200 Visits to a Nice World

Hello there. Come in, come in..

Welcome to my blog piece, in which I will discuss, as the title suggests, the 200th episode of my radio show, It’s a Nice World to Visit. Also, it seems fair to warn you here at the outset of this piece, that this is a self-congratulatory bit of prose — and I can barely get my fingers on the keyboard, after having metaphorically broken my arms in six places, patting myself on the back.

If you would like to adjust your goggles for the long view, you are welcome to do so… but I am only going to cover that ground ever so briefly here, as it has been well documented in prior blog pieces (feel free to check those earlier blog posts here). But out of kindness to us all, if you are going to leave now, exit the room quickly, so that the open door does not give us all light blindness — the period of adjustment for my pupils is getting longer every day. Now then, briefly: Freeform Portland began broadcasting in April of 2016, I was among the first group of people selected to be a deejay on the station. My show is a weekly broadcast, and seeing as how it is now 2020, simple math suggests we are now on the tea cup lip of my 200th episode.

Let me say to those of you reading this piece, that if you have been listening for a long time now: thank you! It may not be self-evident, but my show is a cooperative effort. I am the noise and you are the ears. I am the tree that fell in the forest, and you are on the other end of that vibration wave. When I am in the midst of broadcasting my show, one of the tricks I use is to imagine a person listening and focus my intent upon that imagined person. If, on the other hand, you have only recently discovered my show, I hope you are enjoying it. The show is intended to be musically entertaining, slightly informative and certainly distracting. No matter what the current circumstance, in which you find yourself, I hope the music I play will cause you to forget it all for a moment. Music should be a balm for the human condition, the busy inner voice that self-judges and pre-supposes our own decisions and choices. It should quell that voice so we can see straight — and get on with the things that make life worth living

I would also like to point out that my 200th episode will be the first episode since March that will in fact be broadcast at the regularly scheduled time. I am chuffed and visibly excited (too bad you can’t see me shaking in my seat right now) to have my show and all of the other shows on Freeform Portland back on schedule, for the first time since operations changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the schedule is due to the hard work behind the scenes by a few people here at Freeform, who in addition to doing radio shows, volunteer their time and knowledge to ensure that the station runs. Sure, maybe not as precise and correct as an atomic clock, no. The station runs as well as a wristwatch, providing you remember to keep it wound. It requires a little bit of work and a lot of love to bring you all of the fine radio programs on Freeform Portland. I hope you will join me in a round of applause for all the hard work, past, present and future. 

(pause while the applause begins, builds, reverberates round the room, and grows quieter to silence as all return to their seats)

Circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the shuttering of our broadcasting studio inside the Baker Building in North Portland for the safety of all of the deejays. Since that day in March, Freeform Portland has been broadcasting a selection of pre-recorded mixes, put together by a number of our deejays, both past and present. The trick with these mixes was, although we did have the technology to broadcast them for public consumption, we could only do so randomly. Like many of my fellow deejays, I did not let that fact deter me and I continued to produce my weekly episodes, comforted in the fact that they would be broadcast over the air — and perhaps due the random aspect, hook in a few new listeners to my show. Considering the time passed since the shutdown, I must have made a dozen episodes from home; along with a handful of extra mixes to be broadcast as well, to keep the radio waves filled with music.

Working from home and producing mixes presented a new set of challenges for me, as I am sure it did for my fellow deejays. I had to figure out some program that would allow me to put songs together, which in truth, was easier than I would have thought. Working with the program, however, took a bit of adjustment. The flow of doing a radio show live was interrupted by doing a show at home. Live, the songs would play from start to finish, and the beat, the rhythm, of the song would often select the next track. But working from home, I found that I would select a track and hear only the first few seconds of the track, before selecting the next one, and the next one, and so on. It took me weeks to discover I could listen to the selected songs with the program I was using to meld them from single songs into a mix. Once I figured that out, the flow of song-to-song got better, if I can be so unhumble.

One of the oddest things for me was a means by which to record my voice, to do station IDs and mic breaks, to let listeners know what songs that they had just heard. Being a bit of a luddite, I had never used the microphone or camera that came with my laptop. Using the microphone, though, proved problematic, as it resulted in too much ambient noise (the running of the washing machine in the background…). I settled instead on an app for my cell phone, and used it to record myself speaking, then emailing that sound file to myself and placing it in the proper place in the mix, just as I would a song.

These processes have all become second nature to me now, with practice becoming routine of sorts. Although I long for the day that we can return to the studio, and do live broadcasting. What really helped me, though, while I adjusted to this new way of doing things, was my fellow deejays. Using Zoom, we all began to communicate with each other, to offer help and suggestions how to do this or how to do that. We picked each other up and carried our weight together. The fact that Freeform Portland has been broadcasting 24/7, regardless of the pandemic, is due to everyone who volunteers their time and energy to the station. And if you have been tuning in, I bet you will have noticed that during these past few months, the station has offered some of the best programming in its short, but incredible, history.

If you tuned in on a Friday, you must have heard some of that top notch programming I just mentioned. One of our deejays, Tock The Watchdog, who hosts the show, Slow Poison In Your Champagne, Thursdays at 4 PM, had the brilliant idea of making Friday an event day. She suggested that the deejays make special half hour mixes based on a theme that would change weekly. These mixes and the day soon became some of the most fun bits of radio I had the privilege to hear. The deejay response became so overwhelming that the event programming took up the day of broadcasting, and the shows were repeated the next day, giving listeners a chance to catch all of the shows, should they wish to do so. Thus, it basically encompassed the weekend of programming for Freeform Portland. And behind the scenes, while the music was playing, the station invited the deejays to an informal Zoom meeting, where we could greet each other, laugh with one another, discuss music or movies, etc. I did not know it until I attended one such meeting, but I sorely missed all of these people. 

