its prominence anchors their sound along with, of course, Brian Hill staccato-ing away on drums like some genius mechanic of the beat. The mix in the club, by the way, is finally exactly right.

The Soft Pack began life as The Muslims, a name whose changing, no surprise, was predestined. But they did manage to issue two singles under that moniker and "Extinction," the first one (in fact the first song they ever wrote, according to Lamkin) gets aired tonight and it's a corker, a pop nugget of considerable charm and I wish I'd bought that single. The singer's playing rhythm, McLoughlin rips off a clean, 60s-worthy solo and the whole thing comes barreling to a close in strapping fashion.

There is, in rather secret-weapon fashion, a fifth member to this band, sax player Tony Belivacqua (though 'multi-instrumentalist' would be more accurate; bit later he'll take lead duties on "Everything I Know"), who disappeared back at "Pull Out" but reappears for "Tallboy" and adds essential grit to a set highlight, not surprising considering the flavors of The Go-Betweens and The Smiths that resonate in the song and Lamkin's spelled-out "T-A-L-L-B-O-Y" hook that will stay with me for days. That sax features even more prominently on "Bobby Brown" (yes, that Bobby Brown), a bar band/pub rock kind of rollicker that makes the trading of bass and lead just before it seem a brilliant stratagem. At this point I think that perhaps Belivacqua is the heart of the band but then realize that every member of The Soft Pack is the heart of the band, as well it should be (but isn't always, as we all know).

And so the night goes. "Parasites" is their most Echo redux and all the more a treat for it, Lamkin again making me think of a baggage-less Jim Morrison and it becomes clear that in that sense I gotta give it to 'em: on the Doors-driven side of post-punk The Soft Pack most certainly have a place at the table, even as "Mexico," a sad lost - or losing - love song speaks more to their LA ballad roots as any other inspiration, proving that terroir can't help but play its hand.

I can always tell I've had a good night out when I've written 'highlight of the night?' more than once in my notebook. Happened with "Tallboy," with "Extinction" and finally, with the penultimate "Answer To Yourself," which, simply put, is but a pure rock song through and through, drenched in hooks from the lively bassline to the Paisley Underground vocal (there's that regional DNA again) to the Husker Du-ish build of chords and solos, excellent excellent excellent.

In the end, yeah, The Soft Pack made it on to my show, and will doubtless show up on another playlist soon (just added that self-titled second album to the library to go with the vinyl copy of Strapped I bought after their set), and don't be too surprised if Crocodiles pop up now and again as well. So there's that part of the assignment sussed, then. And the 'enjoy the hell out of myself' part? I'll let you figure that out on your own. See you next time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Local Artist Speaks | PONY VILLAGE

Pony Village will be on The Lunch Box on Friday, October 12 at noon.  I scooped James Dineen by chatting with band member, Ryan Barber.  Meet him here!


How long have you lived in the Portland area? I have lived in the portland area for around 15 years, on and off.

Give us a brief history of your band/project.  The simple answer is that this band started as a recording project of mine, then evolved into a full band. But the actual history of the band since then has more twists and turns than an episode of "Quantam Leap". We'll just say we are currently working on a new album, here now, in present history.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play? Hmmm. Full song, singing and playing guitar would be "Hannah and Gabi", by the Lemonheads. But...... first things i learned to play were Metallica and Slayer rhythm guitar riffs. And I will gladly play them for anyone who wants to listen...

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?   That's almost impossible to answer. As far as playing, it totally depends on the crowd. As far as seeing a band, it totally depends on the band.  I've seen bands totally kill it in venues i know firsthand have the worst sound systems on earth.  And we've played shows where none of us could hear a thing on stage, but people loved it and we had a blast, we've also had shows where the sound on stage was pristine, but we were being rushed through our set, and the soundguy was a dick, and we didn't have fun. not gonna name names.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene? I think my band mates might have more to say on this but me personally? I really dig Towering Trees,  Charts, Talkative,  Fanno Creek,  Old Age,  Bevelers,  Ozarks, Pine Language,  Parson Redheads,  and of course Mr. Mike Coykendall.

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.  My rent got raised by $200 because a new set of condos went up at the end of my block. Only in Portland!! :)

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without.... Sriracha"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

DJ Klyph presents: The Movement

The Sounds of The DJ! - mixes from some of my friends. Some of the best DJs in the northwest. First up, Matt Nelkin of Liquid Beat Records. Check out what Matt has to say about this project: 
"DJ Premier is undoubtedly one of Hip-Hop’s greatest producers of all time. His work with Gang Starr, KRS-ONE, Group Home, Bumpy Knuckles and many more has cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever touch an MPC. In addition to all the classic Hip-Hop albums, songs and remixes he has produced in his career, I have always loved the juxtaposition of vocalists singing over Premier’s boom bap drums and distinctive chops.
As a tribute to what I consider to be this underappreciated aspect of his catalogue, I wanted to create a mix of some of my favorite DJ Premier produced R&B Songs. Included are original tracks, remixes, and a few blends of acapellas over a variety of Premier instrumentals. Hope you enjoy!"

