Portland August is the musical alias of Caleb Washburn, a Dallas-born artist, who’s versatile, dynamic, genre-bending compositions fortify his independence. Never afraid to reach further into the creative abyss, Portland August’s sound can be described as raw, detached, and experimental.
Bringing a new light to his most recent creation in the nine-track solo album 'On God Vomit,' we reach into the dark essence of the introductory single ‘Song 1: Ebb.’ Reverberated guitar riffs linger in the background of the composition as the trap-style drums merge together with an organic percussion arrangement. Through the foreboding vocal layers disbursed in this track, you capture the immediate hues of a black and white world that has Portland August sitting in the grey zone with his exclusivity. Setting the tempo for the ominous body of work to come, we’re locked into our seats and ready for the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime.
“Ouroboros,” plays into a kaleidoscope lens of psychedelic ease. You get sent on a nostalgic voyage through the eras with Portland August and you never know where you’ll land. With lyrical motifs such as ‘you’re the only one who’s breaking apart, your metamorphosis will break me apart,’ you hear the importance of the songwriting impacting the composition in a way that is integral to the structure of the instrumentation. Coinciding with the festering passive aggression that comes from evolution, we hear a side of Portland August that touches on the breaking points through a journey of growth.
Third, on the tracklist, we filter through a resonance that is both reminiscent and futuristic in its varying moments. “Dying is Where Jupiter is,” has us indulging in a mysterious canvas of heartfelt tenors. What we love the most about Portland August’s tempting vocalization is the ease that is placed on the articulation. His intimate offerings trail you along and you’re eager to follow along as he showcases the findings of his very thoughts. In a sonic piece that is rich in cavernous synths and pads, the moments that lush guitar riffs peak in have us scoping out the glimmers of hope in a song that tours us through a shadowy narrative.
Still floating in this ethereal realm of what’s fact and what’s fiction, we find ourselves in the depth of “How Far?.” Speaking of death, heartache, and how far your mind will travel in its spiraling fashion of weakness, the manner in which Portland August’s carefully crafted words take on a distorted haze have us feeling the rhythmic essence as it pulses to our own heartbeats. There are various layers that have us seeking answers to our own questions as each song on 'On God vomit,' acts as our own personal therapy session.
Taking us to just pass the halfway point with the title track 'On God Vomit,' we hear a poetic essence to the spoken word introduction that has Portland August getting intimate with his vulnerable findings of this lifetime. The manner in which the instrumentation approaches the overall theme in a sparse nature is truly remarkable. With each word he sheds and each breath in between, you’re ushered into simmering with lyrical motifs such as, ‘soaked in god vomit, I awaken deep beneath the punctured crust,’ before 'On God Vomit,' comes to halt.
“Mosquito,” is the sixth song presented to us in an authentic Portland August fashion. Commencing in a distant effect that has its meaning masked by haunting echoes, we get introduced to the full-fledged dynamism of “Mosquito,” as it comes rippling into our speakers in a way that speaks volumes. ‘All they do is stare, numb inside another lover,’ has us basking in the abstract lyricism that paints its own imagery on the canvas of our minds. Compared to the other songs portrayed on this album, the musical elements come flooding through your speakers in an upbeat overflow of vitality offered.
As we take our energy levels back down a notch, the rustic sounds of “Sanctuary (Hear My Call?),” have us invited into a warm atmosphere of acoustic guitar riffs. Serenading us with an emotion-filled ballad prominent with what begins as a minimalistic foundation, we appreciate the delicate timbres amalgamating in pacifying tenors. It’s fairly easy to find hope in the glimmers of the songwriting displayed in the track with striking words like, ‘give me breath and some strength to believe.’ Taking us all by surprise the vibrant outbreak that embodies the transition of golden hues reinforces the glow-up of Portland August in a way that radiates effortlessly.
Opulent guitar riffs and a deep bassline kick off the second last song on 'On God Vomit.' “FMP,” has us entering this imaginative force field of impactful vocal effects as we chomp down on the blatant wording immersing our speakers. Bellowing verses from a place of organized chaos lurking within his being, we admire the depth that Portland August navigates his audience throughout. Transitioning between heavy-hitting spoken word lyrics to the glorious croons filtered with an extensive vocal range, “FMP,” is the track that has us grasping onto the most overbearing emotion on this album.
Coming to the final moments of 'On God Vomit,' we feel a sense of intensity remain with us as we try to comprehend all that we took in. Portland August is a creative genius that exercises his uniqueness in a way that not only evokes emotion, but it tempts listeners to get in touch with their own philosophical truths. “coma,” is perfectly placed last on the tracklist with all it offers in soothing closure. Depicting a structure that is melodically pure in its vessel, we’re captivated by the colossal finish 'On God Vomit,' which has in its emphasized expression of non-computerized instruments and burgeoning certainties.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Portland August, and congratulations on the release of 'On God Vomit.' Could you please take us into the overall concept laced into your album?
The concept of 'On God Vomit' is a narrative following a man amidst complete disconnection. I approached it as if it were a film, even writing a screenplay to immerse myself.
Did every song that you intended to have on this body of work make the cut? Was there a particular method in the placement of the tracklist?
It started with a couple of songs that I felt were really strong and I created a narrative around those. So after the narrative was created I had an idea, stylistically and lyrically, for where I wanted to go. I always had a particular vision in my head for what I wanted the album to sound like, and It took many failed songs/demos to end up building the 9 songs on the project now. Because of being a story-driven arrangement, and how premeditated everything was, the tracklist is very important in its order. It’s how I created it to be perceived.
Out of each song showcased on this project, do you have a specific one that resonates with you more than the others? What’s your reasoning?
That’s like choosing your favorite child. I look at the body of work as one, so to pick one song that I resonate with more than the others wouldn’t be possible. I spent a lot of time making sure each track stands alone, yet does its part profoundly well in purpose. I love each song deeply.
Could you please share a glimpse into the recording process that you took on when bringing this album to life? How long did it take you to create?
In order to get the ‘raw’ sound I wanted, I decided to record everything myself, in my makeshift home studio. I worked as an audio engineer at a couple of studios in LA, and I realized that where you record doesn’t really matter, as long as you have decent equipment, and a deep love for the craft, it’ll be undeniable. The recordings took place over the span of about 2 years, and it seems like a long time because I constantly go back and re-record stuff and add to arrangements, and etc. I’m quite obsessive about it. The mixes alone took the longest because I wasn’t as experienced at the beginning of the mixing process, and I had such a particular sound I desired. I ended up really digging into it. Many mix failures and restarts were had until I got a product I was happy with.
If your audience could take away one thing from 'On God Vomit,' what would you want it to be?
I honestly have no idea. I would just want it to be affecting and perceived however the listener wants it to be perceived.