A first sampler from the new Lorem Ipsum label

Call it a placeholder
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  February 27, 2013

FILL IN THE BLANKS Rural Ghosts are among those on the new sampler.
It's been a while since Portland had itself a bona fide new label, something more than just a vanity title for a band's self-released album. It makes sense, considering the fracturing nature of the music industry in general and the ease with which independent artists can record and release music nowadays.

What's a label even good for? Well, for the artist, it can help with some of the details that tend to elude musicians, like PR and getting set up with services like iTunes and Bandcamp. But for the listener, the best of labels can serve as a filter. What with the firehose of music we're presented with today, it can be nice if a label shows itself to have a taste that's compatible with yours and that you can trust.

Portland's Eternal Otter is consistently on target with its releases, which tend to be dead serious and somewhat lo-fi, lending themselves to vinyl reproduction. Cornmeal carries Portland's alt-country torch. There was a time when it looked like Pigeon Records might be our East Coast Jagjaguar, though it's mostly now in hibernation.

What will be Lorem Ipsum Recordings' hallmark? Judging by the new label's first seven-song sampler, they'll be grabbing the baton from Cat and Mouse Records (Dead End Armory, Travis Cyr, Frank Hopkins, Anna's Ghost, Dead Man's Clothes, etc.), which put out its second annual compilation in 2007 and now lays dormant (and now I'm remembering Acoustic Coffee fondly — no one's really stepped in to fill that gap, have they?). Available for pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp, From Lorem, with Love (Volume 1) features a song each from every band on the label and promises to be quarterly.

We'll see about that. Many of us remember the good idea that was the Gigaphone Record in the early 2000s and how that musical periodical turned out to be too much of a grind to keep up with.

Things are different now, though. No longer would you ever dream of sending someone a CD in the mail every three months, and the likes of Bandcamp makes these kinds of quickie features incredibly easy to distribute and consume.

They also can, at their best, provide great insight into artist development and how albums come to be. One of the tracks here is label proprietor Erik Neilson's demo version of "The Fear," essentially just vocals and acoustic guitar and lots of reverb, tape hiss, and string squeak.

Compare that to the full song offered by Neilson's band, Rural Ghosts, and you start wondering where the song will go. "Eyes" features a warm bowed bass in the open with electric guitar and skittering drums with a forward beat like Radiohead. It's not quite Peter Murphy's "Cuts You Up," but the bass is active and drives the melody while a xylophone elbows in at the midway point.

Why that instrumentation and arrangement? Such is the songwriter's job, but there's much more opportunity for the listener to peek into the workspace nowadays.

Not only Portland workspaces, either. Young Readers, actually just a single guy named Jordan Herrera, open the compilation and are based in Oklahoma. It's a slow acoustic guitar piece, until "All I Have" brings in cello and fiddle in opposing channels and the vocals double up and eventually become a soaring chorus: "I'll be fine/Without a fancy house I will get by/If all I have/Is you."

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  Topics: Music Features , Portland, Lorem Ipsum, Eternal Otter
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