Foam Castles and Purse are among the shortlist of Portland’s quietest, yet still equally deserving musical acts. Within their respective genres, both have a reputation of pushing the limits, writing with natural skill and flair, and delivering performances both onstage and off that continue to arrest new listeners. This Saturday, the unlikely pair play alongside anthemic Boston indie rockers Hallelujah The Hills at Bunker Brewing.
To top things off, it’s an outdoor show.
Purse, the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Ginette Labonville and drummer Bob Smyth, are a low-end heavy, doomy, perverse fusion of noise rock, sludgy stoner metal, and out-rock throughout the ages (think Charalambides, Boredoms, and anything with its own total sense of melodic invention). Though Smyth plays with enough force to squash torsos, and Labonville writes droning, seemingly detuned guitar figures, the music they make is often disarmingly pretty in its own cryptic, nearly inexplicable way. It feels like alien metal beamed in from a distant alternate reality, where bored teens invented rock n’ roll with a Japanese Koto instead of the guitar. To put it simply, Purse traffics in warped, simultaneously familiar and exotic structures, gliding steadily on a bed of nauseous, oddly beautiful tones elaborately arranged according to their own logic. The brainchild of local pop auteur Tyler Jackson, Foam Castles are the hypothetical yin to Purse’s yang here. Where the former act brings their own unhinged stylizations to heavy music, Foam Castles does the same thing within the tried and true sphere of bedroom pop. All the familiar structural elements of textbook pop music are here, from the breezy harmonies to the classic melodic songwriting tricks and playful, bright guitar work. However, things are always just a little bit off in Jackson’s world, and in a way that feels individual enough to be consistently captivating. His songs are short, distilled down to their own sugary, psychedelic essence, and frequently bizarre, lyrically-speaking. He’s always one step ahead of you, waiting to toss a hilarious, surprising turn of phrase into his words and trip you up, much like Bee Thousand-era Robert Pollard, or The Kinks on Village Green Preservation Society. The end result is alluring and welcoming, but anchored in enough strangeness to keep you coming back time and time again.
As a performance space, Bunker Brewing is a low-key, intimate space that consistently books unique, uncompromising acts. It also helps that their beverages are delicious. Official literature surrounding the show says that the shindig’ll indeed be taking place outdoors both weather and “fuzz” permitting, though hopefully this article doesn’t tip the scales in terms of the latter.
Foam Castles, Purse, and Hallelujah the Hills | Bunker Brewing | 122 Anderson St. | Saturday, May 9 | Doors 9 PM | $5 | http://bunkerbrewingco.com