Also new on Liquid Beat Portland's own The Love Loungers released a re-imagining of the Esther Williams classic "Last Night Changed It All". The project stands well on it's own and also features remixes by Nelkin, Dundiggy and Neighborhood resident Roane Namuh.

You can catch Matt live at the monthly event "Rockbox Dance Party" at Holocene with DJ Kez and Dundiggy and weekly on Liquid Beat Radio.

Portland's host with the most StarChile stopped by KZME and brought DJ Juggernaut and it was a good time as it always is with Star. They just released From The Mind Of Vol. 1, a mix that demonstrates the the skill of Juggernaut and the like mindedness of these long time collaborators. Check out this clip of their visit:

You can hear a sample of the mix next Tuesday as Juggernaut is featured in the second installment of Sounds of The DJ!

There's more mixes coming too, got some friends working things to share throughout the rest of October, so you'll want to tune in every Tuesday from 7-9pm to check out the latest.

Serge Severe and Zapata recently released a quick follow-up single to the Silver Novelist project entitled Treat H.E.R. Right with Serge speaking on how to treat the art for real. Click the link for the download:

So what's up with the event calendar? Here are a couple of events upcoming you'll want to check out:

Friday October 12th the Live and Direct PDX crew are back at Rotture and this time there bring guests PacDiv and Sir Mikey Rocks to the party. Get the info here.

Saturday October 13th the anticipated release from Luck-One and Dizz entitled Critical Mass is scheduled to be released. The projects first to single have gotten much spin on WTTN, and the full project promises to continue the trend of good music from these talented artists.

Friday October 19th the Beast Mode Tour hits Portland featuring Shai Linne, Beautiful Eulogy, Stephen the Levite, Theory Hazit & Lee Green together on one stage. Get the details here

Wednesday October 31st Digital Underground is celebrating Halloween in the Rose City at Refuge. More info here.

Saturday November 3rd The Robert Glasper Experiment makes a return to Portland following the release of Black Radio Recovered - The Remix EP. Portland's own Tony Ozier and The Doo Doo Funk Allstars will be on the stage as well. Check the specifics here

There's rumor that the Bizarre Ride to the Pharcyde Tour is making a stop in PDX. Stay tuned and I'll keep you updated.

Until next time...



Thursday, October 4, 2012


HOLOGRAMS / THE BE HELDS / VICE DEVICE - Mississippi Studio, 19 Sep 2012

I shouldn't even be here. Y'know how sometimes you're so godawful wicked tired you just canNOT drag yourself out the door no matter who's playing? I'm at least half way there tonight if not three quarters. I should be home attending to my droopy eyes and anemic knees, sitting at the computer posting post-punk on the Songs From Under The Floorboards facebook page. But there's only one problem. The band I've hauled myself out to see is Holograms, a scathingly good band young band from Stockholm I'd be a bloody fool to miss, especially at the Mississippi. I'd never forgive myself. A very wise person once said to me "Do everything you can to avoid regret." I try to live by that, and not being here tonight would constitute a serious betrayal of that premise. First though, there's the matter of support.

The Vice Device are a 3-piece from Portland and are another case of 'Why-haven't-I-heard-of-them-before?' (especially considering, as I later find out, they've been out playing live for over two years). I immediately want them for my show. Two singer/synth players (synthists? Yes, I'm keeping that one), both of whom also wield single drumsticks and bang away on electronic drum pads while the hip-hatted bassist stands a-tween them thumping out a righteous dark thrum.

Funny, to me at least, is the synthist stage right (Bobby Kaliber) wearing a Gary Numan t-shirt (by appearance it's suitably seasoned to be an original), since Vice Device amount to what I always wished Numan sounded like, more visceral, less icy. They do have at times a similarly swirly sound but it's more gutteral and driven, not so sang froid.

Not long into their set stage left synthist Andrea K has a sax hung around her neck, the bass player's percussing on his strings with (another) drumstick and a few measures down the road we're hit with this type of melodic discordancy that's tricky to make work and sets one's teeth deliciously on edge. Another neat trick at play is Bryan Carr playing way up on the neck to provide some lead guitar textures. A resourceful trio, to say the least.

The horn playing, by the way, skronks agreeably between Ornette Coleman and X-Ray Spex, spazzingly unhinged enough to get and keep your attention but not flying totally out of frame. Overall, in case you couldn't tell, a damn splendid find, a promising lot. Quite sadly, there are only eighteen of us watching. All the more for us, I guess.

Missoula's The Be Helds aren't really from there any more, they more or less live here now like everyone else. Drummer is thrashy enough that he knocks the floor tom off its feet early in the second song. Then again, maybe that's no surprise, since he informs us he found the drum set in a dumpster. There's just two of them, drummer and guitarist, and they're a charmingly shambolic pair ("Johnny Thunders meets Big Star meets a Jonathan Richman garage band" is what I scrawl in typically lazy rock journalism shorthand), as intent on a good time as they are on strict musicality. I mean, they're competent enough but that seems a bit beside the point. They are also rather hilarious, very relaxed in an offhand way and are the perfect palate-cleansing tonic between the more jagged post-punk sonics of the opener and headliner.