My 200th episode (remember now, this blog piece was supposed to be about this episode of my show…) will be broadcast on Friday July 3rd, starting at Noon PST, which is the tail end of the return of scheduled programming for the station, which began on June 29th. It has taken a while, but we now have the functioning technology in place to play shows at their given time, as noted on the schedule.  As it is a special episode of sorts, I am working on a theme for the episode. I will be featuring duos, rock n’ roll groups that feature two members. Bands such as Suicide, The Vacant Lots, The White Stripes, or Moon Duo spring to mind, but I will be perfectly fine including the likes Nancy & Lee, Dean & Britta, or Fripp & Eno. I am looking forward to it. Hope you will join me.

Thanks for reading this piece. Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting Freeform Portland. I know, as you listen, the station may seem to be an anonymous voice, but trust me: we are your friends, we are your neighbors, and together we can all move forward, to make the world in which we live a better and safer place.

Join the Harry Roesli Gang

Djauhar Zaharsjah Fachruddin Roesli (Sept 10, 1951 – Dec 11, 2004), aka Harry Roesli was born in Bandung, West Java. Roesli was raised in a privileged family, being the fourth son to parents of a father who was an army major general and his mother being a doctor. In middle school, Roesli was taught the basis of gamelan music using metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand drums called kendhang used to register a beat. As a teenager he was exposed to music by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant, resourced from Hidayat record store on Jalan Sumatra, pirate radio, and from reading Aktuil magazine (Irfani, 2020). He later expanded his listening to encompass avant garde composers such as John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and Karlheinz Stockhasuen and mixed in poetry to avant garde compositions (wiki).

Photo courtesy of Aktuil magazine 1977

Roesli’s early compositional works were a blend of psychedelic rock music, blues, funk, jazz,  Sudanese gamelan and avant garde played with bands that mirrored Roesli’s personalities. He called himself a “janus-headed” man who upheld positive social Indonesian identity, plus Christian moral citizenry which included opening his home to street kids. He also was a radical who rejected authoritative regimes (LaMunai, 2019). Roesli lived in Indonesia during the fascist Suharto regime where free thinking ideals and protest music was mostly censored by the Suharto government’s New Order policies that were enforced to maintain political order, keep economic gains and constrict peoples’ participation in Indonesia’s political process. 

New Order policies infiltrated the arts by promoting beliefs for Indonesians to become participants in the future of the country which supported artists to use satire and mock politicians who were corrupt, had operations tied to drug abuse, crime, poverty, population illiteracy plus idolisation of famous figures, based on New Order standards. Roesli’s musical experimental and antithetical performances often divulged opposition to dominant state ideals to keep order and enforce hegemonic rules to include what Indonesians should like, how they think and behave. Roesli became infamous through musical parody, combining rock operas and lyrical satire, targeting Suharto and his predecessors. Roesli confronted Suharto’s nationalistic ideology, New Order patriot songs and verses, and called out Suharto’s lead government for maintaining instituionalized oppression, murder of communists, continued poverty for poor people, assault on free speech and persisting moral decay (Tyson, 2011).

The Gang of Harry Roesli Philosophy Gang 1973

Roesli started his first band, Batu Karang in high school. After graduating from high school, Roesli studied electrical engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology. While attending university he started a band for fun in 1971 called Harry Roesli and His Gang with friends and band members, Hari Pochang, Indra Rivai, Albert Warnein, Janto Soedjono and Dadang Latiev. At this time, Roesli was also musically influenced by Remy Sylado who was popular in younger Indonesian culture. Sylado was a prominent author, actor and musician who promoted his own California hippie philosophy as well as freedom from Suharto standards. Harry Roesli and His Gang released their first protest album inspired by Bob Dylan, Philosophy Gang in 1973. The album is an enticing blend of blues, funk and jazz bossanova with proggy variations as heard in, “Don’t Talk About Freedom” and “Peacock Dog,” featured on the album (Irfani, 2020). 

Resissue LaMunai 2017 Harry Roesli Gang Philosophy Gang “Don’t Talk About Freedom”
Reissue LaMunai 2017 Harry Roesli Gang Philosophy Gang “Peacock Dog”

Harry and His Gang played at a music festival in Ragunan, Pasar Minggu, Jakarta August 1973. Their performance appealed to music critics and they received a review in the national Kompas (Compass) newspaper praising Roesli’s vocals for “Peacock Dog” and “Nyamuk Malaria.” In 1975 Harry and His Gang broke through to Indonesia stardom adapting an East Javanese legend, Ken Arok to an operatic “shock rock gamelan” performance, inspired by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and the work of Orexas. Orexas is an acronym for the Free Sex Organisation led by Remy Sylado. Harry and His Gang’s first show was held at the Badung’s Gedung Merdeka (Independence Building). They continued performing for several months at various large sold out venues in Bandung and Jakarta, playing to sometimes 800+ people. Ken Arok was an opera of protest satire where musical pitch and tone were composed to make listeners feel on edge, much like their response to the everyday environment which was saturated by government corruption. Dancers, wayang puppets, and clowns interacted with the audiences along with draped long curtains and stage lights beaming into audiences’ eyes to intensify a shared mania between musicians, performers and audiences, mirroring living in the New Order environment (Tyson, 2011).

