One thing I noticed whilst living in Portland (Oregon), is the ridiculous amount of talent, passion and enthusiasm for ambient music. The community is a fantastic crowd, and I was lucky to meet a few, even DJ alongside, and witness low-key gigs first-hand on many rainy mid-week evenings. I've been meaning to do a separate Portals feature on the city (which will come soon) as the scene is a haven for ambient music lovers, but until then, there's some great music emerging from my previous home which is too good not to share.
Lifelike Family are one of the collectives holding the community together through numerous local gigs and a consistent label presence. Both their shows and releases feature home-grown talent, focusing on some of the many ambient, drone, experimental artists that call Portland, or the greater PNW, home. The label has focused on digital and tape releases (yes, of course tapes are a thing in Portland) but in this case, the label suits the format. It's home grown, with releases in local stores and passed to friends, just like the good old days. And the music, for the most part is grainy, textured and immersive, perfect for the extra analog feels.
Their latest release comes from Neglect - local Portland artist Joseph Valentino. I was unfortunately unable to see Joseph perform during my time up there, and after being nudged in the direction of this release, I'm gutted I missed out.
Neglect's album, Western Romance Novels, seems to pull from a wide array of influences, forming some beautiful tones and textures. The entire album has the feel and patience of a Pop Ambient compilation, with gentle looping strings on tracks such as I Am At Home... opener, We All Want To Belong... and title track Western Romance Novels.
Expansive drones give the album some depth and measure, on The Presence Of Life and organic, evolving guitars liven up the journey on my favorite track of the bunch, Kayenta. Ocotillo Wells reminds me of Marsen Jules' finest pieces with its seductive Castilian guitar licks and ever-expanding delay. Ulf Lohmann or Klimek simplicity also comes to mind - both early Pop Ambient contributors, and you can even pair it with some Harold Budd or Brian Eno if you wanted a 35000ft view - the backgrounds have been perfected and the accentuating instruments subtle and poignant in nature.
Comparing an entire album to a certain style or series, isn't a habit I want to keep - and you can argue any comparisons to Eno or Budd are pointless, but given Neglect will be new to many of us, I wanted to set the scene and make it a little more accessible to those willing to adventure. Put it this way, even if this album popped out of Wolfgang Voigt's Pop Ambient selections, I wouldn't have been surprised, which is some of the highest praise I can give for Neglect and his superb album, Western Romance Novels.
I see how much hard work Lifelike and it's many artists and friends put into the label and shows, so supporting music like this is important. But when it's this good, they deserve every praise they can muster. So go like their Facebook page to catch an upcoming show, and chuck a few bucks their way on Bandcamp, either on this album or the many other greats that Jay + Ryan and the Lifelike crew are cultivating.
Western Romance Novels is available on tape, or for name your own price via the Lifelike Family Bandcamp.