Holograms are a vividly exciting band and it's beyond perplexing why the attendance tonight makes the word 'sparse' sound crowded. It's too often said, but in a just world the venue would be seething with a sweating crowd perched on their tiptoes in anticipation. I truly hope it happens for Holograms elsewhere along this tour because it certainly isn't here.

When I first saw mention of this show I was a little surprised. A band from Stockholm on Captured Tracks touring the West Coast. Rare. But here's how they're doing it, at least in part: the drummer is borrowing that beater of a drumset from the Be Helds. Economy, the very ticket. But however they're managing it, whatever they have to do, I'm more than happy they made it.

Immediately a sonic assault, but one marked by one of the things that sets them instantly apart, the ringing, adroit lead guitar line of Anton Spetze, the spiraling Korg synth (Anton's brother Filip), pummeling drums (Mr Anton Strandberg) and a reckless, perfectly doom driving (and strummed, mostly) bass from singer Andreas Lagerstrom, all in all an inspired Beowulfian, roofbeam-raising noise that only the young can produce, with a precision that assures that the borrowed drum kit stays in place. The song is called Blaze On A Hillside, it's an utterly new tune that lasts over 5 1/2 minutes and knocks me out. Those few of us here are off to a gallopingly good start, it's going to be a lucky night for us.

It being a live setting, the mix isn't such that one can easily distinguish the lyrics, and if you didn't know that they were singing in English you might convince yourself that they're singing in Swedish but the absolute truth is, it doesn't matter. The old saw about the universality of music certainly applies here. Holograms speak in the widely spoken language of post-punk, that sound that enters your ears, expands in your chest and persuades you that some kind of magic blend of cynicism and transcendence is easily possible. Tonight, as the band transition into Chasing My Mind (off their self-titled debut album on Captured Tracks), they somehow keep reminding me of The Stranglers even as they bear them little resemblance beyond the 4-piece setup with a prominent keyboard presence. I think it comes down to intensity and cohesion, and the fact Lagerstrom over there on bass does indeed resemble a stocky Swede version of JJ Burnell, the same rather louche stage demeanor.

By the time we get to the trio of songs midset, ABC City, Monolith and Fever, the band have hit a stride that belies the smallness of the crowd. Holograms' intrinsic strength is the pairing of a kind of Harley-tailpipe roar with scything melody (and of course that bass tone, always keeping the post-punk shape in place). Lagerstrom's vocals don't have a wide variance in pitch but do exert a rather bellowing authority, especially when twinned with guitarist Spetze's singing, as on Monolith, a well-named epic monument of a song that begins innocently enough but soon enough builds itself into a racing, thunderous, heart-racing centerpiece that, even though my fatigue keeps me from moving much, nonetheless leaves me breathless, that good kind of breathlessness where you feel a bit dizzy but empowered at the same time. Which is a pretty succinct descriptor of both Holograms' sound and the effect it has and as such reminds me even more deeply of experiences seeing bands in London and San Francisco in the 1978-82 heyday of the form. In that respect, the impact they had on me while seeing them live, they could have been the Skids at the Rainbow, The Damned at the Old Waldorf, Killing Joke in a tiny pub in North London (where, in fact, there were far fewer in attendance than are here tonight). Bands like Holograms (and there are others) exude that effect without in any way being slavish to a particular brand. In a word, they thrill, and I'm thankful I got to see them in a setting like this.

Perhaps most exciting, final song Hidden Structures is, again, like the set's opener, a brand new song, or at least unfamiliar to those of us besotted by the album, and with it comes a tantalizing glimpse into Holograms' next LP. Though just as rousing and pulse-pounding as anything else this evening, it has a bit more space to it, Filip's synth throughout the song wandering up and down the melody, exploring but never drifting, finding itself with far more breathing room than usual while the rest of the band provides the muscle and structure (ha!) necessary to maintain the band's signature style. It leaves us with a taste for Holograms Mk II, and I for one can hardly wait.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Anyone listening to Songs From Under The Floorboard lately, or indeed just listening to me over drinks or lunch or in random encounters on the street, knows I've hit upon a heretofore-to-me-unknown scene. There's a thrashingly active punk/post-punk scene happening in the Northwest and Portland is its unofficial capital (though, y'know, there wouldn't actually be a punk capital, would there?) Having only just discovered all this, I feel fortunate indeed that a 4-band live show of some magnitude is happening within a couple weeks of hitting punk paydirt.

So it is that I find myself at an undisclosed locale in North Portland on the first night of September, sprawled on the curb outside for Autistic Youth to find their inputs and crank into it. This show is under the loose auspices of Blackwater, a rather splendid oasis of a record store on Northeast Russell Street (across from the Wonder) that doubles as an outstanding record label that doubles as a record store, or something clever like that. Mostly what it is, though, is the epicenter of this thriving underground network of bands that stretches from Vancouver BC (home of tonight's planned headliner The Spectres - more on that in a bit) to San Francisco and over to Japan and probably Peru and Ames, Iowa. It's happening, really happening, you just don't know it's happening but now you do.

