Two local bands, The Cabin Project and Camp Crush combined forces this past January 31st at Doug Fir Lounge to release a new full-length album and a new EP, respectively (check out Ramune’s review of the Cabin Project’s new album, Decenter, here). Both bands are defined by their strong emotive and melodic songwriting, but each has very different genre hallmarks.
Camp Crush, a synth-pop duo consisting of Jen Deale on keyboards and lead vocals and Chris Spicer on drums, quickly got the room bobbing with tight rhythms and big, anthemic choruses. Their sound combines the icy textures and dance beats of new wave with the bombast of 80s pop and hair metal. I couldn’t help but imagine some of their emphatically belted choruses being delivered by Bonnie Tyler or Foreigner. The duo also brought out bassist Benjy Rickard (Labradora) and guitarist David Ricardo (The Zags, The Cool Whips) for a few enjoyably dramatic songs near the end of their set. Both Rickard and Ricardo played on Camp Crush’s new EP, Run.
The Cabin Project quickly drew in the audience with their ethereal Americana songs that combine the intimacy of folk music with the orchestral flair of indie pop. Frontwoman Katie Sawicki’s warm, reverberant guitar tones blended effortlessly with two part vocal harmonies (from Sawicki and drummer/vocalist Zanny Geffel), melodic basslines from Kelly Clifton, and sweeping, pedal-modified violin phrases from Jean Mastaler. Additionally, Geffel’s dynamic drums perfectly complemented the melodic and emotional swells of the tunes. Sawicki took some time during the set to speak about the meaning and and intention of their new songs as personal reflections of queer women living in a trying and frightening political climate, and many of the attendees were longtime fans who sang along passionately with songs, adding to the intimacy and connectedness of the concert experience.
The Cabin Project is one of Portland’s best bands, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, then get yourself to Bandcamp or your streaming service of choice and get listening. Their sound has evolved over five albums and could be described as ethereal folk or symphonic comfort music.
The new album, Decenter, which I’m guessing is a play on the word dissenter, consists of ten songs that are remarkably consistent with each other and with their previous 2016 release, Unfolded. The songs are layered compositions of soft falsetto vocals and light harmonies soaked in reverb and nested into the textures of violin strings and orchestral percussion. Characteristic to their style, many of their songs start with a delicate whisper, move into rolling polyrhythmic beats, and then crescendo in a quiet roar. The songs on this album were written in response to the current socio-political situation, though it’s hard to know that simply by listening to the lyrics. The band says “Given our political times and witnessing the exponential wrongs and beauties that people are capable of bestowing upon each other, we decided to make a record that was bold.” They further explain “We set out to make a record that represents who we are as musicians, as people, as fighters, as friends, as partners, as women, as queers, as outcasts, as people who hold privilege, and as humans who also exist in narratives outside the dominant. A piece of music that honors and holds space for all these stories.”
Check out their website, follow them on facebook, and keep an eye out for one of their stunning live performances. And if you’ve enjoyed this music review, please consider clicking on the sidebar to subscribe to the Portland Notes music blog so you can stay in tune with Portland’s amazing local music.
The Cabin Project consists of five women playing conventional instruments in an unconventional way. The band played at Alberta Street Pub last weekend, putting on a mesmerizing set full of layers and contrasts. Their music would seem appropriate in the comfort of a rustic hideout in the woods, as their names suggests, and also in the grandeur of a concert hall. The viola and 5 string violin played with distortion, reverb, and delay, along with spacious and dynamic percussion, and gorgeous vocals create an orchestral and modern feel. Their sound is unique, yet familiar to those who are fans of Bon Iver, The National, and Warpaint.
The Cabin Project with Katie Sawicki on guitar and vocals, Zanny Geffel on drums and vocals, Kelly Clifton on bass, Rebekah Hanson on viola, and Jean Mastaler on 5 string violin.
The Cabin Project puts on a stunning performance. Check them out next on Dec 22 at Turn, Turn, Turn, and learn more about them on their website and facebook.
I first heard this mind-blowing group of women when they were a featured guest band at McMenamin’s Al’s Den last summer. At that show the band played on a bill with Adam Sweeney, who was a one-time member of The Cabin Project. I was so impressed that just three people could create such a full orchestral sound, and was determined to follow this band to see what they would do next! Since I saw them live, The Cabin Project has written a new album, been featured on Portland Radio Project, The Big Takeover, and BitchMedia’s New Music Monday, just to quickly give an example of how active they are – the band are capturing the attention of listeners due to the complex and enthralling music they create as well as the personalities they exhibit on stage.
In the audio interview, Katie Sawicki (vox, guitar, keys), Zanny Geffel (drums, vox) and Rebekah Hanson (viola, vox) explain the development of the new album, Unfolded – and more importantly, they discuss the dynamic of the band. These women work together in music, with equal passion, dedication, and input. The result is a fully cohesive sound that is stunningly beautiful. The band releases Unfolded at The Doug Fir Lounge June 24, playing with beloved spacey/jazzy Coco Columbia and the enthusiastic and dynamic Human Ottoman.
The Cabin Project has approached their music with determination and intent. They chose to step out and add the strings and looping pedals to already an already creative and very solid indie pop/rock. They chose to have an all-female band, and to limit themselves to a small group that “clicks.” They collaborate in an almost uncanny way when writing, arranging, embellishing and performing. There is no judgment at any step along the way in the music development process – just trust, respect appreciation, and very hard work.
I think this is one of the most revealing and personal interviews I’ve done, as far as the band members understanding and expressing themselves, both individually and as a group. These women are a band of true friends and sisters. You can feel it in the music. The album reflects the energy and uniqueness of their live performances – as well as an honesty and an insight into the difficulty of producing this roomful of sound with just three people. Check out the live album in full on June 24 at The Doug Fir Lounge. Some sample previews are available to get you excited: BitchMedia premiered the new song “Focus” this week, and The Big Takeover announced the release by sharing the song “Highways” on their site. The Cabin Project is an experience – I hope you will join us at The Doug Fir Lounge Friday, June 24, and enjoy them with us!