FOR THE PAST YEAR, local musician Joel Magid has worked tirelessly putting together a vinyl compilation album called Mt. Portland. Now he's giving away the upcoming release for free. "I think it's a little shocking to people because it's so extreme," he says. "But for me, it felt like the right thing to do."
Compilations can be pretty boring. But Magid wanted Mt. Portland to be different, to stand tall and distinct from the rest. He decided to make the rock 'n' roll compilation last spring, when he felt he was living in a particularly dynamic time for Portland's music scene. He and Minden vocalist Casey Burge started asking local bands if they'd like to contribute a song—everyone they asked said yes.
Thirteen Portland bands came together with brand-new, unreleased tracks, all recorded at Buzz or Howl Studios by owner Stan Wright. One of Magid's goals for the compilation was for all of the bands to record in the same studio, bringing a sense of cohesiveness that's often lacking in disjointed compilation albums. He says recording at Buzz or Howl was a collaborative experience: "Because everybody sort of knows each other, there was sort of a swimming pool of different musicians sitting in on all the sessions... Everybody jumped in when they wanted to."
Mt. Portland plays more like a proper album than your standard compilation. Standouts include Máscaras' electro-psych "Kiksadi," Genders' sunny "I'll Be on My Way," and the Domestics' super catchy, guitar-driven pop contribution "Hustle." The songs sound like vignettes, seeping into each other seamlessly. Magid attributes this in part to Buzz or Howl's use of analog recording techniques instead of digital. "It was all thrown down on analog, so it was all two-inch tape, which was pretty different for a lot of those bands who had maybe never recorded to tape. You can't just go in and edit on a screen. When you're mixing analog, if you want to remix something, you start over from scratch."
Magid doubts he could've pulled this all off on his own. "I don't think it could've come together if Stan Wright hadn't agreed to record all the bands at his place," he says. "There's no way I could've afforded it. I wanted all the bands to record at one studio, but I didn't have a budget for it."
That's part of what makes Mt. Portland unique; it's a product of this supportive community showcasing all things Portland, and any profit—if there is any—will go towards sustaining this sense of community. The bands all played for free, Wright allowed each group a day to record for free, and Magid is footing the bill himself for the vinyl to be pressed at Cascade Record Pressing.
"I just decided to complete that circle and give it away for free," he says. "Nobody's making any profit." Any money made "accidentally" through online donations via the pay-as-you-will platform Generous will go to Ethos, a local nonprofit focused on bringing music education to children in Portland's public schools. "We chose Ethos, because dude—it can't get much cooler than teaching kids music," says Magid. "I wish I'd had that."
One of Magid's primary motivations for putting together the compilation was his strong desire to document this supportive community of talented musicians. "This is a really special, cool scene," he says. "I think one of the things that makes this scene so special is that people are so involved."
He describes Mt. Portland as a sort of time capsule for this "golden moment" he felt was fleeting. "It won't last forever, and it will change," he says. In the time since they recorded the compilation, "Is/Is changed their name to Candace, and Grandparents broke up. Not only did we get Grandparents' last track, it was brand new and we got to document it right before they went out. To me that's, like, the coolest thing ever."