Jul 20, 2016
Let your friends know to sign up for the newsletter! We partnered up with Beacon Sound this month to give away a $25 gift card, vinyl for Beacon Sound artists La Nuit, and a month long pass to Holocene - including a plus one (which could be you)!
Tucked away on Mississippi, Beacon Sound boasts a unique vinyl collection spanning across contemporary electronic, indie rock, and modern composition/experimental material, along with an impressive cassette and print collections. There is a sheer love of the weird and boundary pushing that is evident in all that owner Andrew Neerman puts together, and all that they release on the Beacon Sound record label including artists like Apartment Fox, Colleen, Peter Broderick, and Benoit Pioulard. Neerman approaches it all with a sense of cultural activism. The purpose being to make connections and share knowledge via music and art that is harder to find in a scene dominated by rock. With a long history of amazing shows, talks, DJs sets taking place in the store, Beacon Sound has reached a new height after receiving noise complaints. Now they work to showcase art and fashion in collaboration with The Practice Space and Babylon Vintage. We chatted with Andrew Neerman about his thoughtful approach to curation and how it all came to be.
What is the origin story of Beacon Sound? When did you launch the record label?
Ha. The short story is that I was sitting outside of Extracto in the Spring of 2011 watching Jose Medeles move Revival Drums from one retail space to another. I asked him about it and made an offhand remark about how the space he was vacating would make a "nice little record shop". He was so enthusiastic, even calling up the landlord for me, that the ball just started rolling...and rolling and rolling. I had been buying and selling records for years to supplement my job as a social worker but I still had no place starting a retail business, as my friends will attest! I'd also been having to mailorder much of the music I was into (hello, Demdike Stare!) since the demise of Ozone Records and I had a hunch, more-or-less accurate, that there was demand here for what I was listening to at the time. It seemed like the dominance of rock music in Portland might be on the wane, too...ok, I might have been wrong about that.
I had dreamed about starting a label for years but the shop ended up being the right platform for it. I started with cassettes, initially releasing my brother Alex's first album as Apartment Fox in 2013, then had a series of fortuitous encounters that lead to working with the Buenos Aires electronic trio Isla De Los Estados and Barcelona experimental pop artist Lucrecia Dalt. And then Peter Broderick got involved when he moved home from Europe and I commissioned his collaborative work with my buddy Gabriel Saloman, which ended up being the first vinyl release (funded by Kickstarter). It's been really difficult financially but I recently leased out half of the front space here to Babylon Vintage so things are looking less stressful on that front.
What artists or artistic encounters have inspired you recently?
I've had a handful of records on heavy rotation this year: Bat For Lashes, Mark Pritchard, Pantha Du Prince, The Range, Anohni, Sophia Loizou, Tim Hecker, Andy Stott, Mikkel Metal. And I've been digging back into Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode recently. The Anohni record, in particular, really speaks to me with its incisive politics and distorted electronics (check the songs "Drone Bomb Me" and "Obama").
In terms of "artistic encounters", I guess the first thing that comes to mind is getting to watch the musical development of my brother Alex aka Apartment Fox and my friend Derek Hunter Wilson as they hone their respective crafts. Derek on the modern classical end of things and Alex doing his all-hardware techno thing.
Are there aspects of recording vs. live music that excite you more and vice versa?
Well, I'm sure we'll end up where we started someday, singing songs to each other around a fire. But in the meantime I'll give equal weight to live music and recorded music. I've always enjoyed the physicality of vinyl and, in general, our technological ability to archive sounds and return to them again and again.
Beacon Sound has hosted so many cool events and shows in your space. What made you want to create such a versatile space? Do any moments stand out?
