Panther/CopyHey, I've got a plan. Let's all meet up at Holocene on Friday night to celebrate the simultaneous release of great albums by two local electronic music luminaries, Panther and Copy. We'll stomp around the dancefloor like epileptic Nintendo characters as only Portlanders can. We'll have fun, we'll get sweaty, we'll get tired, and then a really interesting thing will happen. Collapsed on the ground in exhaustion, awaiting our second wind, we'll just listen to the music and realize how good it is, even without the accompaniment of a thousand flailing limbs. I've seen Panther, the alter ego of Charlie Salas-Humara, perform a handful of times and always been annoyed. The herky-jerky dance moves and theatrical physicality that entertained much of the audience struck me as thin performance art. I couldn't help but feel that Panther might really have something if he spent a fraction of the time working on his music as he clearly did thinking up malfunctioning-robot moves. After all, it was obvious from his work in The Planet The that Salas-Humara had creativity and technical chops to spare.
Which is why I was so excited to hear, and immediately dig, Panther's new, wildly eccentric album for local label Fryk Beat, Secret Lawns. Salas-Humara told me, "Before, I just went nuts with whatever I could get my hands on and record beats and cellos without ever really thinking about how it would sound or what I would do. I realized that if people were going to buy the records on tour I would have to make the music equally as interesting as the live show." Hometown boy made good, applying his ample talents to making engaging music without losing any of the idiosyncrasies of the live show. Panther's falsetto is the star of the show, shrieking, wailing, and crooning, often in chorus with itself, over clipped drum machine beats and varied instrumentation provided by a host of Portland music superstars, including Fryk Beat maestro E*Rock and members of 31Knots. The result is a sugar-damaged soul record that sounds a bit like Midnite Vultures had it been made by Ian Svenonius, and finally provides a worthy soundtrack to the ebullience of Panther's dance.
If Secret Lawns caught me by surprise, Hair Guitar, the new full-length by keytar star Copy, did not. A worthy successor to last year's beloved Mobius Beard, it continues to develop the 8-bit, four-to-the-floor, Rygar-reminiscent world of instrumental dance fever introduced on Copy's debut. This record's narrower spectrum of textures gives it a pleasing consistency and the feel of a "live" album. Copy explained the transition to this album: "The technical process was pretty much identical, but Hair Guitar is definitely more of a dance album, which is at least partially the result of playing live so much while I was writing these songs."
Make no mistake, this is dance music, and sonic merits aside, it wants to be danced to. So I'll see you on Friday when we'll all ecstatically pound the final nail in the coffin of the outdated idea that Portland doesn't love to dance.Panther, Copy, E*Rock, and DJ Brian Foote play at Holocene on Friday, March 2.