Portland New Ushers in the New Year at a New Venue

The first Portland New Music Society concert took place at Enterbeing on the 22nd of January. Featured were Christopher Penrose, Peter Karman, Michael Hallenbeck, J.P. Jenkins, and Drew Adams.

PenrosePenrose opened the show with a Cosmovox set, laptop music files controlled by two i-Phones. This was subtle and graceful music, three short “pieces” of intricately shifting layers of electronic goodness. They made a kind of piece together, too, with the music that opened the first short piece returning, somewhat transformed, in the third short piece. Or so it sounded to me. A lovely set to watch, too, as Christopher’s hands weaving the two i-Phones in the air were as graceful and subtle as the music itself–no surprise.

Karman & HallenbeckNext were Peter Karman and Michael Hallenbeck, the most recent in Society founder Brandon Conway’s presentation of musicians who have never performed together before. Another success, too. And this set was notable for sounding exactly like these two had been playing together for years and, what’s more, had spent many hours carefully integrating their sources. And I say that because this was not simply a matter of setting up a drone in one laptop while the other one played more various things. Both composers brought a variety of material–soundscape, voices, and different electronic noises–to the table. It sounded like one piece by one person.

J P JenkinsAfter an intermission, J.P. did what I’ve heard him do every time I’ve heard him perform (every time but the first, of course)–play something of extremely high quality that sounded like nothing else he’d ever done before. This evening it was very loud and gritty and not at all guitar sounding noise that never quite masked unmistakably blues sounding music. Quite a stunning experience.

Drew AdamsTo close was a mixed media piece by Drew Adams, with Scott Brazieal, piano, Mary Sutton, violin, and Ben Hartman, sax. And, of course, Drew himself, guitar and vocals.

This piece had electroacoustic sounds, instruments played conventionally and unconventionally (if “unconventionally” makes any sense in 2009), lush lounge singing, and raucous outbursts of noise. With all its stylistic and aesthetic variety, this piece had all the potential for being a terrible mess. It was anything but. Indeed, part of my enjoyment was hearing all the wildness threatening to break out but held firmly in check. My favorite part of this set was the almost completely pitchless violin solo around halfway through. Quiet, subtle, little scrapes and tappings–joined gradually by all the other musicians in a grand swirl of noise that led straight to that lounge.

Another completely satisfying evening of new music. For people who love music, Portland is one of the finer places to be to be sure.

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