Autistic Youth are as tight as an anxiously-coiled high E string, their slowly (at first) semi-strident punk tempered by our old friend melody, so in that way it's pop-punk put through a jet engine. And oh yeah, loud, did I mention loud? No matter, the classic charge of their brand of punk makes up for the hour-forty-five minute late start. Time, in fact, is forgotten under the assault, and, in my case anyway (and this will persist throughout the night), so is age. There is a feel to this evening that uncannily recalls the shows of my youth, of 1977-79 San Francisco, though, having said that, I think it's germane to point out that the quality of what's on show this evening is (he says controversially) some ticks better than those halcyon days of my youth. The primary reason? Already stated: melody. It's everywhere tonight, snaking through even the most sonic barrage, so if I happen to mention it a few more times, forgive me. Back in the origin days, there was so much emphasis on cathartic release that I believe that having the backbone of a tune was sometimes overlooked. It's instructive that most of what has proven to be rather timeless from those years does in fact have a melodic core, from The Dead Kennedys to The Descendents to X-Ray Spex, and the bands this evening seem to have absorbed that lesson.

Which is why, de rigueur as it is for the genre, I could do with a tad less of the brash-toned shoutiness adopted by most punk bands. Yeah, it's what's expected and, in the case of Autistic Youth at least, the songs are more than strong enough to survive, it nonetheless occurs to me that the songs would be manifestly stronger with less stridency of larynx. Unsurprisingly, it's when the singer ain't singin' that my head is the most lost to the thunder of their sound. I fully realize this puts me out of stride with the vast majority of those in attendance but I can live with that. And let it be said, I ain't lookin' for ballads. Better dead than mellow in this context and I couldn't be happier for the splenetic energy bursting off the stage, the aforementioned quality of the material itself (its abundant melody - ahh, that word again), the whole deal. But my inner ear wants some measure of nuance, it wants, in short, harmony in my head. Nuff said.

OK, for one, I didn't realize Blackwater kingpin (ha! He'll love that word) Keith is the drummer for The Estranged. Shows what a sorry newcomer I am. For two, The Estranged are immediately one of the most - oh screw that - THE most exciting live band I've seen this year. The thrumming dark persistence of the basslines, the utterly charging, edgily atmospheric guitar figures, the drumming crisp and monstrous, the entire package is a relentless assault of the very best kind. If my having a radio show accomplishes nothing else but the championing of this band, it will have succeeded. They throw all the shapes a hopeless post-punk romantic like me want to hear but they're so immeasurably alive doing it that any sense of wallowing in (an adopted) nostalgia is quite simply obliterated.

I fumble with comparisons. The Buzzcocks if they were The Damned if they were Joy Division minus the doom. The Estranged's compactness fits all three, as does their brittle incendiary nature. But still I fail. They sound like none of them. They are the perfect storm of influence refracted via their collective prism of energy, distilled through their own inspired and exhilarating process. I am, in a word, wowed, and pledge to myself to see them live every chance I get and suggest you do the same. Too tired to go? No you're not, and whatever reticence you might have to fight to get yourself out the door will melt in way in wonderfully blast furnace fashion once you're actually there. Do. It.

Red Dons. To dispel a rumor I myself had been guilty of spreading, tonight is not the last Red Dons show ever. It's not even the last show of this tour (they had a date Sep 9th still) but this will be the last tour for a while due to geographic differences, which beats the hell out of artistic ones. Meanwhile, the Dons' set shows again how the night overall could have benefited from a better vocal mix, as the band suffer from this as much as Autistic Youth did. While their mix of Clashy vibrance and pure punk punch carries the night, the (again) shouty vox are so over-modulated that I'm at times surprised my own glasses don't shatter. That quibble aside, the mosh energy is fantastic, folks caroming and lurching about with a giddy abandon, and when the bass player explodes into the audience, it's pretty ace. Let me sketch the participants: bass player, exuberant and committed and looking not a little like Neil Finn, which is maybe so un-punk rock to say that it's the ultimate punk rock compliment. Lead and rhythm guitarist/singer that has apparently inherited Joe Strummer's mantle (though not his voice, exactly). Second rhythm guitarist that stands rather implacably with a Byrnean calm while sending out blistering chords that may well anchor the whole band were it not for a motorized bald drummer that not only provides pummelingly impeccable beats but was also thoughtful enough to invite his grandmother so I'm not the eldest in attendance. How nice is that?

At one point the singer abandons his guitar and plunges into the swirling melee in front of the stage and that, folks, is solidarity, which I point out to, umm, point out that that is what this scene is flush with. Every one of the bands here and all the musicians and fans that I've seen milling around the store and here tonight are to a person a part of a larger whole and they know that, they embrace it, which is the punk rock ethos at its core, the crumbling of which could arguably be said to have been the downfall of the original scene.