What really pushed me to expand the shop to Mississippi Ave was 1) the idea of being close to Reading Frenzy, 2) being more visible to the general public, and 3) the opportunity to host events and have a gallery. I was always attracted to the idea of record store as public space/cultural outpost and it was difficult to realize that in the tiny little room we occupied up on Prescott. Unfortunately, we were beset with noise complaints soon after opening over here and I had to curtail a lot of the high-volume shows. I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things, though, and also trying to branch out: we're hosting our first poetry reading this Thursday.
The moment that most stands out to me as being memorable is the in-store concert that we hosted for French artist Colleen, something of a dream come true for me. The show that Jason Urick recently put on here for Lau Nau was also fantastic.
What do you think of the collaborative aspect of the Portland scene?
That's a complicated question. There's a lot to celebrate and plenty to cast a critical eye upon. Personally, I love working with like-minded people here whenever possible to make shit happen. But I also get down on Portland's music scene sometimes for its particular brand of clique-ishness and mirror-gazing insularity. The awful state of our local press doesn't help, in my opinion, nor does the dominance of social media in our lives. Is anyone doing any serious cultural analysis here, connecting the dots between all the interesting things happening and digging deep, instead of writing the usual puff pieces? Maybe it's happening and I'm just not seeing it.
Anyways, I love this place, and am deeply invested in the city, but what excites me most at the end of the day are the interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations with people in other parts of our chaotic world with similar visions to my own. I get bored quickly when I look at Portland's music scene in isolation or try to stuff different arenas of collaboration into separate silos. On a local level I try to keep Beacon Sound as a little oasis of cultural activism -- part of, and with an eye on, Portland, of course, but equally outward looking. I think it's worth noting that there are a bunch of people here doing this sort of de-compartmentalized collaborative work that deserve far more recognition: Angela Mattox, PICA's Artistic Director, immediately comes to mind as someone who has labored tirelessly to facilitate crucial connections between artists engaged in all sorts of work both here and abroad. Disjecta's Bryan Suereth, too.
Another thing that too often goes unmentioned is the level to which people here are willing to go to share knowledge and help each other out. Eric Isaacson from Mississippi freely shared advice before we opened the shop and Joel Leoschke from Kranky has been a source of both know-how and iconoclastic inspiration to me since he moved here from Chicago. Not to mention all the amazing people (several dozen -- you know who you are) who have mostly volunteered their time and energy to keep the lights on over the years.
Lastly, going deeper with the question of collaboration, I spend a lot of time working on housing and transportation issues, and encouraging responsible density, as the Land Use Chair of my neighborhood. I always encourage people to get involved in their neighborhoods and groups like Portland For Everyone (portlandforeveryone.org), get educated on the complex issues we're facing, and avoid xenophobic thinking by working face-to-face with people from different walks of life. Bitching about "condos, hipsters, and Californians" on Facebook does not constitute civic-mindedness, it just exposes your inability to think for yourself.
What are some of the upcoming releases on your label that you are most excited about?
I have two gorgeous albums coming out soon by PDX composer Derek Hunter Wilson (mentioned above) and Vancouver songwriter Ora Cogan, both of which feature the design work of Bijan Berahimi, my good friend and one of Portland's finest young designers. I'm reissuing two albums this Fall by Terry Riley, too, which I haven't officially announced yet. I'm also in the early stages of collaborating with a label in Beirut called Ruptured, which is run by a guy named Ziad Nawfal. He has a long-running radio show on Radio Liban over there and has been referred to as "Lebanon's John Peel", though he apparently hates being tagged with that. Initially I am going to do cassette versions of albums by the artists Munma, RadioKVM, and Fadi Tabbal. Hopefully next year we'll commission some sort of collaborative work between artists on each of our labels. Time will tell!
Posted by EV
Forces at Work: Megan McGeorge of Piano Push Play
Jul 13, 2016
Have you ever spotted beautiful pianos down by the waterfront or up on top of Portland at Mount Tabor? You may have even spotted them at Holocene events - most recently a piano with an LED screen that lit up as people played at the Tin House release show. Provided by the people of Piano Push Play, these repurposed pianos are open to be played by the public to create tiny, magical, musical moments. We chatted with founder Megan McGeorge about her own history with music, past and present, and her desire to invite everyone to interact, open up, and learn around the communal space of a piano. Follow this map and discover some beautiful pianos!
