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May 1st, 2013 12:01 am WW Staff | Cover Story

Best New Band 2013

10 local acts that Portland’s music insiders think you should hear.

IMAGE: Jason Quigley

3. Sun Angle

  • 50.83 POINTS
  • Formed: 2011.
  • Sounds like: The Falklands War, fought with knives and clubs—that is to say, with pulverizing Latin rhythms and sharp, stabbing guitars.

“A second of silence is like a millennium to me,” says Charlie Salas-Humara.

In his band Sun Angle, for which Salas-Humara sings and plays guitar, he’s got little to worry about: A second of silence is not just a rarity, it’s damn near an impossibility. The band’s live shows are a full-frontal assault, as much rock slide as rock music.

Drummer Papi Fimbres plays nearly untrackable polyrhythms that mock all notion of offbeat and downbeat. Like latter-day Coltrane, he often seems to want to play all rhythm—all sound—at once. Except Coltrane had to hire three drummers to get the same effect. Here, it’s just Papi, blazing cumbia rhythms at the breakneck tempos of punk. Meanwhile, Salas-Humara—who counts punk, krautrock and washed-out psychedelia like that of Pärson Sound as influences—lacquers layers of delay-pedaled, psych-prog guitar over the top of Fimbres’ wild tom patterns and damped cymbal work, or slashes through the fray with syncopated riffs sometimes reminiscent of the art-damaged dance punk of Les Savy Fav.  It’s an experiment in chaos and control, the control being Marius Libman’s fast, circular basslines. Without him, the whole damn production might just blow away. 

“When I was in high school and just getting into bass,” Libman says, “I was really into Miles Davis’ fusion-era stuff. The bass is like the anchor. That’s where I’m coming from with this band.”

“Marius is the drums,” Salas-Humara adds. Fimbres, on the other hand, is Keith Moon, which is a little bit different from being the drummer.

The band’s live shows often take on the character of a dare to the audience: Can you keep up? The songs’ disparate elements merge and spin away from each other, and sometimes there’s too much going on to process.

“It’s exhausting, these endings,” Libman says. “Papi’s going nuts. He’s sweating so bad.”

“The end of the song,” Salas-Humara says, “is [when] Papi can’t play anymore.”

Aside from the goofily abstract stage banter between Salas-Humara and Fimbres, the effect is a bit like the visceral overload of a Lightning Bolt show. But this year, they managed to do something that has eluded that band: They captured their energy on record in a way that actually makes sense. Menomena’s Danny Seim spent a month producing Sun Angle’s debut full-length, Diamond Junk, which was recorded using Pro Tools and a laptop, half in a home studio and half in a mountain cabin in Zigzag, Ore.

“Our friends will tell us about recording in a studio,” says Salas-Humara, “and we’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that’d be awesome to spend $10,000.’ I can’t even imagine that. We spent $400 on the cabin and $200 on booze, and that was it.”

From its very rough initial recordings, Seim worked Diamond Junk into a singular cohesion. It’s one the best damn rock albums I expect to hear this year, one that harks back to the harsh intensities of 1978-era New York City no wave and post-punk. The band will be touring for the first time after the album drops, a brief five-date tour “up north” and in California with And And And. But they don’t know if anybody will get what they’re doing.

“We don’t really have a niche,” says Salas-Humara of the band’s psych-punk assault. “We try to be the best of both worlds. But it just comes out weird.” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


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