A FEW THINGS GAINED Matt Shardlow finds help from his friends.
How we think about making and consuming music is changing. It is not news that labels, albums, and record stores are dying, pushed aside by new ways of conducting the commerce of music. (Though at the turn of the 20th century the song was king and the trade was in sheet-music publishing rights, so maybe this is all a return to form, just with new technology.)
But has anyone predicted the death of the band itself? Portland has been buffeted lately by “solo” projects brimming with instruments and players. Is it anymore true that a band, with chemistry and history and lots of practices under their belt, is any better in the studio than a guy with some songs and some friends (or people who’ll play for $60 an hour)?
Consider Nothing Ventured, a humble name for something Matt Shardlow calls not a band but a “group project,” put together with former Jeremiah Freed/current Pete Kilpatrick guitarist Nick Goodale in Goodale’s newly constructed home studio. Yes, this not-band will release an album, Two Faced, this weekend. In fact, the night prior, Hutch Heelan, a former Kilpatrick bassist, will release a solo album featuring the likes of Graham Isaacson, the Grupo Esperanza horn section, and Dave Gutter, but I’ll get to that next week.
Gutter’s on this Nothing Ventured disc, too — and everywhere else, from the Overtones to Paranoid Social Club to the new duo project with Evan Casas to the acoustic project he sometimes calls Life Partners.
Here he harmonizes with Shardlow as the two double up verses of “Done,” which opens with tribal/bebop drumming from Nikki Glaspie (State Radio, Beyoncé) and then moves into a Soundgarden thrum. “There’s always something,” we’re told, “never for nothing.”
In some ways, the world needs another rock album with grunge, Zeppelin, and Black Crowes influences like the world needs another painting of a lighthouse. Yet sometimes you come across a Jamie Wyeth and realize that, well, maybe another lighthouse painting isn’t so bad. And so it is with songs like “BOC,” which is basically giving-the-dog-a-bone rock, with yelled biker vocals and some piano from Nigel Hall that’s mixed really low. Why wouldn’t you want another chance to revel in a Nick Goodale guitar solo? He is smooth and powerful and really knows how to fill a canvas.
Shardlow can dabble, too, whether with his languid electric lick in “Rock Star” (Shardlow also plays bass with Div Kid, which released an album last week), or with his multi-layered acoustic guitar and mandolin on the ballad “Stay Another Day.” On the former, the Robert Plant vocal treatment is partially explained by Shardlow’s service in a Zep tribute band, but it is enough of a rootsy change-up that it just might get you to invest time in the rest of the album.
“Foundation” is a southern-rock anthem with breathy backing vocals from Kenya Hall and Andi Fawcett, who’s starting to get active in the scene again with her own Doubting Gravity. Shardlow’s probably most comfortable vocally here, and the muscle of his guitar solo is a great contrast to the warm waves of Pete Dugas’s organ playing.