LaMunai reissue Ken Arok 2018

The opening act of Ken Arok featured a demented clown explaining to audiences in technical terms how the show will unfold. After the clown followed a friendly bum rush to the stage, of dancers and musicians, followed by Roesli who was conducting. The stage was unlit and dark with eerie music intertwined with coins jingling and intersecting with picking of guitar strings and pleasant ringing of Chinese bells. Giant fabric curtains were suddenly released from the ceiling and dangled above audiences’ heads invading their personal space bubble. High pitch reverberations suddenly were amplified out of the venue’s 4,000 watt sound system which fused Sudanese instruments, wayang golek (wooden puppet theater), godang (drum and dance) with modern rock, blues and cabaret. Typical instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards and drums were played with Sudanese instruments synthesizing traditional sounds and expanding the musical ear stock of Indonesian audiences. Roesli described Ken Arok as contemporary wayang, electronic gondang or electric ludruk (Javanese folk theater). His objective was to overwhelm the audience into submission, to enforce a collective self consciousness and ensure no distractions or sense of security. Roesli’s ultimate goal was to receive no applause from audiences but his goal was never achieved (Tyson, 2011). 

Harry Roseli Gang Titik Api reissue LaMunai/Groovyrecord 2019

Harry and His Gang released Ken Arok on cassette by P.T Eterna in 1977. It has since been reissued by LaMunai (2018) on LP limited to 333 pressings, remastered at Carvery Cuts, London. His album Titik Api (1976) has also been reissued by LaMunai/Groovyrecord (2019). The reissue of Titik Api is a double LP gatefold release with information about Roesli, rare pictures of the Harry and His Gang performances and pressed on quality thick vinyl. Titik Api is a dynamic recording that displays Roesli’s diverse compositions combining gamelan with guitars, organs, early synthesizers with Western tempered scales of funk, folk, rock, blues, prog, jazz, avant garde and psychedelic compositions. 

Original cassette cover Harry Roesli Gang Titik Api – “Sekar Jepun”

The opening song “Sekar Jepun” is a traditional gamelan piece or kreasi baru, that is played at all parties. The piece is played in Balinese kebyar style and composed in Jaraaga/North Bali but later identified as a South Bali composition (LaMunai, 2019). Heavy western drums, guitar, bass, choral chanting and early synthesizer drives traditional gamelan instrumentation that exhumes listeners with pentatonic scales and ostinato power, giving listeners’ ears delight from the full range of uniquely arranged sounds. Titik Api is a true masterpiece. 

Roesli lost interest in engineering between 1970-1975 and decided to study music composition at Institut Kesenian Jakarta. He was then awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Holland. There is also another story: Roesli became involved with a student political group participating in events asking for the resignation of Suharto. All the students who were in the political group, including Roesli were imprisoned. A Dutch member of Amnesty International was the person who awarded Roesli with a scholarship to study percussion in Rotterdam until 1978, to escape the Suharto’s regimes’ punishment (LaMunai, 2019). 

Rumah Musik Harry Roesli formerly known as DKSB

After completing his studies in Rotterdam in 1981, Roesli came back to Indonesia and organized a musical association named the Bandung Creative Arts Center (Depot Kreasi Seni Bandung) DKSB, now Rumah Musik Harry Roesli (RMHR). DKSB was run out of his studio on Jalan Supratman (Tyson, 2011). His association enticed talented Indonesian musicians to gather, socialize, collaborate and perform at DKSB. Roesli continued to perform electronic rock operas, teach, record, perform, compose music and vocalise political reform until the end of his life. Captivating large audiences with his sometimes a circus of 250 performers, musicians, dancers providing a provocative, overwhelming audible and visual show of the senses. 

Photo courtesy of CNN Indonesia

His studio was also a refuge for young musicians and artists who were houseless, struggling with substance abuse and sex work violence, and DKSB was also known as a shelter. Roesli often provided meals and therapeutic assistance to underprivileged youth who were struggling with poverty and the intersectional stressors attached. Roesli passed away at the age of 53, his demise increased by multiple comorbidities. Before his passing he experienced a ‘lucid interval’ awaking and pleading with his family; jangan matikan lampu di meja kerja saya (don’t turn off the lamp on my work desk). His family continues to run RMHR and advocate to support houseless youth of Bandung (Tyson, 2011). 

References

Irfani, F (2020). Keeping the Light of ‘Si Bengal’ Harry Roesli and DKSB at the Indonesian Jagat Creative. VICE Indonesia. https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=id&u=https://www.vice.com/id_id/article/k7emjv/sejarah-musisi-legendaris-harry-roesli-dan-depot-kreasi-seni-bandung-dksb&prev=search

Liner notes Harry Roesli Tiki Api reissue LaMunai/Groovyrecord 2019

Tyson, Adam. D (2011). Titik Api: Harry Roesli, Music, Politics in Bandung, Indonesia. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/54533/INDO_91_0_1302899078_1_34.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Written by Karen Lee (Weekend Family Music Hour).

DJ Ducky Interviews Toronto Songwriter Three Headed Elephant

Like any good little millennial, the first obligation I had when I heard that my co-host and I were given a show on Freeform Portland last year was to create an Instagram.

With our measly 50ish followers, we don’t have much reach, but given the current state of the nation (awful) and a growing desire to use our radio platform for more than just the same Clairo/Phoebe Bridgers/etc. on repeat, we decided to put out a call to our small group for truly independent musicians to send us music so that we could play them on our show. 

With any call to action online, you’re bound to get a few weirdos and/or nudes. 

