A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Trying to take the pulse of Portland’s music scene is difficult; trying to definitely nail down some sort of over-arching, cohesive definition, is nigh-on impossible. It strikes right at the heart of the dichotomy that is this city – on one hand, we’re the vanguard of progressive politics, whose name is practically synonymous with gender and identity politics and sustainable lifestyles, much to the frustration of most people who don’t live here, (and some of us that do). And then there’s the flip side, the seamy underbelly, as it were – with a long, shadowed, and UGLY history of racial injustice and bigotry. And then there is the land itself, in all its sun-dappled, misted greenery, with mighty forests cutting into several majestic rivers, giving this city its unique Bridge Town/River City vibe, which further segments things even further still.
It’s tough to talk about what life is like here, as it’s quite particular and unique to each individual. And this is reflective in our music scene, which is similarly individualistic, favoring an infrastructure of collaborative musicians; endless eclectic styles; and a seemingly endless array of side projects from nearly every creative individual. In Portland, we do US, to the best of our ability, and the people that dig it will come out and lend support.
This is a similar conundrum for a lot of people from the United States, who might not necessarily have a direct connection to various musicks from around the world, apart from listening to records or watching films. For a lot of Americans, love and appreciation of other cultures and their music also almost starts off in a Simulacrum, with a clean, approachable, somewhat stereotypical, often sterile approach to other cultures, i.e. ‘ethnomusicology’, and all of its academic distance, or else the Putumayo/Real World Studios variety, transplanting traditional musicians into clean, controlled recording studios, to recreate their sounds in glorious, glowing 24/96 kHz HD. This, of course, also has a tendency towards self-delusion, a glowing pride of being worldly without having to endure any of the hardships that make this music in the first place.
The thing of it is that, spend enough time around the music and culture of a people or place, and it begins to change you. It affects the way you see the world – the decisions that we make, the way we think about things. What may start out as reductive cultural appropriation may become a rich, deep, authentic attachment to a culture (or lots of them) and its spirits.
That is not to say Abronia are appropriative. I personally have no idea the backgrounds of Keelin Mayer, Benjamin Blake, Amir Amadi, Eric Crespo, or James Shaver. Whatever their backgrounds, they certainly inhabit their unique blend of Northwestern African saxophone, a la the Ethiopiques series; Spaghetti Western twang guitar; doomy pedal steel; and a big goddam drum!
In proper LP fasion, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands comes in two halves, each with their own distinctive personality. Album opener “The Great Divide” opens the gates with fume and fury, pure free fireball skronk jazz, like Sun Ra‘s Arkestra gathering in the Sahara, summoning the djinn, the lightning, sandstorms, and howling winds, with furious blats of what sounds like tenor sax. The skies clear with “Shala”, with the pure spun silk vocals of Keelin Mayer calling the corners and setting an incantatory state. It will leave you spellbound and reflective – a perfectly receptive state for the more nightside jams of Side B.
“Smoke Fingers” summons a more muscular meditation, with slinky bass grooves, more blatting sax, and soulful, bluesy guitar. This is where the Mississippi Delta runs into the Nile valley, verdant fertile soil sprouting new shapes and configurations of flora and fauna, new colors and shades and scents, verdigris and copal resin hanging on the breeze. “Glass Butte Retribution” might be the spiritual centre of the album, slow and stately as Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome, guitar ringing out in minor key modalities – mutant blues for the setting sun, to usher in the stars and whirling nebulae. The perfect soundtrack for your next noctural conjuration, hashish visionquest, or just to give strength for the endless psychic battle that is modernity.
Whatever Portland Music is or may be, Abronia are wonderful ambassadors for the PDX’s psychosphere. Recorded in Type Foundry studios, straight to 2″ tape by Jason Powers, who’s worked with other local occult music practioners Grails and Moon Duo, with many of Adronia’s members doing double duty in some of The City Of Rose’s finest psych practitioners, like Eternal Tapestry, Ghost Of Falco, Young Hunter, Million Brazilians, Evolutionary Jass Band, and Deep Earth! Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands is coming out on vinyl on Mississippi Records’ subsidiary Water Wing, while being released on one of our favorite British psych/occult labels, Reverb Worship, on CD, and a tape on Resurrection coming shortly!
WW21 Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands is available now, to pre-order, via Water Wing! Guaranteed to not linger long, so do not sleep!
Abronia are playing an album release show, here in Portland, on June 25 at Rontom’s, so come out and feel the magick for yourself, if you’re in or around the Pacific Northwest!
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Tune into every Saturday night/Sunday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online at mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.