Formless at North Portland's Million
sublime through a side door
often is austerity on anyone's mind? Perhaps never, maybe once or
twice if you're thinking something ill about a distant relation.
exactingly handcrafted bricks of the uncanny, punk style.
But austerity's not all bad, and while I've long been a proponent
of its more esoteric applications, I think Brenden Clenaghen may
just be Portland's austerity king.
In addition to being a hyper-formalist conceptual painter (his
obsessively crafted works have a humor and sensuality in stark contrast
with their exacting production methods), he's half of the duo The
Formless. The band pummeled a hot August Thursday night into abject
submission at Million in North Portland.
As a super-indie all ages club, Million is in itself quite austere
your basic black box with a bench against the wall. No smoking,
no drinking, not even water for sale, as far as I could tell.
But you definitely don't need any of that to bring sincerely elsewhere
music like this to the kids (and geezers like me), and it needs
to be done. Now if the kids will just break the 15-ft. horseshoe
of empty territory in front of the stage that forms at many shows
Clenaghen: working-class black and an iconoclast's measured
This might not have been a bad idea in this case, however. Ears
might bleed if found too close to the stentorian aggro-Goth punk
coolly stamped out like so many sheets of molten metal by The Formless,
more like godheadSilo than The White Stripes.
Those contradictions are functional though, and nice. The extreme
focus with which guitarist Clenaghen and drummer Chelsea Mosher
mete out their cubist garage rock makes the music appear all the
more wild. Even while Clenaghen, in working-class casual black,
stands stolidly in 3/4 view facing back toward Mosher, only occasionally
casting an iconoclast's measured gaze into the recesses of the room
Clenaghen plays a severely overdriven Gibson at 'cuda-speed through
dark melodies and cyclic anti-surf riffs while barking things into
the microphone that sound at best discontented. And when he wants
to show his cards a bit, his guitar makes sounds like a laser through
Mosher: a math-Neanderthal with drumsticks and more gallop than
Meanwhile, Mosher's drums are literally pounded across the floor
by her punishing attack. Her lines are a bit more gallop than groove,
with lots of nice tom-thrashing in concordance with the heavy atmosphere.
She's a math-Neanderthal with those sticks, while also doing most
of the singing; evil, cryptic, howling vocals.
The Formless should be the house band for Land of the Lost; they
could play for the Sleestaks, that monkey, the secretly wild dad
and one of the dinosaurs, if you catch my drift.
I can't sum them up any better than that, really; exactingly handcrafted
bricks of the uncanny, punk style, delivered with a slight wink
and hardly another word.
Both things apply tight focus and rigid control to approach the
sublime through a side door.