Luckily, I got neither! We ended up with an artist we like, who deserves to be heard and known, and kindly granted us an interview – our first one ever! Needless to say, I’m excited the whole process went much more smoothly than I thought it would, but I’m also very excited to introduce the artist: Wolfgang, AKA Three Headed Elephant. 

It’s truly crazy what the Internet is capable of… 

Sometimes kindness, sometimes awful, always mesmerizing. 

You can check out one of our new favorite Toronto musicians’ music here:

Listen to Three Headed Elephant on Bandcamp or Spotify, and Soundcloud for covers and tinkerings

Follow Three Headed Elephant on Instagram

And read what Wolfgang of Three Headed Elephant has to say about the creative process below…

Ducky: Tell me about your artist name and how you came up with it…

Wolfgang: I’m Wolfgang also known as Three Headed Elephant. The name Three Headed Elephant was inspired by Buddhism imagery.

Ducky: Where are you located? 

Wolfgang: I’m from Toronto, Ontario. 

Ducky: What/Who inspired you to make music?

Wolfgang: My father is an accordion player so I grew up always listening to music and surrounded by music always… I think subconsciously this is what inspired me to make music at a very young age.

Ducky: How would you describe the music you typically create and gravitate toward?

Wolfgang: I would say my music is blues/folk/soul/funk… it jumps from genre to genre. I don’t want to limit myself to one thing…

Ducky: I listened to “So Happy” first since you sent it to me and loved the way it captured the emotion you must have been feeling when you wrote it and feels like it nicely captures an exact moment in time. Definitely a great song for summer and spending time outside with the guitar riffs! Your sound reminded me of Eef Barzelay/Clem Snide mixed with lofi (obviously)/surf indie. Is that a totally inaccurate depiction? 😂

Wolfgang: I really love what you said about “So Happy” it definitely has a beach chill type vibe to it so that is funny you said surf indie. 

Ducky: What would you say the process is and inspirations are for your songwriting?

Wolfgang: I just write… My process is very simple. Whenever I feel inspired by anything I write about it and then I try to find ways to sing about that particular thing.

Ducky: If you could play on a stage at any festival, which one would you choose? 

Wolfang: I would love to perform at Osheaga one day.

Ducky: How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business? (Good or bad?)

Wolfgang: I think the internet has impacted the music industry in a wonderful way because now anyone can put their music out there and the sense of community on social media is heartwarming, to say the least. 

Ducky: Speaking of the internet… Are you a vinyl/cd/tape or digital/streaming listener?

Wolfgang: I have a vinyl collection… but I mostly listen to stuff online these days.

Ducky: Which famous musicians do you admire and why?

Wolfgang: Some of my inspirations are Ian Curtis, Florence Welch, David Bowie and Brittany Howard. I really love Florence Welch and her energy. The way she dances on stage and sings, she is very captivating to watch. I also really admire Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, the way she sings, you can tell she is singing straight from her soul… she really tugs on my heartstrings every time I listen to her.

Ducky: Do you have any hobbies or creative passions outside of music-making that you like to use to help you in your creative process?

Wolfgang: I love to dance. That definitely helps me in my creative process… lol

Ducky: And finally, what’s one song that changed your life?

Wolfgang: One song that changed my life… that is tough because I feel that there are so many songs that have really changed my life but one particular song I always seem to gravitate back to is “Giving Up” by Donny Hathaway.

DJ Ducky’s favorite song from the debut album by Three Headed Elephant:
Let Me Carry Something for You

This song, along with all others on the debut, have the ability to both transfix and calm the listener in their sheer simplicity. While there are lofi vibes and folksy lyrics throughout the entire debut (which a lofi lovin’ girl like me adores), “Let Me Carry Something for You” is the song that spoke to me most. It’s refreshing to hear something so bare bones and raw which reminds me of the indie folk artists in the DFW area I often listened to in college. And that raw emotion speaks to Three Headed Elephant’s desire to tap into those blues and soul inspirations. This song in particular has such a powerful emotional element in its uncomplicated lyrics and speaks to the true heart of a rock solid relationship – the willingness and longing to be a backbone and solid foundation for another human being, even when you have your own shit to carry. 

Let Me Carry Something for You takes a cliche relational notion and turns it into a beautiful portrait of that longing you feel when you empathize and sensitize to the plight of those around you. And I couldn’t think of a better song for the world today.

DJ Ducky and her co host DJ Petrie are the amateurs behind Invasion of the Indiesauruses | Fridays 6-8am.

The Lost Art of Wandering, by Raymond Richards

Welcome aboard- let’s treat this bit of artificial paper as a vessel, as I would like to think we are going somewhere.

Let’s get some particulars out of the way first.

Who am I? For the purposes of this blog piece, my name is Noah Fence; not my given name, but one that I have chosen for myself, for my near anonymous portion of the 15 minute spotlight of fame. Beyond that, in real life I am just some Jack from around the block that pulls his socks on after he pulls on his trousers, prefers the words trousers to pants (as “pants” in England is a reference to underwear), and chews vitamin C tablets with the teeth he has left in his head on a daily basis.

Who are you? That one is difficult for me to get correct. I like to assume that you are an engaged and curious individual, with a discerning taste for music and other art forms; as such, hungry for new music and sounds to add to your life experience. If that’s not you, I hope you will both forgive me my error and also stay onboard to the end of this article.

