Photosynthesis, the fourth album by local psychedelic folk group Plants, is easy listening in the best sense of the term. It's the kind of lush, vibrating, darkly gentle mood music Brian Eno's hip masseuse would have been playing in her office. The record has quietly become my preferred soundtrack for post-workday relaxation, and I have enjoyed memorizing it half-consciously, like a foreign language on a dreamtime tape. Plants oscillates between textural, electronics-driven moments of free-form drone, reminiscent of the bliss jams that conclude Sonic Youth's "Diamond Sea" or "Karen Revisited," and more structured, woodsy tracks that feature the dual vocals of espoused Plants Joshua Blanchard and Molly Griffith-Blanchard, and recall the American guitar raga territory explored by Robbie Basho and Plants' Strange Attractors label-mates Six Organs of Admittance.
Mr. Blanchard, formerly of Point Line Plane and Holocene's Church of Psychedelia series (and also a Mercury contributor), says of the album, "If Photosynthesis makes any sort of defining statement, it's more about closing the door on the more languid, drone kick we've been on so that we can move forward. We've been moving in a much more song-based, psyche-rock direction the last year, and now we can finally start recording the 30 or so pop songs we've been working on." Catch the band at this pivotal juncture on Saturday, May 26 at the Someday Lounge, as they release Photosynthesis in the excellent company of Rollerball, Nudity, and Evolutionary Jass Band.
No less experimental than Photosynthesis, albeit in a completely different fashion, are the 11 tracks that comprise The Stars Come out At Night, a compilation of pieces created by Portland Night High School (PNHS) and Meek Technical School students who study music recording (for school credit) and creation technology at the Hollywood District's nonprofit Old Library Recording Studio. Stars, the first recording released by Old Library, is a joy to hear, presenting a wild diversity of student projects, from techno to folk, to touching testimonials from the musicians about the impact that the teen-oriented studio has had on their lives.
My favorite tracks include the electro-food-thrash "Taco Taco" by PNHS pupil Stitch White, and the album-closing experimental folk of "Piano & Dulcimer Improv." Old Library Studio mastermind Noah Kleiman explains the piece, "That is me playing dulcimer. I was teaching [student] Stanley Waters how to improvise. He claimed not to know how; he's basically a classical pianist. He has very little interest in improvisation; it's not part of his musical identity. So I challenged him to join me, by playing piano on the piece."
Support the studio and its students by attending the free album release concert at Meek Technical School on Thursday, May 24, at 7 pm. Enrollment is still open for summer classes, so cruise to oldlibrarystudio.org for more information.