The Dons finish their set with a rousing rendition of Pariah, the only song of theirs I really know by heart as I played it the week before on my show and what a triumph of a song and this time both guitarist and bass player hop down into the scrum, the former ending up on his back on the floor, still playing. In other words, a picture book ending.

At the end of the night (despite The Spectres being unable to play due to their bass player not making it across the border from their base in Vancouver BC; will definitely catch them next time) the place smells like a locker room, there's a minor sea of beer spilled on the floor, some friendly moshing bruises are carried out into the night with honor and all our eardrums are dangerously abuzz. Meaning, all's right with the world once again. Amen to that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Local Artist Speaks | MIKE COYKENDALL

Mike Coykendall is a legend as far as I'm concerned.  I suspect a few other folks in town will agree with me in that regards as he can be found working with so many other musicians on creating great music together.

Now, he steps from behind the curtain to give us the true blue Mike Coykendall. Mike is releasing his very own CD this month and KZME has been airing tracks for a few weeks now.

The songs do differ in flavor and intent.  I feel the rock and roll and the goodness of genuine sincerity his lyrics.  I also sense a gentle giant of great talent behind the CD.  Runaways and Strays is a jumpy tune that caught my attention immediately.  I also like Hippie Girl and made it my KZME Song of the Week.

He is having his CD release party on September 15 at The Doug Fir (with 1939 Ensemble and other special guests on the bill).  The release is on September 18 and includes an in store performance at Music Millennium at 6 pm.

I chatted with Mike (well, virtually!) recently about his background and such.  Meet him now!

How long have you lived in the Portland area?
since late '99

Give us a brief history of your band/project:
Well... I have a few bands/projects that I work with. Many good friends have been made in this crazy world of music. Currently, I'm in the process of all that goes along with releasing this record that I've been constructing over the last years. It's called "Chasing Away the Dots" and comes out on the Fluff & Gravy Label on 9/18/12. As far as live performances go, I'm using a revolving cast of characters. That way I can stay busy. It's hard to keep a band together and can be restrictive with everyones schedules and needs. There's not a lot of money in it (so far, and probably never will be) so I have to keep it lean and mean. I'm fortunate to have so many talented friends that will come and help me out with a string of shows, etc. Also, I'm playing solo more and also doing quite a few duo shows. It's about the songs and having a good time. Mostly.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?
Day Tripper by the Beatles but I wasn't doing it correctly for a while. I was putting an F# where the G should go. Oh well. I got there eventually.

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?
The Doug Fir is really nice for a big rock sound. They do a good job there. I like the Aladdin for seeing a show / listening. All of them can be good if the night is right.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?
Too many to list. Let me see... always Fernando. He's a Portland treasure. Pigeons, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, Old Light, it goes on and on.

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.
I saw a herd of bicyclists with trailers hooked onto their bikes that were moving someone's stuff to another location. That was pretty cool.

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without_____”

Connect with Mike Coykendall here:
Facebook Fan Page

Check out the video for Hippie Girl:

Mike Coykendall - The Hippie Girl (ft. Zooey Deschanel, Eric Earley & Ben Gibbard) from Mr. Fly on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Local Artist Speaks | ROBIN JACKSON

I had no idea.

Robin and I first met almost a decade ago when he was attending Evergreen State College. He was an intern at KBOO Community Radio for a few months while I was serving as station manager.  I remember him as a enthusiastic, creative whippersnapper - and now look at him!  He has grown into quite the talented musician and I was thrilled to hear him play his music on this charming album, Dust Diaries, which is his first solo effort. He's also a rascal with Vagabond Opera AND the March Fourth Marching Band.  Who knew?  I had no idea!

The CD is a sweet gathering of several tunes that capture your attention with the first word and takes you along for the lovely ride as the song progresses, very gently. I love the horns and the strings, too.  Some of my favorite tracks are: The Spring and Paper Bird.

Robin will have his CD release party on August 23 at Mississippi Pizza.  Details here.

Meet Robin Jackson......!

-- Dennise M. Kowalczyk, host of Trixie Pop heard on 1071 FM KZME Radio | Thursdays at 7 pm


How long have you lived in the Portland area?
I've lived here almost ten years! Oh my gosh...

Give us a brief history of your band/project:
There's not a lot! I just launched my solo band June 8th, with the release of my debut solo album 'Dust Diaries' at the Secret Society in Portland. I created an album first, before the band was fully formed and now am beginning to gig and give it life.  I guess you can say this project is a culmination of inspiration from playing in my other groups Vagabond Opera and the March Fourth Marching Band, as well as from a monthly songwriters night I hold at my house called the Songwriter Soiree. The soiree is an open mic night in my living room where songwriters share original music with each other. I used it as a kick in the butt to write music. That's where all the songs on my album came from. Oh, that, and heartbreak : )

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?
Oh, the really first? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the violin at age 5.

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands? all honestly I'd pick Mississippi Pizza. I know, it's small and not a "big deal" but the intimacy is just lovely. It's where Vagabond Opera started out so it has a special place in my heart. I love the lighting and the feel of it. A close second is the Secret Society. What a great spot. They treat musicians great there.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?
At the moment I'm digging some of my songwriter friends the most like Ben Darwish, Zak Borden, Christopher Worth, Patti King, The Midnight Serenaders, Hans Araki, and Y La Bamba...