Why are we here? Speaking for myself, I am here to write a review of the new album, The Lost Art Of Wandering, by Raymond Richards. The review as such, having as much to do with the album itself, as it does with my experience with the record. The record reviews I grew up with and learned from having been written by the likes of Lester Bangs; I doubt if I ever seriously considered even for a moment getting out of the way and letting the album speak for itself. 

Now, as for you and the reason you are here, there are multiple options I suppose. One, you are a habitual visitor to the Freeform Portland website and regular reader of the blog. Two, you may be casually or personally acquainted with Raymond Richards — and thus curious about a review of your friend. Third, you may well have stumbled upon this review, and/or website, by complete chance, having been pulled forth by the gravity of your own curiosity, your eyes darting from one word to the next and your brain making contextual connections, so that it all makes sense, such as it is.

Well enough of the petty barbery, let’s make a stab at the subject matter.

From what I understand, this is Raymond Richards’ first solo album, but not his first album, no. Looking into his musical history, you can see that he was part of the band, Mojave 3, who released albums for 4AD Records. He also seems to have worked with Lovefingers while in Los Angeles. At some point, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, and has applied his musical experience and multi-instrument talent to production work. I have never met him personally, despite living in the same city and having some friends in common, but what I have been able to uncover about him thus far suggests he would be worth a beer or two and some conversation.

The reason I am able to fill up the event horizon of your internet connected device with all these words is that I have a weekly radio show on Freeform Portland. That show is entitled “It’s a Nice World to Visit.” The show is long running and, one hopes, tasteful and discerning. That is not to say that I know more about music than you might. But I do know what I Like, and I very much like the album, The Lost Art Of Wandering.

I have stated it before, and it bears repeating, music is magic. It seems to come from nowhere and influences our moods and our minds. Also, I believe that recorded music is a contextualized form of time travel. It not only captures the moment at which the recording is made, but also captures the moment at which the listener hears or is affected by the music. Subsequent listens to a piece of music can easily transport the listener to a different time and place, even though by memory alone. 

The Lost Art Of Wandering evokes a sense of place, moreso than many records I have heard over the years. There is a real sense of existence in the songs on the record — and as the music fades at the end of each song, a sense of haunting as well. With a minimal amount of instruments, Raymond Richards is able to bring his main instrument, the pedal steel guitar, to the forefront. The manner in which he plays the instrument is spacious, invoking desert landscapes, open land with far-off horizons. The smell of rain on the breeze. The push of wind as you walk against it, your clothes on your body being pulled in the other direction. Listening to the songs on the album, I do not even need to close my eyes to be brought to someplace else. The sounds on the record seem as simple as breathing and just as vital. 

I do not often resort to comparison when reviewing a record, as I do not wish to belittle the artist or the album, but I think this time I will make an exception and cite a couple of records that came to mind when I first listened to “The Lost Art Of Wandering.” But only because I think it might be helpful to other listeners, as the pedal steel guitar is not often a lead instrument on an album, and has in the past been used in a gimmicky fashion. The first record I thought of as I surround myself with the work of Raymond Richards was Slider: Ambient Excursions For Pedal Steel Guitar, by Bruce Kaphan, which is an ambient album, nearly a pleasant New Age album of sorts, by a musician who was part of the San Francisco band, American Music Club.

The second record I thought of immediately was Incident At Cima, by Scenic — an album of desert surf music, a rock album with clear influences by Ennio Morricone, and one that invokes a sense of place unlike most other albums. 

The songs on The Lost Art Of Wandering are place names, spots on the map, towns or cities you can visit. But with the album on, there may be no need for such time and trouble. Each song clearly brings forth each location, as though you were standing in place yourself. Although, I have to imagine, your experience in each location might be enhanced or graciously altered, should you visit while listening to the tracks from this album.

In closing, let me step up on my platform to say that, in recent years, the music industry has crumbled and is nothing like it once was at its height, the mid-seventies to mid-nineties, and I for one am okay with that. The breakdown of the mechanism of merchandising an art form has allowed some musicians to make albums of rare beauty, for the sake of art itself; case in point, this record by Raymond Richards. An album made from the love of music. An album made with a sense of grace and beauty. An album made with a personal connection to the musician, the sounds at times seeming to stem from what I imagine are a slow ballet of gestures across a series of electrified strings. 

Listening to The Lost Art Of Wandering by Raymond Richards reminds me again of something of which I love to be reminded: the magic that is music, the beauty that is music, can change people for the better. One person in a better mood, one smile, is infectious. There is no form of art that changes us and affects us on the levels at which does music. Put the album on, take a deep breath and allow yourself to visit someplace else: a vast space, with horizon lines and a sense of both loneliness and belonging. You are never alone with music.

The Lost Art of Wandering can be found on bandcamp.

Notes from the Pandemic #1

Just days after my first show, we got word that the station was closing as a result of the pandemic. Of course, like all of the other volunteer DJ’s at the station, I was saddened by the loss of community and our inability to share the music that means so much to us. Privately, I donned my headphones and escaped into the music that brings me joy, the songs that have already gotten me through so much in my life. While it is obviously a pleasure to bury oneself in music, it is really not the same as sharing it, which is what I got into radio to do when I volunteered at my first community station so many years ago. This sharing is what drives us Freeform volunteers.

A couple of weeks went by. All the while, I am making and imagining live shows that may or may not be shared with our Freeform listeners and family in the future. There was something soothing in the act of producing playlists with the bright hope that they might be shared some day. What I did not anticipate, was that I, the DJ, was going to be the one gifted a playlist. 

“Who said you can’t remain socially distant and play music together?”