When did Piano Push Play begin? How did it it start?
Piano Push Play (PPP) began in 2012. I walked out of AL's Den one night and saw a cello player on the corner of 13th and Burnside and turned to my friends and said...I want to do that. But I'm a piano player...it's a little harder than bringing out a cello or guitar. Months went by and I couldn't stop thinking of the idea. I realized there was a piano store just a few blocks away. I went in and started making friends and asking questions....do they let piano outside, what's that cost etc. and finally I came out with it. I wanna give a concert on that street corner.....They were wonderful from the beginning, they said we love it, we'll mount a piano for you on a dolly and whenever you want you can wheel it up the street and play for people. Hence our name: Piano. Push. Play.
Personally, what is your relationship with pianos?
It was my first instrument. I started lessons at 5. It had been my great-grandmother’s piano. My parents still have it. I learned later in life, once I had been doing this for years that she went around army hospitals during WWII playing for soldiers as an early form of music therapy. This kind of outreach is in my blood I guess.
What was the first 'Piano Push Play' piano? Who designed it, and what is that process like?
The first year I pushed that piano out to the street corner it wasn't painted at all. I had my friend design us a poster and we would tape the posters to the side of the piano for the 3 hours we'd wheel it outside. The next year I got 5 pianos together and it was my friend and housemates that painted them....in addition to me spray-painting and stenciling them with the simple message: please play me. My lovely friend and housemate Sam Romero painted the lettering on our first painted piano placed in our original location (13th and Burnside).
What other interactive or situational art have you been inspired by?
I have been a fan of Jeanne-Claude and Christo for many years. They do incredible work- super large scale projects that are alive for weeks at a time and then gone..
Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin 1971 - 95, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Photograph by Volfgang Volz, '95
Ephemeral work is powerful work to me. I feel that's something similar to these pianos....they are there for a few weeks and then they move on. Placing these pianos help folks view their environment in a new way. Instead of the usual street corner....it's now a living room/stage/meeting place.
And then it's gone.
I'm also a fan of how they worked....always raising private money for their projects through selling renderings based on what they were going to do. They had more freedom to do exactly what they wanted to do when they were not taking money from, institutions/grants/state agencies.
We joked that that's what we were going for last weekend - wrapping: all the pianos up in the rain. The Jeanne-Claude+Christo version of PPP.
What are some of the most spectacular encounters you've seen people have with the pianos?
I remember we had placed a piano on the bus mall last summer and not even 5 minutes into it being there this group of boys are skateboarding down the street and one of them hops off and goes up to the piano and starts playing Fur Elise....which I LOVED. Unexpected interactions happening between strangers, houseless folks sitting down and performing Bach or a completely beautiful original piece of music on the spot are really powerful for me and others. I love sitting back in a corner and just watching things unfold. The people walking by that stop to listen, to take a photo, to be taken out of the EVERYDAY. That's really what makes my heart swell.
You are a musicia, playing in bands like Ancient Heat and under the moniker LEO and now Megan Diana, what is next for your personal music?
I'm releasing an EP at the end of this summer....We just wrapped up a video for one of the songs off that and I'm so incredibly excited to share it soon...I'll also be scoring a full length film, a first for me after doing lots of writing for short commercial projects.
Tell us about your favorite time playing at Holocene!
Playing at Holocene with Ancient Heat was always an incredible dance party and so much fun because all the folks in that group are a blast and lovely folks.
BUT I played one evening this year where I was playing solo for the first time since playing with my band for the past year. The sound was incredible and I could hear everything I was doing/playing/singing and could feel how closely people were listening to my songs/stories. I want that connection with the audience and I could feel it greater at that moment than I had in a long time and it was wonderful.