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.
Oh, that's easy...waking up this morning (and most mornings) in my vintage urban farmhouse (in the Mississippi neighborhood of course), saying "hi" to my 4 other roommates who are also self-employed and work at home...then working out in the "garden office" by the chicken coop (we have three chicks)...where I spent the day trying to work but being distracted by someone always doing yoga on the back deck and my friend bringing over homemade raw chocolate (which she sells for a living).   Oh, and then seeing the Mayor at the coffee shop by my house this morning. It's not always that ideal, but pretty often...only in Portland!

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without: ___________ ”
At the moment the answer is Blues dancing!  (I's fun...wait, is this a personal ad?)

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Local Artist Speaks | ORPHAN TRAIN

Every so often, James Dineen (KZME music director) asks me to screen CDs for our library (can't have any bad words on the air, right?).  Recently, he gave me a CD that, well, knocked by socks off.  So much so, I almost made a digital copy but opted not to do that and will listen to KZME to hear tracks by my newest band crush:  Orphan Train.

Electric Junk by Orphan Train marks the 4th release from singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist, Aram Arslanian.  I first heard Aram a year or so ago when he performed at one of the Music Monday shows presented by the Gresham Arts Plaza (KZME was media sponsor). His performance at that time stayed true to his folk roots, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he is the talent behind Orphan Train which is all about one of my favorite genres: indie pop!

Astonishingly, both James and I agree that pretty much every track on the CD is downright delicious.  Well, I used that word, but you know what I mean.  I was so excited about the discovery of this CD, I found Aram on the interwebs and asked him to be my first guest in bringing back my blog, The Local Artist Speaks.  Blessed be, he enthusiastically agreed to do it.  -- Dennise Kowalczyk | Host of Trixie Pop, ArtclecticPDX and The Lunch Box.

Meet....Orphan Train!

How long have you lived in the Portland area?

almost 5 years. we moved from LA just after my son was born. Besides Portland being a great music town it also is a great place to start a family.

Give us a brief history of your band/project:

I started in Boston which is where I’m from. Played in a band called ‘Pulse 8’ which morphed into my solo project ‘Aram Island’.  Moved to LA to pursue a song-writing career and found myself working as a hired gun supporting other songwriters and bands both on the road in my studio ‘Kingsley Garden’. At one point I even found myself playing in a Lisa Marie Presley’s band!

I signed on with a little label in Los Angeles called Surprise Truck and released two records using just my 1st name ‘Aram’. The rhythm section I was playing with, Scott McPherson and Matt Fitzell, really helped to carve out a distinct groove for my, otherwise, pretty folky tunes and for the 3rd record I renamed the band and CD ‘Orphan Train’.
Electric Junk is pretty much a solo affair yet is the most rock and roll sound I’ve ever made. My wife who has her own project called ‘Ladytown’ sings a bit. I have squeezed the writing and recording of this record in between recording other folks in my studio in Vancouver.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?

I plunked out the melody to Jesus Christ Superstar on the piano over and over again when I was 8 or 9. Drove my family insane with that! I think the 1st guitar song was America’s ‘Lonely People’ when I was about 11.

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?

I play a winery in Battle Ground regularly call Heisen House Vineyards that is like a mini paid vacation every-time I play. Secret Society Ballroom is great all around for vibe, staff & sound. I love to see bands at the Mississippi Studios or Aladdin. The Tiger  Bar rocks my face off.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?

I believe that they are on hiatus, but I LOVE ‘Kleveland’. ‘Old Light’ are amazing artists. Love ‘Don of Division’. ‘Drunken Prayer’...genius. Got a sweet spot for ‘Lincoln’s Beard’.

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.

Got a call from a playwright seeking a composer for a musical he was developing called OMG Rock Opera... a story of Jesus and  the Disciples... except they all engage in pervy sex acts with each well as the farm animals. And YES I took the gig!

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without_____”


Find more about Orphan Train:

Monday, August 6, 2012

DJ Klyph presents: The Movement

This summer has been kinda ridiculous so far considering all the great music that's been released in the local hip hop scene here in Portland. Once again it's been a blessing to connect with some great artists over the last several weeks. Let's begin where we left off last:

Stewart Villain came through a while ago with the Chill Crew as he's producing their next project and he promised he'd be back. We'll he did make it back through along with Frankly Esquire to talk about the Arcade Club project they're working on, sharing some exclusive material. He's also collaborating on a project with DJ Fatboy who you know from his visit to the station with Cool Nutz. The project is called Lean Team - brother is busy!

Stewart Villain on Welcome to the Neighborhood with DJ Klyph June 2012 from DJ Klyph on Vimeo.

