Olas: Cada Nueva Ola

The invincible Olas

A surprisingly pop Cada Nueva Ola

Olas will tell you they’re more family than band, but maybe that’s not so uncommon. Actually realizing the nature of the relationship? That’s rarely talked about, the intimacy and intensity of the experience of playing music with someone else. Maybe it’s those bands who accept that reality and explore the inner reaches of each others’ souls that produce the truly transcendent works. Maybe that’s as silly as arguing that “chemistry” helps win baseball games.

Regardless, the band have newly created Cada Nueva Ola, as rollicking as any family dinner table. The latest five songs from Portland’s premiere flamenco outfit offer a wild emotional ride, from life-affirming highs to soul-searching lows, explosively crafted from acoustic guitars, an oud, and the various percussive sounds created with hands on hands and body and shoes on floor. This is music for hair-wrenching and wild abandon, impulsive shouts, whoops, and hollers.

Alongside the new EP, being released on vinyl, the band will also issue videos for the first three songs, directed and edited by Ali Mann, with help from David Meiklejohn and Nick Poulin. Watch them first. They lend a great appreciation for the work Olas do, for the performative construction of the songs, and for just how serious this business is for the band.

Ushered in by an upbeat strum build from Chriss Sutherland and Leif Sherman Curtis on guitars, and the cycling riffage of Tom Kovacevic on the oud, it’s hard not to be impressed by the gravity of Lindsey Bourassa and Megan Keogh’s movements in “Mis Amores Han Desparacido.” Their shoes echo precisely off the floor, invited by a storm of claps from Molly Angie and Anna Giamaiou, who also provide ooo-ooo backing vocals.

Sutherland, too, sounds particularly insistent and impassioned, but the translation of their Spanish lyrics reveals a more contemplative message: “A great wind came through my life/ Carried and scattered my friends around the world / A test perhaps? / I don’t know.”

The sheer athleticism on display by Bourassa in “Baya Song” is impressive in its own right, as she rips 32nd notes with her feet while muscling her way around the floor (perhaps the earlier baseball metaphor was inspired the fact that she has the quick feet of an elite second baseman). Again, though, they belie their seriousness by opening up into a power-pop chorus (in relative terms), repeatedly belting out “soy invincible,” their insistence that they are invincible incredibly compelling.

I wanted to quit my job and write a novel, right away. Listen to this with a buzz on and you might find yourself halfway to airport with nothing but a passport and an extra change of underwear.

The look on Bourassa’s face is incredibly determined. It’s life and death. This is the mantra of people who need to tell themselves they’re invincible just to get by, the oratory of the underdog, those people who have nothing else. The song is the same kind of subversive pop that KGFREEZE worked with “Better Falsetto,” when it comes down to it.

Olas don’t take the easy way out, and they aren’t some kind of sunshine-all-day bullshit artists, but they are fiercely into what they want to do and offer a version of the world that’s hard not to fall in love with. I wish I spoke Spanish so I could better appreciate the biting realism of the “Phar Lap” verse, “Beating dead horses / You know how they say / You won’t want me tomorrow / But you love me today,” in their most Flamenco song on the album.

They’re gorgeous without trying to convince you they’re pretty. On the closing two traditional numbers, “Volare” and “La Llorona,” Olas alternately bring the former into the present, by taking something from Domenico Modugno (think Dean Martin) and making it sound like a present-day stringband tune, and then absolutely crushing your hopes and dreams with the dark and brooding story of the mythical weeping woman, shoes on the floor sounding like echoes of gunfire in the distance. Sutherland nails the desperation of a woman who drowned her children for a man, only to have him reject her.

That’s the kind of bad decision family sometimes forces you into, shattering hearts and tearing at souls. Family, too, is a bedrock on which you can build toward the highest heights and Olas have, again, truly created a monument here.

Snaex: The 10,000 Things

Living with Snaex

Giving the finger to a time of moral crisis

There’s something kind of thrilling about the cover to the second Snaex record. Check it out:

On that black and white cover of The 10,000 Things, Chriss Sutherland’s and Christopher Teret’s wives give us the finger, in unison, while their toddlers sit in their laps, even nurse. Their eyes are darkened, making them menacing, but their mouths are set in something more like determination. A mix of that classic Johnny Cash shot and, well, Duccio’s “Madonna and Child.”

And it’s all a big fuck you to what? Us? Sutherland and Teret’s lingering dreams of making music for others to consume? Society at large?

How about the almighty, himself?

It’s hard not to draw that conclusion after the slow rock of “Most High,” with its crunchy electric guitars propping up a series of lyrics that paint a domestic picture of faith that’s been shaken: “There’s a meal in the oven / And there’s a baby on my knee … And nobody lives in the sky/ But I try to walk in the path of the most high.”

That’s Teret (you’ve heard him in Company), whose delivery is lower down and more precise in the enunciation than Sutherland’s, so that the song resonates right through your gut.

Sutherland, instead, has a keen that’s more piercing, mimicked in “Words” by a pinging guitar tone that etches out a sparse melody in the break. It pushes past the limiters and distorts in the headphones just as Sutherland seems to spiral through emotions: “I am something incomplete / That complains constantly / In here words make me alone / And out there I don’t matter at all.”

Of course, these guys matter as much as anyone, locally, plying as they do any manner of outsider forms and structures. Sutherland has been consistently important since Cerberus Shoal in the 1990s, and his joining with Teret makes for a folk that’s edgy and unnerving in all the right ways.

Especially with the remixing of three tunes from the debut Snaex album, Creep Down, from 2012. With the Ugly Facade adding ghosts of digitized beats and bass kicks to what began as stripped down acoustic pieces recorded live, they are given detachment, like Sutherland and Teret are just along for the ride. “Come Clean” is maybe the most distilled of these efforts, coming in at 3:33 and seemingly built for a radio station that doesn’t exist (or, rather, WMPG), full of harmony and a pulsing intensity: “It’s not their fault they need to feed their little ones.”

Further pushing your emotional buttons are a series of vignettes, samples accompanied by distant and muted piano, that stand up for the downtrodden. “At the End of the Day” is terrifically disturbing, with some CNN bobblehead using that most meaningless of clichés to introduce the fact that it’s “simply a question of whether Israel gets tired of continuing to bomb a civilian population.”

Ya know, like the whole Palestinian conflict ends with Netanyahu one day turning to Rivlin and declaring: “I’m bored. Let’s go do something else.”

And then there is Martin Luther King, Jr., agreeing with Dante in “When Silence Is Betrayal”: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” With so much commercial music today trying desperately to be morally vanilla, Snaex are more than welcome in their button-pushing.

Cutting most to the quick, though, is Sutherland’s “Daddy,” an exploration of his relationship with his father, done with a pop melody that cuts through distorted electric guitar: “It was hard, the way you left us that day.” There’s a rolling fingerstyle guitar, a reticent snare, and a naked regret.

“In me is a piece of you,” Sutherland wails, “I spring from us in the other direction / I fear us and our lost connection.”

And through it all, those babies stare out from the record’s sleeve, a reminder of the dad Sutherland has a chance to be, even if the world is full of bullshit you’d rather not have your kid muddle through. “We don’t talk about heaven,” Teret sings on the closing cover of Lucinda Williams’s “Blue,” an organ bleeding through, “we don’t talk about hell.” Instead, we live in the moment and do the best we can with what we have.