Posted by EV
Preview: New Zealand Synth Pop Yumi Zouma
Jul 6, 2016
New Zealand based synth pop rockers Yumi Zouma debuted their first LP at the very beginning of summer. Coming off Cascine Records, Yoncalla is light and sparkling, with these hidden pockets of tenderness. They lace dreamy vocals over softened disco beats and percussive synths. In a world entrenched in dream pop, Yumi Zouma stands out with their personality and the intimacy of old friendship.
The members of Yumi Zouma grew up together in Christchurch and their friendships are rooted in making music together. But life happens, and the group moved apart to different corners of the world - Paris, New York. Their first EP was cobbled together across these stretched out lives in 2014. But the power of the group was obvious, they were selling out albums before they ever even played live. Soon after the release, they were invited on tour with Chet Faker and Lorde. Travelling the world left little time to write a new album, but Yoncalla was written on a three week break in Paris, where the group could finally be together and write without the chaos of touring. Born out of the collaborative process between old friends, Yoncalla is gentle, heartbreaking, and sweet.
Catch Yumi Zouma playing this Thursday night with dreamy, jangly pop group Azul Toga and Portland babes Calm Candy. Presented by Mississippi Studios. Tickets are still available.
Posted by EV
Forces at Work: Visual Artist Jon Timm
Jun 22, 2016
If you’re not familiar with Party Boyz, get excited for their Sadie Hawkinz dance tomorrow night. The two girls behind the local Portland music podcast have curated an evening with prizes, a kissing booth, and music from Minden, Animal Eyes, and Boone Howard. We chatted with with John Timm, who crafts trippy and otherworldly visuals. Working with local artists like Dreckig, Minden, Fog Father, No La La and more, Timm takes live elements and mixes it with glitched out clips. Catch him at the doing his thing at the dance this Thursday!
How did you start doing visual work?
I have always experimented with VHS and videos and love to make weird home movies. I really like strange and interesting footage and find myself drawn to other interesting visuals. I found a new interest in glitch videos and analog equipment and had recently purchased a Tachyon+ glitchbox from Logan Owlbeemoth. That is a circuit-bent device used to alter video signals which adds color, static, or other odd blips to source materials. I posted a few video projects on Instagram and was approached by the band Talkative to run their visuals for the night. I thought the projections added a lot to the show and that it had potential to turn into something more. I started with a really simple set-up of just a VCR and glitchbox and grew into more equipment later.
Do you have a background in film or photography?
Officially no. But I have always had an interest in VHS since childhood and it has been a source of inspiration for me. I used to make movies, phone recordings, put security cameras in the bushes at home, things like that. I like to work with old equipment and bounce things around from one medium to another.
I do have a background in music though, as I have my own band, Bleach Blonde Dudes. I think it gives me perspective and helps me appreciate each band’s style. I think of myself kind of like a “light-synthesizer” player. I do a lot of live effects and change colors and glitches to the beat. I try to sense what the band is doing and match my visual performance to their music and vibe.
Timm's video for Mermaid in China's song "A Stroll Through Callow Bay"
For anyone who hasn't seen your visuals, what are trying to capture or embody?
My aim is to make everything more interesting and enhance the music. I often use images that I think are interesting or beautiful. Mermaids swimming over the moon. Squids in space. Owls in flight. Technicolor men on fire. Lava lamps and beach parties. I want to capture bright colors and the movement of the band. I now use a VHS camera to film bands while they perform and combine the live footage with prepared materials. The band is the center of the visuals and their performance really makes everything come to life. It’s spontaneous live collaboration.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
The bands and the artists I work with are my inspiration. Their music becomes my focus for selecting videos to alter and in what way. I want the projections to complement and enhance their performance to create a high-production, low-fi look that makes a small venue appear like a stadium.
What is your set up for your visual shows?
