DEWEY MAHOOD has lived in Portland for more than two decades, but he still hasn't shaken Northern California out of his veins.
"I grew up in a rural area and spent most of my time hiking up the canyons," Mahood says. "I'm kind of a country boy at heart."
Mahood's younger years were spent in and around Chico, California, a heavy-lidded college town surrounded by national parks and forests and an easy drive to Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area. It was in this environment that he found inspiration for Drifter's Temple, his new album under the name Plankton Wat, released last month by Thrill Jockey Records.
On Temple, Mahood blurs the lines between delicately finger-picked acoustic guitar and plugged-in electric meandering; he cites cosmic Americana from the early '70s—the Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead, David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name—as a strong influence on the record. The result is a collection of concise, gorgeously groggy psych-folk drifts and drones that wander, but never get lost. (No song exceeds six minutes.)
Mahood is probably best known as a founding member of Eternal Tapestry, the Portland heavy-jam band with an extensive discography of albums recorded improvisationally, then edited for release. Earlier this year, Mahood left that band to focus on his solo work, which had, up to that point, followed the same method. He changed it up for Temple, though, writing and rehearsing tunes before rolling tape.
"I just wanted to do something different and take a different approach—try to write some parts and have songs you can play the same way live," Mahood says. "I've definitely gotten really into writing guitar parts. But I'll never completely abandon the improv stuff, either."
Although these "concrete songs" evoke very specific Northern Californian images for Mahood, he's aware that the Plankton Wat experience will be different from person to person.
"I don't feel like it's going to be that way for anybody else," he says. "I try to create a certain mood where people are going to kind of get lost in their own thoughts and bring whatever is in their imagination to the music. Hopefully it's... going to conjure up some kind of feelings in the listener's mind."