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Pacific Mean Time: "Crashing the Waves" / video

"Crashing the Waves" from Portland's Pacific Mean Times album An Ocean to Swallow

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“I think the biggest change in music these days is there’s a whole generation growing up without knowing what an album is.  The rise of streaming music and Spotify playlists could easily mean the death of bands like us that aim to develop a wide range of sound throughout an entire record,” says Hamilton Sims, vocalist and guitarist for Portland, Oregon-based lush electro-infused pop act Pacific Mean Time.  “Hopefully, there's enough in our new album that rewards the exploration of a whole album from beginning to end.”

Rounded out by guitarist/producer Edwin Paroissien, bassist John Hulcher, and new members, drummer Anders Bergstrom (Climber, Real World Collective), and keyboardist Sean Farrell (King Black Acid, Wild Bells), the quintet follows up their self-titled debut with An Ocean To Swallow, a ten-track collection that finds the band realizing the sound they were going for on their debut.

When Pacific Mean Time released their self-titled debut in 2014, the band was in transition.  Entering the studio as established Portland power-pop quartet, Little Beirut, plans were to record the follow-up to 2010’s critically acclaimed, Fear of Heaven.  Be it wanderlust, angst, or an effect of the grey skies and rugged expanses of the Pacific Northwest, the following months included enough changes in lineup, sound, and focus to compel reemergence as a new band altogether.  From the first broken toy sounds in the intro of opening track, “Blindfolds,” it was apparent the group had shed crunchy guitars and harmony laden sing-along choruses in favor of a more subtle, slinky, and sexier approach, “sizzling with glorious organic and electronic textures.”

If Pacific Mean Time’s self-titled debut showcased an indie band exploring new textures, 2018’s follow-up, An Ocean to Swallow, solidifies this notion and ups the ante, presenting an intentional vision—a band comfortably in control of its sound.  Exquisitely recorded and produced at Portland’s Jackpot! Recording Studio and Echo Hill Studio by Los Angeles based engineer/producer Rian O’Connell Lewis (Gorillaz, D.R.A.M.) in conjunction with guitarist, Edwin Paroissien, the ten-tracks on this self-released record bristle with hypnotic, propulsive beats; soaring synth arpeggios; rolling bass lines; and seductively understated vocal melodies.

“It’s brighter and tighter - the playing, engineering, production, mixing.  All of that was upgraded [from the debut],” says Hulcher.  “I’m not slighting the debut, which I still listen to and love, but we fully shed our skin and basked in the confidence of our direction [on An Ocean To Swallow].”

Subtle and sexy has arrived in style.  But don’t assume the listening experience will be relegated to cerebral explorations only to be enjoyed with the bong and headphones; new band member Anders Bergstrom’s drums weave a dizzying line between organic and electronic, man and machine, providing a muscular backbone that’ll just as likely have you leaving the couch to shake your ass.

“Lost some faith, but found some grace, shrug along”, singer Hamilton Sims emotes in “Water Sign,” a delicate moment of existential consideration belied by John Hulcher’s propulsive fuzz bass attack—reminding us that life can be full of questions and short on answers, but let’s have a good time in the process of trying to figure it all out! Lewis’s mixes are crisp and crunchy, painting a full resolution picture of a band comfortable with weaving dense sonic textural tapestries, but experienced enough to know when to rely on the essential elements.

Each band member has a favorite part of An Ocean To Swallow, but all are quite proud of what they’ve accomplished on the record, and can’t wait for others to hear and experience it.

“I love the ending of ‘Crashing the Waves.’  It reminds me of Boards of Canada and Four Tet a lot.  They make a kid of lyrical electronic music, where the glitchy stuff is really melodic and you can get lost in it. Plus, I get a break from hearing me sing.  Bonus!” exclaims Sims, when asked about his favorite parts of An Ocean To Swallow.

“The bass lines!” answers Hulcher.  “I feel like the luckiest of the lot because I got to record some fun and innovative bass lines.  I can mention this without fear of feeling conceited because Ed wrote 95% of the bass lines.  I’ve always loved bass lines written by a keyboardist or guitarist.  Somewhat unorthodox yet not distracting.  With that in mind, one of my highlight tunes is ‘Crashing the Waves.’  I love the spacey vibe combined with the upbeat tempo.  ‘Bahn Mi’ is also a highlight for me.”

“I love the feeling when I go to the record store and I discover a new album that's built for someone like me,” Sims says of his expectations and goals for the record.  “I think there's an audience for every record, and I know there's a lot of people perusing the racks at the record store who would love this one.  We just need to break through the clutter and find more of those people.”

Without hesitation Paroissien says, “I know how difficult it is to even get anyone's attention with new music these days.  It's ubiquitous, all around us in everything we look at on a screen and I just think it's perhaps not as special as it used to be for many listeners.  So it feels like it's a steeper hill to climb to get people onboard with your band.  In many ways I've adopted the attitude that I don't care, that it's enough just to make something to satisfy ourselves.  But yeah, we want to get it out there and see what people think.”


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