See, I had some really kind feedback from my first show from random listeners. One of those listeners tuned in to hear my second show, only to find the station notice that our regular programming was halted due to the current outbreak. He shared his disappointment and, to my surprise, sent me a Spotify playlist entitled “Anita O’Day and Carmen McRae Sing Songs for the Socially Distanced” with the subject heading, “The Little Things That Mean So Much,” referencing the title of one of the American Standards included in the lineup. In spite of my age, I admit to being as old fashioned as my musical tastes and had never used Spotify. Regardless of my hesitation to sign up for anything online, I became a Spotify user, just so I could receive the gift of music, one actually inspired by me: a humble, early-morning, mid-week, volunteer DJ on our shared station. 

I was touched by the gesture, and appreciative of the listener’s good taste. He had clearly put in a great deal of time and effort – time and effort any DJ knows well – to create this thoughtful playlist for me. Listening to it on that chilly, early-Spring morning delivered pure delight. It was like when you have been eating your own cooking for ages, then someone else cooks you a meal, and a really tasty one at that. I feasted on that playlist in much the same way, relishing every considerately placed song with pith that played. I sang along to the familiar tunes and was pleasantly surprised by songs I did not know, and bopped, as I do, all along the way. It was a special reminder that receiving music is often a much greater gift than being able to share it.

Since that day, I have listened to that playlist again and again. I have found new favorites that I have excitedly added to future radio shows, should I have the good fortune of getting on the air live again. And every time I play one of those songs, from now until the end of time, I will remember the many gifts our Freeform listeners offer us. May we all be healed by the music, and the little things that mean so much.

DJ Ebee, The Oddity

To enjoy the listener’s very fine playlist, click here

Oozelles: review

On May 1st, Oozelles released their debut album on the record label, ORG Music. 

I love debut albums. Debut albums are a listener’s first introduction to the world of that particular recording artist or group: their ideas and sounds, which germinated over a lifetime, collected, combined, recorded and presented to the world at large. Often there is no promise of success, but seemingly always the hope that there will be a connection with a listener, which allows the listener to sidestep the everyday world  and go into the world created by the album.

The album by Oozelles is an album, in which you can lose yourself. The album has its own sense of rhythm. Familiar instruments, guitars and percussion, intertwine with keyboard and saxophone accents, leading to a cohesive tribal feel. The atmosphere created by the group has influences, but I do not wish to belittle this album by ranking it against or comparing it to records that preceded it. 

The first tease of the album released by the record label is the song “Refill The Swamp” which begins with an eerie keyboard before the drum pounding and guitar twang hit you in both ears and move your feet in a decadent shuffle. Speaking for myself, it was easy to imagine shadowy figures dancing to this song, such as those being led away by Death himself in the film, “The Seventh Seal.” As teases go, it is a good one. Well-representative of the album as a whole, suggesting all that is good about the album, with songs that build on the single, without directly repeating it.

Oozelles on Bandcamp

On this album the group comes across more as a gang than a band — as in the early days of rock n’ roll, when it seemed that bands lived on top of each other in small communal dwellings, sharing clothing, beds and toothbrushes, and still hitting the stage with an impact of a united force: the old “us against the world” chestnut. As an avid and active listener, I have always appreciated that sort of mindset in a band. When you find a well-made album such as this one, by that sort of band, you feel like you are in on the secret. You want to walk around with the album under your arm, and acknowledge the knowing glances of those, who recognize the album you are holding.

Although this is Oozelles’ debut album, the members of this band have been in other bands, such as: The Starlite Desperation, War Paint, Dura-Delinquent, Jail Weddings and Sugar & Gold — and it appears they have brought all of that experience to bear in the writing, playing and recording of this album. It feels like a classic debut album that will reveal itself with subsequent listens. A classic debut album you’ll share with your “cool” friends. A classic debut album, whose secret you will not long be able to keep to yourself. A classic debut album, which as of May 1st is everywhere: store shelves, digital platforms, and under the arm of that cool guy exiting a record store.

Pete Krebs: Working Musician

Pete Krebs has been a fixture of the Portland music scene since the 1990s. He was first known in Thrillhammer and then Hazel, a band that helped define the Portland response to the early 90’s flannel and guitar scene, undermining the macho grunge aesthetic, their ramshackle live shows blazing with poppy but angular songs. Pete and Jody Bleyle singing like a new John Doe/Exene Cervenka duo, Brady Payne Smith’s lanky frame curling back from his bass, and of course, Fred Nemo, the dancer, balancing atop a chair with a water pitcher and cinder block. Fortunately, Hazel re-emerges periodically to play some shows — last emerging with a pair of sold out nights just before the 2016 election.

Pete’s subsequent early solo work, with delicate and melodic songs, seemed a departure from the raucous sounds of Hazel. But even back in the days of the band, signs of Pete’s future troubadour status were evident, often playing a song alone during the band’s shows. Pete recorded and toured with the late Elliott Smith, who traveled a similar musical trajectory in the 1990’s.

In following years, Pete has roamed through a variety of musical styles, including bluegrass with the great Golden Delicious. Since then, Pete has continue to move among western swing, and gypsy jazz, alone and with a series of bands: Kung Pao Chickens, Gossamer Wings, the Stolen Sweets, and the Portland Playboys

Before the current viral pandemic, you could see Pete playing all over town on any given night, either alone or with various companions, depending on the genre and setting. It’s always seemed to me, there’s a risk Portland music fans would take this local treasure’s presence for granted, given he plays out so much. Twice named to the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, and twice having overcome cancer, Pete is an accomplished and resilient guy, who comes across as low-key and friendly.