I run a DVD player of mashed up source material edited on my computer into the Tachyon+ glitchbox. The glitchbox is plugged into a 90’s Panasonic video mixer. Plugged into the second channel of the mixer is my VHS camera; I’m able to Chroma Key the shadows into different colors and flash it to the beats. The video mixer combines the signals of the VHS camera with the glitched DVD; You’re able to see them overlaid and interacting. When I film the band and get close up shots of their instruments in psychedelic technovision; it creates an interactive light show that’s highly improvised. I have a completely freestanding setup; I have all my own gear, tripods, tables and a projector. The only thing I require to run my interactive light show is one power outlet and a performer.
What kind of tools/tech do you use?
My source material is made digitally on computers but once it’s burned onto a DVD the live performance is in analog world. The tool/technique that I use most live is video feedback. When you’re filming the stage and project what you’re filming on the stage again you get multiple images going out forever. It’s the same thing when you film a television with a video camera and you get an infinite light tunnel; flashing trippy visual spirals. That looks even more extreme and stunning on a live band!
Posted by EV
Portland Pride Preview!
Jun 15, 2016
Pride is here! We’ve rounded up all our parties that celebrate our amazing LGBTQ community. Starting this Thursday (6/16) and spanning to the end of the month. We’ve teamed up with some of Portland’s best to bring an absolutely thrilling few weeks. These parties push the edges and encourage everyone to come as their true selves. Come dance with us!
3-2-1 Launch, A Pride Kick Off Party! (Thursday - 6/16)
Taking you into the newest gaylaxy, our friends from Hard Yes are ready for an out of this world party. This intergaylactic dance party features live music from Du Og Meg, Portland based future and punk house sounds with pop and RnB elements.
SF based DJ 1(A) AKA Gheno Aviance joins with what is best described as deep garage tech. With 22 years of making music, Gheno has a vast musical journey from coast to coast, and totally ready to DJ us into the next gaylaxy. As always, DJ Sappho will be guiding our spacecraft. Kick off this weekend right and head straight into the next stratosphere. Dress like the space queen from your home planet and get ready to launch into Pride!
Playground Pride PDX with Lady Miss Kier (Deee-Lite) (Saturday - 6/18)
Playground is the party for all the house heads, club kids, the freaks and nerds. It is for everyone who is ready to check their ego at the door and just dance. It is all about the music, and making the dance floor your playground. It is perfectly fitting that they are bringing Lady Miss Kier, who has been a pioneer for female DJs and positivity in the dance community. Creating international dance hits like “Groove Is in the House”, “Good Beat”, and “Power of Love”, Lady Miss Kier has been firing up dance floors for decades. Plus DJ Sappho and David Sylvester join.
Rice, Beans, and Collard Greens (Wednesday - 6/29)
Taking place in just a few weeks, Rice, Beans, and Collard Greens is an ALL AGES dance party. Pride isn’t just one week, or one month, so we’re happy to spread these events out. This is an LGBTQ space that celebrates people of color. Friends and family are encouraged to come! Hosted by Basic Rights Oregon alongside many Portland Pride organizations (Asian Pacific Islander, Portland Black Pride, Latino Gay, and Two Spirit Society) the party will feature DJ sets by II Trill and Casual Aztec. Drinks will be served to those 21 and over, and it will be all ages until 10PM.
Posted by EV
Forces at Work: Matt Singer, Music Editor at Willamette Week
Jun 8, 2016
We love music, and as Portlanders know, there is something entirely magical about having access to a diverse and plentiful music scene. From psych rock to hip hop to folk, there is no shortage of creative energy in this city. The long history of DIY culture has given birth to a new era of Portland that still carries the inventive and nerdy spirit we love. In this edition of Forces at Work, we chatted with Matt Singer, music editor at Willamette Week, about the Portland music scene. Thursday night, Willamette Week is showcasing three local acts in the second edition of Pulse, a celebration of Portland sounds. This week's features amazing hip hop artist The Last Artful Dodgr, electronic duo Pleasure Curses, and the collaborative work of local rappers Ripley Snell and Grape God under the name Wine + Coffee. It is free to the public, so don't miss out on this display of local talent.
