I was introduced to Portland experimental crooner Dragging an Ox Through Water through the inclusion of his track “Snowbank Treatment” on a playlist Danish art rock outfit Efterklang made to promote the release of their latest full length Piramida. I was immediately taken by how unlike anything I was possibly expecting it was – the track occupied this strange limbo of stuttering electronic-based pop with a noticeable country swagger. I was intrigued and instantly wanted more.
One of the exciting things about Dragging an Ox Through Water is how completely unpredictable his releases are. The Tropics of Phenomenon (which features the aforementioned “Snowbank Treatment) is a far more electronic-laden affair than his newest album Panic Sentry. And yet though it’s featuring a much more straight-forward folk presentation, there’s a blurring of genre lines, the subverting of expectation but still the spotlighting of a sincere product that keeps everything fascinating. While Panic Sentry is an album worthy of complete play-throughs “Sparrow Command” stuck out as a shining example of just what made Dragging an Ox Through Water so damn appealing. The use of electronics is sparse – an effect on the periphery, as Brian Mumform angles his vocals with supple languor. Mumform’s vocals a natural extension of his twangy guitar lines; bent, cooed, and whispered to jostle the lyrics into impressive shapes while electronics hum contentedly from the sidelines to give the whole tale an ethereal pallor.
Dragging an Ox Through Water’s latest full length Panic Sentry is out now. Available on digital/12″ vinyl via Bandcamp.
Three years ago (veritable decade in blog years) we were introduced to Beachtapes’ then-latest signee Triptides, from Bloomington, IN. They’ve been up to way more than we cataloged, including a new upcoming cassette EP, Colors, out soon on Portland’s Jaunt Records. Listen to the newly minted psych-pop track “Throne of Stars” below:
While of the opinion that Katonah NY transplants Yellerkin’s debut EP was a delight, no song quite matched the exuberant thrills of their debut single “Solar Laws”. While “Solar Laws” was a genre evading tour de force, “Vines”, “Tomboy” , and “Leave Me Be” settled more into a laptop pop slumber: mellow calm with a noticeable albeit unexpected electronic slant. Enter “Dixie Rain”, which seems ready to bridge the gap between those remarkably different sounds by virtue of its very existence.
From the primal pulse that catapulted “Solar Laws” into action and seems to be at the core of Yellerkin’s character, “Dixie Rain” is bolstered by instantly memorably melodies as well as its enormously immersive vocal lines. In fact, the tune is carried almost exclusively by its vocal melodies while a synth line functioning virtually as background noise. That and its predominant drumpad beats reveals “Dixie Rain” as an interesting dichotomy of organic versus mechnical; with the synthesized sound beat out by pure emotive power by the grandest of margins but necessary in displaying it in all its grandeur.
Portland’s Wild Ones re-released their debut LP, Keep It Safe, via Topshelf Records earlier this month, which gives us pause to listen to the wonderfully minimal electro-pop jewel “Paia” all over again:
There are two universally accepted ways to do SXSW: 1) fastidious plan your festival experience to the letter 2) drift from showcase to showcase, bar to bar, with your gut as your guide. There’s no right way, although diehards of either method would claim otherwise and healthy mix of the two is essentially how you get the most out of the overwhelming options SX offers. And that’s what let me to discover Porter. The Guadalajara indie rock fivesome were the definite highlight of the Vans Mexico showcase I stumbled into with a couple friends on the first day of our SX festivities.
Porter have been around awhile (since the early aughts) with an EP, full length, and sophomore record on the horizon and if their latest single “Palapa” is anything to go off it’s going to be pretty delightful affair. “Palapa” builds a blanket of brief but riotous percussion before launching into angular guitar riffs while David Velasco’s stratospheric vocals weave serpentine patterns in their own right. Where so many of their lyrics are sung in Porter’s native Spanish, Porter are one of those rare bands able to circumvent the language barrier through virtue of their musical talents. The quintet have a distinct ability to develop intricate melodic shapes but also imbue them with a kaleidoscopic lushness which translates regardless of dialect.