FIRST, AN ENDORSEMENT: I have friends who've moved to Portland hoping it feels like Adam Forkner's music sounds. With records out on the K and Ba Da Bing! labels, Forkner's great Yume Bitsu has a solid body of work full of big epic drones and stately updates on what bands like Pink Floyd and Hawkwind laid down. But the White Rainbow solo deal is what he's doing now and getting hip to it is to open your mind to beautiful, spacious realms of comforting, positive noise.
Like Yume's best, White Rainbow's new album, Zome (States Rights Records), sprawls out long, lazy, and contented. It purrs and chimes with sensual delay-affected guitar and high soaring vocals while electronic percussion patters away and live drums come on loose, mantric, and hypnotically double-jointed. It's definitely ambient, but where a lot of ambient artists shoot for "moody atmospherics" and get something more like "Best Buy laptop software," Zome bucks electronic music clichés and throbs with warmth, spirit, and feeling. (The fact that it's an audio love letter to his lady, Honey Owens, is articulated more in vibe than in concrete specific details.)
Now, I've always considered Yume's album Golden Vessyl of Sound a tribute to the Santana/John McLaughlin LP Love Devotion Surrender, which was a tribute to Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Zome, then, feels like a tribute to Golden Vessyl—and the circle completes itself.
More circles: To paraphrase the Beach Boys, I've been all around this great big world and I've seen nothing that compares to a gray, rainy Portland afternoon. Put yourself, for a second, in a Portland living room—doesn't have to be a specific living room, just as long as it has a big picture window and a decent view. Now stand at that window and stare out into the street, which is lined with great, gnarled, thick-trunked trees, and sidewalks as colorless as the skies. There's no breeze—nothing moving, really, besides smoke curling up from chimneys and the drizzle coming down from above.
If you were to step outside, the air would be cold and it would smell like damp earthy soil, wet leaves, rotting porch boards, and fireplace smoke, but you're indoors, safe and dry. Zome, like Golden Vessyl, is a perfect aural transcription of days like that—drowsy days where the neighborhood is still and silent and you have nothing to do but watch the hours idle by. And idle they do. Slow—wonderfully slow—like you're trapped in an endless dream.
Tonight at Holocene, White Rainbow is headlining the Church of Psychedelia music series. Last time I saw Forkner play Holocene, the crowd left the bar and couches and laid down on the dance floor—which never happens. They stretched out on their backs and stared up at the ceiling, while Forkner stood on stage bathed in projection screen light—great rippling crayon-colored concentric circles—and played heavy, kaleidoscopic David Gilmour guitar lines. It was a great show and because of it I won't miss this one for anything. I just hope my spot on the floor is still waiting for me, just shy of the middle of the room, stage right.