Click to hear: “I’m Leaving”
Milled Pavement Records is a burgeoning Portland label releasing a steady stream of hip hop and electronica records from local and international artists. With their new instrumental compilation, Hold Yr Tongue, Milled Pavement has arranged a varying, yet diligently bound-together, set of electronic songs.
The record opens strong with “Bell Rings, Dog Salivates” by the UK’s fbcfabric & reindeer. The track takes its time, gradually pulsating an eerie concoction of Rhodes, synth-bass and violas melded with vinyl scratches and pops; a distorted voice and heavy breathing are heard intermittently. With about a minute to go, a thrashing break beat barges in and carries the song out, keeping the previous layers in motion and intact. The gloomy aesthetic of this track is recurrent throughout the rest of the compilation.
The sequencing of this record — by local DJ Moshe, who also mixed and mastered it — is pretty spotless. Songs flow in and out of each other with parallel beats, keys, and instrumentation, occasionally so seamlessly that it isn’t clear the song has changed. But this consistency also contributes to its weakness: too much of it sounds the same.
The programming of beats is the backbone of most electronic music, the sturdiness of it. Tweaking equalizers, cutting, pasting, speeding up, slowing down, filtering — the ways in which a compelling and unique rhythm can be created with a computer are infinite. Considering this, to use a Garage Band or Fruity Loops basic drum kit preset in an attempt to convey a real drum sound is almost always a banal and frustrating choice. Roma’s “Love Song For Haters” could have been saved by an interesting beat; it boasts pleasingly sentimental piano, guitar and string melodies. But the drum track, with its calculated prog fills and heavy-handedness, distracts completely. A handful of other tracks on the record also suffer from this ailment.
But over the course of 16 songs, Hold Yr Tongue has its winning streaks. Desad’s “Deserve To Die” samples a southern man’s haunted musing: “I know a lot of people who deserve to die. I think everybody got something in their past, some sin, some awful secret thing.” These tormented ramblings continue among reverberated harpsichord; Native American flute; subtle, twanging guitar; and a chopped-up female vocal track.
The next song, Funken’s “Blanche,” is the disc’s shortest and most straightforward, a simple arrangement glued together by varying beats and a modest, distorted synth lead. “Blanche” (the comp’s best song title, to boot) segues perfectly into the prize pig of Hold Yr Tongue, which comes from the German outfit Mnemotrauma. “I’m Leaving” is a sinister gem echoing the macabre overtones of Aphex Twin and the jagged beats of DJ Shadow. There’s a strange marrying of feelings here: mourning clarinet and bassoon, a brief, repeated sample of deep, fluttering vibraphones, some aptly placed yet careless whistling. This bleak, almost Hitchcockian piece is certainly the compilation’s standout track.
The most out-of-place, yet refreshing, selection is from Portland’s Late Night Clouds Project. “The Giffnock Hum” (which also appears on LNCP’s recently reviewed album A Safe Place to Play) is a sluggish and deathly drone. It provides a break from any sort of beat and builds to a frightening, hellish crescendo. At its breaking point, all is masterfully resolved with a dreamy, classical synthesizer progression and the calm, resonated sound of children talking.
At Hold Yr Tongue’s weak spots, there is a lack of percussive and ambient balance, the latter often subdued by the loudness of the former. This, along with the uniformity of too many of the tracks, detracts from the pleasure of repeated listenings. But the highlights of the compilation are more than exciting. Milled Pavement has a hold of something genuine here in Portland; this collection only hints at its artists’ potential.
— Tyler Jackson
Moshe performs at the Naked Gallery Art Party on Sat., Feb. 14, at Sylvia Kania Gallery, 148 High St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Tix: $2 (all ages). On Sat., Feb. 21, he spins at Slainte, 24 Preble St., Portland, with DJs Psydways, Silverchild, and Elusid, at 9 p.m. No cover (21+). And on Wed., Feb. 25, Moshe and DJs Metris and Vik44 spin during Milled Pavement’s monthly gig at The White Heart, 551 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. No cover (21+). For more info, visit myspace.com/moshe.