DROPPING GEMS SHOWCASE: NATASHA KMETO, THE GREAT MUNDANE, RAP CLASS, GHOST FEET, DEVONWHO & MORE (Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison) Electronic label Dropping Gems is hosting a free showcase with 10 of their artists, proving just how creative and vital the collective is to Portland music. Find out for yourself as the likes of Natasha Kmeto, Devonwho, the Great Mundane, and a healthy host of others drop killer beats on the crowd. NED LANNAMANN Also, read our article on Dropping Gems.
THE NORTH WIND, LANGUAGE, DESIGN DRIFT DISTANCE (Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th) Back in October, the North Wind released their debut EP, Mirror Lake. The atmospheric, melodic rock soundtracked the falling leaves to perfection, but the songs still sound good in January. Guitar-based and wordless, the North Wind largely avoids sounding like prog (not that there's anything wrong with that), despite the fact that one of their songs—the best, I think—is named "5 Sons of King Pandu." Long form is the specialty of spacey electronic trio Language. As in, 10 minutes is on the short side. Dubs and samples interweave with guitars to create laidback jams with Kelly Schirmann's otherworldly vocals soaring over the top. The effect is mysterious, improvisational, and confounding: Are they really that good on the fly? Design Drift Distance kicks off the cerebral lineup with spiky post-rock songs of traditional length and intelligible vocals. REBECCA WILSON
HAZEL'S WART, THE SKY ABOVE AND EARTH BELOW, LUNCH (Laughing Horse Books, 12 NE 10th) I'm not generally an indecisive person, but there's one thing I can never quite make up my mind about—whether I prefer lo-fi pop to hi-fi pop. I should be able to appreciate both approaches equally, but I can't help but feel like I'm betraying Robert Pollard whenever I marvel at Rumours or vice versa (I realize this is probably a super-peculiar neurosis). But San Fransisco's Hazel's Wart may have convinced me that all pop begs to be recorded (at least semi-) shoddily. Their endearingly scrappy recordings reinforce that sense of urgency already present in their songs but which sterile, high-quality production would almost definitely diminish. The band's debut EP, aptly entitled A Demonstration, is certainly the more indecipherable of the group's two available releases (it gives Times New Viking a run for their money), but it's the follow-up, Together We Didn't, that straddles that hi/lo-fi line perfectly. Let's hope they don't start sounding "better." MORGAN TROPER