OK, so here's me being a fan. On the second Friday every month, the Live and Direct PDX event brings together some of the best talent in the northwest. SlimKid3 of the Pharcyde, DJ Rev Shines of Livesavas/Shine Language, DJ Nature of L.A.B. Life As Beats, Starchile of Shadyville and the man behind the scenes Colton Tong. It's a dance party, but yet more than that. Three DJs doing live remixes of some of your favorite music with turntables and MPCs on stage and Starchile guiding you on the journey. It's an experience not to be missed for sure. Check out a clip of the guys at KZME!

Live & Direct Crew on Welcome to the Neighborhood with DJ Klyph July 2012 from DJ Klyph on Vimeo.

Green Team Official is G_Force and Lawz Spoken. They're kinda like a modern day Cheech and Chong (check for the promo video for the project - comedy). They we're cool enough to come by the station to talk about the project and the album release show that they partnered with We Out Here Magazine. They even played some exclusive material and G_Force gave a live performance - twice. Here's a peak:

Green Team Official on Welcome to the Neighborhood with DJ Klyph July 2012 from DJ Klyph on Vimeo.

I connected with Commenter-E a while ago after coming across some of his music and have been looking forward to having him on the show. He passed through with vocalist Danielle to talk about the upcoming project The Power of One. He's released visuals from the first single entitled Return to Shangri-La, plus a free download of This Is Portland, a track that's not a part of the album, but has been getting requests for airplay since we played it on the show. You can get it at as a free download.

Commenter-E - Return To Shangri-La from Commenter-E on Vimeo.

Sole Provider and I connected a couple of years ago, and you've heard several projects he's been involved with on the show. He came out to the station with producer Goodwill to talk about the latest with North Next Entertainment and the new project he and Goodwill are collaborating on, Scheme Work. It was a real good time with exclusive tracks being played, live rhymes in studio... Check out the podcast - plus a little video clip:

Sole Provider and Goodwill on Welcome to the Neighborhood July 2012 from DJ Klyph on Vimeo.

Serge Severe. MC, artist, all around good dude. The king of the Neighborhood made an appearance with producer Zapata on the day they released Silver Novelist, some of Serge's best material yet. It was a good time for sure, as it always is when Serge is in the building, and he was kind enough to show the world the skills and talent of a true MC live on KZME. Check the video below:

While Serge and Zapata where at the station, we had the opportunity to announce the line up for the NW Hip Hop Fest sponsored by KZME going down September 6th, 7th and 8th at Ash Street and Kelly's Olympian - the first night featuring the Welcome to the Neighborhood showcase with a line-up of the man himself Serge Severe, as well as Neighborhood residents Destro Destructo, who's been a great supporter of the show with his current collaboration with producer CashFlow, and the unofficial co-host of WTTN, the Humble Beast himself, Theory Hazit.

Be sure to stay tuned for more information on the NW Hip Hop Fest with more in-studio guests and line-up announcements leading up to the event.

Until next time, y'all be blessed!


Sunday, August 5, 2012



OK, let's get this out of the way straight off: a band like Dirty Projectors should not be popular. Peculiar jutting time signatures, drum patterns that splat and fade in spastic bursts, elliptical, often slyly biting lyrics. How is that a recipe for success in an age that sees Mumford & Sons rise to the top of the indie heap? (no offense; I like M&S but there's nothing too adventurous about them, you have to admit) I suppose, if you're going to 'blame' anyone for this anomaly, it would have to be Radiohead. They burst the dam of pent-up, oddly angular experimental rock music over a decade ago, down which sluiced the likes of Animal Collective, Mum, cLOUDDEAD and countless others. Dirty Projectors, however, just might represent the apogee of this trend. I'll get to the details in a moment, but I truly cannot think of a band currently active and anywhere near this popular - the Crystal is at capacity tonight - that consistently skims the uppermost edges of what's possible in the realm of pop music. Yes, I suppose, Radiohead would be another but seeing them live these days is a very rare and very dear prospect indeed. Fortunately, we have Dirty Projectors. But first, tonight anyway, we have Wye Oak.

Wye Oak are from Baltimore and are named after the honorary state tree of Maryland, a gigantic white oak whose originating acorn is thought to have been germinated in 1540. Wye Oak the band, while appearing to be considerably younger, put out a sound that is just about as massive, and they do it right off, which is a bit of a shock considering there's only two of them, blond guitar siren Jenn Wasner and drummer (for now) Andy Stack. Wasner's red Fender is being run through some kind of ringing treatment and it's simply a bloody marvelous sound, full in equal measure of clarity and muscle. Oh, and reverb, did I mention reverb? Not a drenching, shoegazey reverb, but just enough to let her solos carry mystery into the already steaming air of the Crystal. The hit I get from Ms Wasner is an updated indie Lita Ford with a hint of Chrissie Hynde's stage presence and no, I'm not exaggerating.

Four songs in Stack switches to bass and rather than the percussive playing I'd expected from a drummer we instead get virtuosic fret gymnastics worthy of White Denim's Steve Terebecki. As the song evolves into a kind of lilty drone, anchored by an 808-ish dancey beat, he's at the keyboard, bass abandoned while she lets off some melodic sheets of tremolo-ed guitar. A lovely moment, proving that in Wye Oak's case at least, two is more than enough.

