February 21, 2013

CD Review: 'From Lorem, With Love': 'Music that deserves to be heard'

The label's compilation CD is an impressive calling card.

By RICK JOHNSON

In the Lorem Ipsum Records bio, label founder Erik Neilson calls Portland's music scene "phenomenal," but he also thinks it "doesn't quite get the credit it deserves."

Courtesy photo

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HOW IT RATES

VARIOUS ARTISTS: "FROM LOREM, WITH LOVE (VOLUME 1)"

PRODUCED BY: Erik Neilson

★★★ 1/2

Based on a four-star scale

So he decided to do something about it.

Neilson, who performs and records his own music with Rural Ghosts, started his new label as a way to foster the local music community through booking events and releasing recordings, with an emphasis on artists who are "making unique, thoughtful music that deserves to be heard." The label has plans to release artist samplers annually every quarter, and "From Lorem, With Love (Volume 1)" is the first of the series.

If the artists featured on this compilation are any indication, Portland music fans should expect big things from the Lorem Ipsum label. It's an impressive calling card. The label has a roster of seven artists, and each contributed one song to "Volume 1."

A moving, understated track from Young Readers, "All I Have," kicks off the compilation in compelling fashion with lines such as "Well, I was raised on blood and sweat and pain" plaintively sung over simple acoustic chords. A lonely violin and a touch of reverb added to the harmony vocals elevate the song from traditional folk to something more akin to dream-pop. "All I Have" contains more layers and textures than its opening chords would suggest.

Next comes "Eyes," the latest track from Neilson's own Rural Ghosts, which released a solid debut EP last year. It's clear right away there's been a significant amount of progression in this band.

Familiar elements like Neilson's distant and echoey vocals are still there, but new elements like a haunting cello and the steady, insistent backbeat take this new track to places that the EP never went. "Eyes" makes for a perfect teaser, and I can't wait to hear the next full-length release from Rural Ghosts.

Duo Brett and Lena nicely combine the male/female vocal interplay of The Civil Wars with the songwriting style of northwest indie rockers Fleet Foxes on "Winter's End," forging their own unique sound in the process. Whit Walker's quavering but earnest vocals add emotional weight to his bluesy, country-esque track "Wanna' Hold Yer Hand," and the slightly distorted female backing vocals coupled with the sound of an accordion help put a unique spin on a traditional sound.

The brightest, shiniest production on the compilation comes courtesy of Oliver Waterman's track, "Christ in Devil's Clothes." His is a polished, professional sound that's tailor-made for adventurous radio, but still with enough heart and integrity to appeal to indie rockers.

The most unique track on the album is Indre Styrke's "Good Morning Sun," a completely instrumental piece that masterfully weaves droning keys and synthesizers with a shuffling drum beat and a reverb-soaked guitar sound reminiscent of mid-period Pink Floyd. This is a track made for late-night headphone listening. Indre Styrke is definitely a band to keep an eye on in 2013.

Closing out the compilation is a four-track demo from Neilson called "The Fear." The sound is similar to that of the first Rural Ghosts EP, but this time, Neislon's vocals have a little less echo to them, and the only other sound is a lone acoustic guitar. There's a certain intimacy to this track that hasn't always been present in some of his other work, and it will be interesting to see where Neilson takes his sound next, either solo or with Rural Ghosts.

With an already impressive stable of artists, it's clear Lorem Ipsum Records is just getting warmed up. "Volume 1" is the perfect mission statement, and it's an intense and intriguing listen from start to finish.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

rjohnson.rock@gmail.com

 

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