Chris Portka, the California bay-area based musician, embarks on an odyssey unlike any other with his latest opus, "Trash Music." Drawing from a rich tapestry of influences ranging from the rawness of grunge to the avant-garde vibrations of Sonic Youth and Captain Beefheart, Portka weaves a sonic narrative that defies easy categorization. This vinyl LP, a limited edition work of art, takes us on an exploration of dream and discord. With an album cover as evocative and out-of-this-world as its soundscape, "Trash Music" promises to be a testament to Portka's audacious spirit in the world of music.
The album opener takes no prisoners. What genre of music is this? Trendy techno? Old-school industrial? An avant-garde take on TikTok rap? And whose ghosts were hired as backup singers? We fasten the seatbelts and hope that at least part of these questions will be answered on the LP.
"wildlife" starts like galloping horses. Wild ones, if we believe the title. Which I'm not sure we're supposed to. The rhythm then turns into a marching army of shouting android nomads. I'm sure these guys are able to tame the horses and then equip each one with an electronic chip...
And then everything stops. Good things in small packages. The next song is a warm and starry-eyed acoustic piece, reminscent of the more relaxed numbers from "Guided By Voices" (think "Awful Bliss").
The album never fails to surprise. The first few bass hits of the next song "bojeum" is pure lo-fi techno, but then we start treading into psychedelic swamps and haunted forests that sound like a crazier version of Animal Collective
's recents instrumental pieces.
One of the human-like living trees in this forest swallows us, and we spend the next minute and a half inside its wooden stomach with ghostly voices and comforting sounds of digestion. The composition that documents it is called "life is anything else".
Of course, we need some to rest and process what just happened. "dream factory" gives us just that. The guitars are loose-jointed, the vocals are psychedelically serene and the drumming is relaxed and pleasantly elephant-like.
Then comes "women are hot". We can't tell if "hot" means "sexy" or if the women in question are hot because they are boiled in a brain-melting musical pot. I can hear the sounds of bubbling and stirring. Which, of course, doesn't mean sex isn't involved. But if it is, it's a quicky. The track is a little short of two minutes.
"we're in this together" is an extremely textural piece. The vocals adorning the distorted drone ruling the composition are scarce and entrancing. This one is expectedly a bit longer, and leaves you in dizzy yet meditative state.
"your music is trash" sounds like a parody power pop song played by a radio set that is so f**ed up, that it's almost falling apart. The song sincerely made me laugh (in a good way), which is a rare achievement.
"disco trash metal reversal" is an impressionistic piece that seems to paint a picture of a busy beer-fueled crowd with everybody talking at the same time and half-assedly pretending to have fun.
"hold my hand" is a prophet staring into the abyss. the all-consuming noise wall stops for a second, and is then beefed up by frenetic drums, and then stops abruptly again. This is probably my favourite song on the record.
Album closer "let's go play today" seems to be saying: "Okay, it's all good and fun: ghosts, prophets, galloping android horses, man-devouring living trees and all. Now let's fake a smile and end this on a friendly note. Let's all hold hands and sing an otherworldly cumbaya. I promise this will make you feel good." And it does.
Overall, "trash music" is a truly unique record – meditative, scary, funny, innovative and never self-serious. It's definitely one of the best albums I've heard this year. Go grab a vinyl version on the project's bandcamp