Though their sound does in fact, on occasion, soar toward the edge of the shoegaze stratosphere, there's something too delicate about their melodies for it to ever get lost in there. So let's dub them neo-shoegaze pop, how about? The drums, by the way, are profound, a huge sound, think cannons. And in case I haven't gotten it across, the girl can play herself some guitar. Believe. Even the song mid-set that was marred by a steady current of feedback was surmounted by Wasner's authority over each of her six strings. Wye Oak's one of those duo bands whose sound is so giant you keep looking for the other band members at first but once you've convinced yourself there aren't any, you settle in to a kind of subtle amazement and let the songs spread over you like, yes, a legendary oak (you knew I was going to have to work that metaphor in there somehow).

This was my first time seeing Dirty Projectors and approaching the show I must confess to some apprehension. Swing Lo Magellan, the record they're touring at the moment, is, to a degree greater than even their previous, breakthrough album Bitte Orca, nothing if not a series of very complex set pieces, bendy and surprising and scrupulously arranged. In other words, songs that might struggle to come across in a live setting. To say that such thinking was misplaced is the greatest understatement of the year so far.

After opening with Swing Lo's title track the band venture into "Offspring Are Blank," the first track on that same album. It's as complex (that word again, it might show up a lot in this post) a piece of art-rock trickery on record as we've heard in some time and lo (ha!) and behold, it's exactly as impressive live, from the almost slave-spiritual background vocals it begins with that carry through the verse segments of the song (when not interrupted by a ferocious rocking explosion of a chorus) to the proto-typical Projectors chopped rhythmic structure. Just plain masterful and it shows very early in their set just how much at the peak of their powers they are.

This is, of course, David Longstreth's band, and it's run as more or less a benevolent dictatorship. The others - bassist Nat Baldwin, second guitarist Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle on keys and drummer Brian McComber - contribute ideas and make suggestions but the vision is Longstreth's alone and in its singularity I'm reminded of Captain Beefheart. Whereas the Captain trafficked in distorted, contorted blues motifs, Longstreth opts more for latent prog-pop strains flavored by messed-with Afrobeat guitar figures and rhythms and the aforementioned gospel-y touches, most often evident in crazed precise handclap patterns.

As for Longstreth's presence, it's unmistakably charismatic. Maybe it's just the almost-shoulder-length hair flying down around his face and the southpawness of his playing (he plays a right-handed guitar left-handed and upside down) but he can't help but remind of another leftie guitarist - this one from the Northwest - some 20 years ago: hugely talented, popular beyond expectation and a bit off-puttingly touchy at times in interviews. But he's got it, that it that defines pop greatness and from all indications he has the drive to keep making music this surpassingly great.

And oh dear, was it great. All but five of the sixteen songs in their set come from Swing Lo Magellan, with a smattering of Bitte Orca and Mount Wittenberg Orca, their collaboration with Bjork. "Socialites," off the new record, is one of those with the Afro-beat tinge to it, Longstreth's palm wine guitar bringing a North African Mediterranean breeze to Portland. That song and the next ("Beautiful Mother" off the Bjork record) are so beautifully, precisely executed that it has me scratching down in my notebook "a wonderfully challenging band, the dual female vox on "..Mother" are truly a thing of wonder, almost yelping but harmonic as hell. Hard to describe how effective they are, otherworldly yet grounded." And the hits to the wonder reflex just kept on coming.

"Gun Has No Trigger" is a skewed avant-pop soul masterpiece. Bitte Orca's "Useful Chamber" is one of their most complex songs (by now you know that that's saying something, yeah?), crazy with changes and tempo mash-ups but it comes off perfectly, perfectly, ending with a mad dash into a frenetic chaos that makes total sense. Astounding, and in the end, just plain joyous. Throughout the night, Longstreth's guitar playing is somehow both rather feral and exceedingly precise, J. Mascis if he were Pat Metheny. And special credit has to go to McComber, whipping out these bizarre rhythmic tropes with the confidence of a young Bill Bruford. And though perhaps a tad overused, the percussive handclapping is as unerring as I've ever seen it, and amazingly, in another sign of how beloved and innately understood this band is by their fans, the audience quite often joins in, not missing a fractured beat.

As the show progresses, the screen-projected, made-up heiroglyphics behind them increase in (here it is again) complexity, becoming a dizzying wall of indecipherable but intriguing script, and you can't help but believe that such was the intention, to reinforce the extent to which Dirty Projectors are able to create a joyous, intense, irresistible and compelling density that leaves the mouth agape, the brain spinning and the heart in love. As we were leaving, I said to my friend Chris how much my prog-pop friends on facebook are missing out. Dirty Projectors are a gateway back into modern music for anyone who feels that a certain intelligent adventurousness has been missing since the heyday of King Crimson or Kraan or fill-in-the-blank. Meanwhile, for those (overwhelmingly much younger) fans selling out venue after venue on this tour, well, they'll get to say, in twenty, thirty years time, "Yeah, I got to see Dirty Projectors live and they were AMAZING!"