Ripe fruit at arm's length

Wax Tablet
By PORTLAND PHOENIX MUSIC STAFF  |  March 14, 2014

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ORCHARDS, Axehandle Road

>> Good and spooked is how we felt listening to a new spool of tape issued by the Orchards this week. We thought this venture by Portland songwriter Eric Schwan had been buried under his considerable efforts fronting the experimental art-pop group Furry Ambers, but the gentle hombre dons those old cloaks for some brand new deliverances here. Over a nine-song endeavor titled Axehandle Road — a geographic clue to the listener that we’re dealing here with the sonic minutes of a site-specific ritual — Schwan is flanked by Matt Lajoie and Dawn Aquarius, twin sorcerers of the band Herbcraft. Banded, they all three hack through the vegetative growth of folk’s outer limits, eliding the logocentric obsessions of Orchards’ older ballads in favor of an amorphous, immanent hum. In other words, we’re not sure what planet this lives on, but it sure is diggable. Especially moved by the bleating guitar rhythms of “Axehandle Road” — the song version. Out this week on cassettes limited to 25 copies (and digital ad infinitum) via theorchards1.bandcamp.com. See the Orchards play at Oak and the Ax this Friday, with Dirty Projectors’ bassist Nat Baldwin and local folk artist Lisa/Liza.

>>  Despite spending the last two years awaiting the guillotine of private development, we’ve been hearing some speculative chatter that the building in Thompson’s Point known as Prime Artist Studios might live on as a rehearsal complex.

>> Songwriter Rob Cimitile of the band Builder of the House has found artistic inspiration by launching an inquiry into his own personal history, and he’s hungry to learn more. He’s dug up a unique story in his own family lineage about a Portland couple in the early 20th century whose lives were defined by mental illness, his great-great-grandmother Bertha having lived the last 50 years of her life in the Maine Insane Hospital (now known as the Augusta State Hospital). The story is the backbone for a new song (the single “A Plot in Falmouth”) and album for the band, who have launched a crowdfunding campaign through mid-April for that and a companion video, hoping to cast actors to re-create the story. Visit builderofthehouse.com for more info.

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