With the complete shutdown of live music this spring, I thought it’d be interesting to get Pete’s perspective on life as a working musician when the music halls are closed.

First, how are you holding up with the current situation? Any new hobbies? 

I am trying to learn how to bake, and have a sourdough start on top of the fridge.  I’ve also resumed running, and am trying to hit four miles a day. I’m also working on a bunch of tunes each week for the Sunday Nite Swing Session that I’m putting out on facebook every Sunday at 7pm.

You have always seemed to me one of the hardest working musicians in the Portland area, with a busy gig schedule, not to mention giving lessons to students as well. I can’t imagine how it is to suddenly have the landscape shift under your feet in this way.  How are you responding to the change? Are you still able to do lessons? 

I basically lost my entire business within a few days; I could no longer meet with students directly, my college class at PNCA was canceled, as well as 20+ gigs per month.  I’ve been able to put together a partial teaching schedule online, and with the aforementioned Sunday gig, I’m bringing in a bit of income.  

I listen to a lot of music, but it’s a challenge not to be able to go out and share in the live music experience — there’s nothing that quite replaces the experience of being in the moment as music is made. As someone out playing so much, do your fingers get itchy to play? Is your dog getting a regular show?  

My girlfriend (who’s staying with me for the duration) and my dog, Dixie, are enjoying regular performances of obscure Western swing and jazz from the 30’s and 40’s.  No complaints so far!

I identify you as very rooted in Portland, but I don’t think you’re from these parts. Where did you grow up? When did you come to Portland?

I’m originally from California, but moved to Oregon in 1984 to go to Oregon State.  I’ve been here ever since, aside from 8 months that I spent living in Europe trying to learn Gypsy music in Holland.

Your career in music spans a number of stages, from the early local scene days; to the days of the big record companies swooping in looking for indie rock gold; to the ups and downs of vinyl, then CDs, then digital, and now some resurgence of vinyl culture — recently, it seems so many musicians can only keep ahead by playing shows, selling merch, etc. Now we’re in another period where musicians need to figure out how to keep going again.  What is your sense of what it means to be an independent musician when everyone is avoiding one another? 

I think that a certain type of musician can thrive in this new atmosphere, as long as they’re able to adapt to the technology that allows connection to the outside world with some sort of reasonable sonic fidelity.  As a working musician, I’m used to having to live with financial uncertainty and consequently that side of things doesn’t scare me as much as it might some. I also see this (in some ways) as a wonderful opportunity to grow as a musician through wood shedding, but in also having the opportunity to present music for the sole purpose of raising other people’s spirits.

Perhaps I’m just getting old enough to see my musical idols age, but it seems like recent years have seen the deaths of a number of important musicians — the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the loss, with the recent deaths of John Prine, Manu Dibango, among others. Are there particular artists, whose loss you lament? Anyone you wish you could’ve seen live, but didn’t get to?

I was saddened by Bucky Pizzarelli’s death especially.  He was one of the last links to a style of jazz guitar playing that is all but gone.   I never had a chance to meet him, but I’m indebted to him and his memory.

You’re a remarkable polymath when it comes to music, having covered a wide range of styles and genres.  Like many, I imagine, i first knew of your work with Hazel, with the band’s legendary live shows, then followed you through a more country sound, gypsy jazz, and swing — even now it seems you find an outlet for these different genres, depending on your setting and your companions on stage.  Do you prefer this eclectic approach or is there one single style that you’d really prefer to pursue, given the opportunity?

I like being able to play in a variety of styles, and to keep reconnecting with each as the spirit moves me.  When I re-focus on one thing, the time I spent away generally serves to illuminate new perspectives which always invigorate me and teach me new things.  Sometimes the lessons are very simple and basic, sometimes a bit more complex. But it’s all the same music to me after awhile, just sounding a little different from week to week, month to month. 

There have been some nice re-issues of some of your older material. Any new recording projects on the horizon?

I do have a new album of originals coming out in June, and will be debuting a few tunes off the record this coming week!

Until your local music venue opens up again, you’ll have to look online to find Pete Krebs:

https://www.heypetekrebs.com

Bandcamp

Cavity Search Records

Facebook

But let’s hope he’s back out behind a microphone soon.

Happy 4th Anniversary, Freeform Portland!

When I was very young I had an imaginary friend, whose name was Tony Doink. For the first few years of my life, I was an only child; I suppose that was one of the reasons for having an imaginary friend. The other obvious one was to cast blame when I did something I was not supposed to have done. I could always point the finger and say “Tony did it.” His was a personality, in which I could hide and take comfort. When I was three, my parents had another child, my younger brother. Around that time my family moved from Illinois to California — and somewhere along the way I lost contact with my imaginary friend. 

Innocence lost maybe as I became more aware, even as a four or five year old I felt like I was just to the side of the action, acting as an observer. I spent time alternately with one friend generally from school; and that friend changed every year, as I was moved from rented house to rented house and changed schools. When I was not with my one friend, I was alone with books, comic books, pencils, paper, and G.I. Joe dolls to act out superhero scenarios, staging grand battles in my bedroom and backyard. Although I left behind my absent imaginary friend, Tony Doink, I never left the imaginary. 

Always on my radar though, was music. At first, my only source of music was a car radio. Riding with my parents was always a welcome adventure, as I loved AM radio at that time. There seemed to be a certain magic in moving the tuning knob to chase the frequency that broadcast your favorite song. The static surrounding the song on either side, right and left, it seemed that the song was blasting out that tiny speaker directly at me.