What was the first band you were obsessed with?
Although I was a burgeoning punk kid growing up in a Southern California beach town, the first band I ever went totally nuts for was Nine Inch Nails. I bought Pretty Hate Machine, Broken and The Downward Spiral on cassette with birthday money when I was around 12 or 13, all on the same day, and from there it was on. I gradually acquired every single, which they made deliciously collectible by labeling as a series of numbered “Halos." I had five shirts that I cycled through the full school week. I printed off a NIN FAQ from an early fan site—my family had the internet pretty early on—and memorized every weird little bit of trivia. To this day, I don’t really know what obsessed me. I was a fairly happy kid not even in my angsty teen years yet, and a couple years later I’d be super into ska. Being a kid is weird. (And if you’d like to know more about my Nine Inch Nails obsession—and see a photo of me with my horrible 6th-grade mustache—I wrote about it in a little more detail a couple years ago: .)
How long have you been a part of the Portland music scene? What do you love about it?
I moved here in October 2008 from Oxnard, California, and started freelancing for Willamette Week right away—I applied for the Music Editor job back then and it ended up going to Casey Jarman, but I got far enough in the process to establish a relationship with the paper—so I suppose that’s when I got involved in the local scene.
I think what I love about the scene here is just how enthusiastic people are about it, and how it becomes a lifestyle for certain people. I remember going to PDX Pop Now for the first time and being blown away with how kids were going for these totally homegrown acts. I think that enthusiasm has waned slightly over the last seven years, which is probably a byproduct of the shifting economic reality in Portland more than anything else, but that just makes the dedication of folks like Bim Ditson, who are at shows every damn night, even more impressive.
I’m also super into what I call the “pre history” of Portland—basically, everything that was going on in the years before the rest of the country started paying any attention to the city, when it was a truly DIY community doing shit just to do it. And I’m not just talking about the Satyricon-era punk scene—the jazz, R&B and country scenes going back decades all have this rich history that really hasn’t been mined in full yet. As a person who enjoys telling other people’s stories, that really compels me.
How do you see the scene growing, changing, pushing the edges?
By far the most interesting thing to observe since I’ve been in my position is the in-roads hip-hop has made toward integrating into the scene as a whole. I still don’t think it’s been embraced to the degree that it should—same goes for electronic music—but it’s probably not long until that’s forced to change, thanks to folks like EYRST, Dropping Gems, etc.
As a music editor, what kind of music do you try to feature?
I try to leave nothing out (on purpose, anyway), though it’s true that I have certain biases. I made a concerted effort early on to try and feature more hip-hop and electronic music, because those are the sounds that are dictating the future of music on the whole and have historically been pushed to the margins here. But I still love crazy punk bands and anyone doing stuff that’s intense and weird and (hopefully) funky. Overall, though, I try not to let my personal taste dictate what gets featured into the section. I try to read what the scene is excited about, or what they should be excited about, and show that to the reader.
What excites you about each of these artists being showcased at Pulse?
I truly believe the Last Artful Dodgr is the most exciting artist in Portland, period, and that she’ll be the person from the hip-hop scene that finally breaks through nationally. I only recently got introduced to Pleasure Curses but they hark back to a time when bands like Glass Candy, Chromatics and Yacht were making coolly dark and/or quirky electropop and were some of the most interesting bands in the city, something I didn’t realize I was kind of nostalgic for until I heard them. And I actually haven’t heard Wine and Coffee yet, but there are truly no other artists in this city, rap or otherwise, pushing genre boundaries like Grape God and Ripley Snell, so I’m as excited to check them out as anyone.
Posted by EV
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