ANNA FRITZ, SALOON ENSEMBLE, TIMMY STRAW
(Secret Society, 116 NE Russell) In the Portland Cello Project, Anna Fritz plays a supporting role in crafting string renditions of contemporary pop, hiphop, and metal songs. In an ensemble that large, it's sometimes easy to become part of the wallpaper. But on her sophomore solo album, The Gospel of Tree Bark, Fritz escapes the shadows, building politically charged manifestos through slightly unhinged timbres and, sure, lots of cello. But Fritz is no one-cello pony; the album's second track, "On Wisconsin," is a scathing ode to protest, featuring 99 percenter lyrics like "Inside there are men in charge who don't care if our children starve/Our public servants serve themselves, or they tell us all to go to hell." It's that distrustful bent that makes Gospel an eerie, satisfying soothing listen. RYAN J. PRADO
YARDSSS, ITALICS, ALTERED BEATS
(Backspace, 115 NW 5th) Regarding Krist Krueger's Yardsss: If you read about it before listening, you'd likely mistake it for a liberal arts master's thesis. Where most bands play "shows," Yadrsss puts on "performance case studies" and multimedia installations, including a collection of songs inspired by—not covers of!—avant-garde composer John Cage. All this could be completely obnoxious except for one thing: Yardsss is transcendentally, earth-shatteringly gorgeous. If you can make music like that, you get to call your show a case study. Yardsss tends toward the dark and droning and bombastic, with heady, swelling orchestrations. Perhaps because human voices appear so rarely and the music is so evocative, it occasionally brings to mind Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here? It doesn't take many listens to understand that Krueger is breaking boundaries not for the sake of being (or seeming) transgressive, but to make sounds that awaken actual feelings—uplifting, inspiring emotions. REBECCA WILSON
HALO REFUSER, POTATOFINGER, AFRO Q BEN
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) Halo Refuser's new album, Melting Magic, is the latest installment of Asher Fulero's cerebral, beat-centric music project. In the past year and a half, he's released three EPs and the full-length debut Ambigrammatic as Halo Refuser (an anagram of his name). Technically, Melting Magic is Fulero's third full-length—he released The Green Piano under his own name in 2010. As different as his solo projects are, they're gargantuan leaps from his days playing with the usual suspects of Northwest jam bands. Though Halo Refuser has its ambient moments, Fulero's onstage electronic experiments are generally too bizarre for that modifier to be applied across the board. This isn't a criticism—minimalism at its most thought provoking demands its listeners' attention. Opening are bombastic Seattle-based PotatoFinger, whom nobody could mistake for a minimalist, and local electro-funk guy Afro Q Ben. RW
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