Music assists the imaginary, the sounds and the lyrics paint pictures in one’s mind. Or so it was for me. I could see what the music created, or so it seemed. And when things aligned, the music seemed to fill my body and I was floating. I felt a sensation like that when I was young and collecting music, and I have chased it ever since. Never being able to put my finger on the exact cause of the sensation, it is just a special certain combination of words, melody and guitar riffs that affects me in such a manner.

For me, the sensation can be found on albums by such folks as: The Velvet Underground, Love, Creedence Clearwater, Television, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Fall, and so many more — with no need of outside assistance or inebriation. I passed through a time of drug experimentation as a young adult, but the results were less than desirable in repetition. So much easier to drop a needle on the “Glider” twelve inch by My Bloody Valentine and get lost in the song “Soon.”


Every human culture has music, often used in ceremonies or rituals. Music has been there with mankind, step by step, as we explored the world around us, and encountered other cultures and other music and influences. Music is the single vibration on which our long history resounds. If I believed in a deity, I would have to say that music is his or her greatest gift to us. 

We were brought together by music, in villages, that grew to be towns, that grew to be cities. And the music changed with us, as we grew and advanced, music reflected us and our social changes and our technologies. Sometimes music inspired those changes, and sometimes the strides we made were reflected in the music. Music might not be able to save the world as a whole, but I thoroughly believe it can affect and change one person. And that person can affect another person, and so on. In this way, music is shared and given as a gift, to ourselves, from one of us to the other.

It was the act of sharing music that brought me to radio, with the hope that I might unlock for other people that combination that set off that floating sensation for me. And selfishly, that I might also by a sequence of songs, segueing from one to the next, trigger that sensation in myself. And all these many years later, with hundreds upon hundreds of radio broadcasts to my credit, part of me is always aiming for that vibration. 

Getting myself on the radio in Portland, I thought to adopt a DJ name, a separate identity I could inhabit and be a more bombastic version of myself. In practice, however, I never managed to be anything other than myself. Noah Fence is a mask I wear that reflects myself, better than my given name.


With Freeform Portland, I have spent four years being a part of the station, watching the proto-version of an idea become actual fact, empowered by dedicated volunteers into an expanding force of two frequencies, an internet stream and hundreds of DJ’s broadcasting music 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have heard Freeform Portland described as “college radio for adults,” but for me Freeform is a place, where for two hours each week, during my broadcast, I can be my actual self.

Other times of the week, I am often wearing my work-face, my husband-face, my public transit-face, my yes I’m listening-face, my continually astounded by the unfolding beauty of nature-face, my misanthropic-face, my wallet is empty so fuck off-face… All of these faces come with restrictions, and an expected pattern of behavior. I sometimes feel I am an actor, portraying my own life for the benefit of no one in particular. 

But in my imaginary face as Noah Fence — unlike my imaginary friend, Tony Doink,  who existed to help me dodge consequences — I found a version of myself that I had casually forgotten. As Noah Fence, alone in the broadcasting studio, I can be the real me, and make music selections for my radio show, abiding by very few rules, aside from those which I have placed upon myself. Week after week in the broadcasting studio for the station, I can feel a palpable joyful sensation in the air. Thank goodness there are no cameras, as I tend to reflexively dance. 


I have spent four years with Freeform Portland, through their kindness of allowing me to be on the air. And I am in good company, with my contemporaries and their long-running shows, such as “Guitar & Other Machines” with DJ Steena, “Esoteria” with Odd Monster, “Whoa This Is Heavy” with Zen Hound, “On The Porch” with DJ Brzy, “What’s This Called” with Ricardo Wang, “Bachelard’s Panty Drawer” with Mammal in Crime to name a few. These shows, like my own, have been staples on Freeform Portland, as the schedule has been changed and updated every six months. Each time the schedule has been opened up, new, interesting and highly enthusiastic individuals have applied to have a radio show. The influx of this energy and novel ideas for radio shows is one of the key reasons that Freeform Portland is a wonderful radio station. A station that stands apart from other stations, with which I have been involved. A station I truly love and wish to succeed, beyond my time and participation (although I can not imagine when that time will come).

Please join me in wishing Freeform Portland a very happy 4th Anniversary and keep your radio tuned to 90.3 FM / 98.3 FM to hear music brought to you by people who love music, and love sharing music in its infinite combinations.

WFMH interviews Temi Kogbe, co-founder of Odion Livingstone Records

On Dec, 14 2019, Jim and I had the privilege of interviewing Temi Kogbe on Freeform Portland, Weekend Family Hour (WFMH). Kogbe is a cofounder of Odion Livingstone Records, curator, African music archivist and collector. He operates Odion Livingstone with former heavyweight EMI-Nigeria producer and musician, Odion Iruoje. Odion Livingstone Records was founded in 2017 and is the only vinyl reissue label operating in Nigeria today. Their recordings are deeply based in African groove heavy tempos, soulful boogie, disco, synth, funk and electro psychedelic tones. 

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Thoughts About Andy Gill

Like so many people, I was shocked to read the news that Andy Gill, guitarist and founding member of the band Gang Of Four, had died. The news came out of nowhere. There had been no prior reports of illness, or hospital stays. No cancelled tours. It seemed as though one minute he was here, and the next, he was gone.

His passing is a huge loss to the world of music. As a member of Gang of Four, his contribution to music was seismic. As a band, they created a sound that had not been heard before, filling a vacuum that we were unaware existed. Aspects of their sound can be heard in several genres — such as punk, funk and dub — but had not been combined as Gang Of Four did, with such drive and sheer mastery.

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