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Dream Of '90s Revived In Portland
PORTLAND--There's an alternate universe in which grunge never faded in popularity. Bands like Sponge and Seaweed still top the charts and critics laud them for artistic expansion of an established formula.
Cement Season is from this world.
The Portland band's second album, “Power On,” is more than mid-tempo, high volume, drop-tuned riffs, and strange lyrics. It has the innocence of the last great rock movement—the kind only belongs to a band that loves what they do, and doesn't really care if you do or not.
It also has hindsight. “We wanted each of these songs to feel both familiar, and like an adventure,” says band leader Ian Powell. While Powell more or less singlehandedly penned the band's 2009 debut, "Never Late Than Better," much of the material for “Power On” was conceived spontaneously by Powell, guitarist Shawn Zapata, bassist Andy Grover and drummer Tim Gitner, giving it a natural flow.
The record kicks off with “Ten Eight,” which consists of one word—“Yeah”—sung over cascading waves of distortion. “Robots from Japan” and “Monster Wizard” have an anthemic punk quality, while Zapata unleashes his skills on instrumentals “Bridge of the Gods” and “Lost in Space.”
Zapata is a Berklee-trained multi-instrumentalist skilled in a variety of styles, including jazz. Yet recording “Power On” took him out of his comfort zone. “We got to explore,” he says. “We were able to step outside of what we we're used to doing, and it was like, 'Is this really gonna fly?' It always did.”
Producer Brandon Eggleston—who has worked with artists such as Modest Mouse and the Mountain Goats—mixed the album. He says it has a nice balance. “It’s not too cool for some people, and it's not overly complicated, but it's sophisticated.”
Above all, Eggleston admires Powell's mindset when it comes to music. “He just wants it to be awesome,” he says. “He wants anybody who hears it to be really excited about it, yet he has no expectations of it.”
Cement Season will perform Power On in its entirety April 3, at the Ash Street Saloon.