Psych Rockers Abronia on ‘Map of Dawn’


Abronia is a six-piece band with a singer on tenor saxophone, steel pedal, bass and two guitars centered around an oversized marching bass drum. Hailing from underground Portland and crafted in the expanse of a Utah desert, Abronia’s third album, Map Dawn, replaces his original vision – only the lands evoked by sound could be a deserted lake bed, distraught Portland or an ancient Celtic battlefield. Deeply moving, genre-resilient and canyon-sculpting Americana, Abronia burns with dusty sunsets and soothes with heavy, haunting nights via psych-rock, krautrock, Tuareg and British folk.

Indeed, Abronia’s music is a modern Dionysian din, full in its insignia of a traveling community of sonic stories, with bloody dissonance and bluster – and just enough tenderness to protect us. Thriving in liminal spaces, Abronia exemplifies radical collaboration as intentional group, overcoming pandemic constraints like remote outdoor rehearsals. And when wildfires pushed Oregonians back into isolation, it only added to the creativity of Dawn card. Abronia knows how to handle the pain we are in. And we’re doing better.

The pandemic in Portland

When the Covid pandemic began to irrevocably alter the world, Portland expelled its last gasses: bars were reduced to being open only a few hours to treat the brave and the lonely, consignment shops sold the last wares of ‘better past, the premises played host to swan songs as the sweat and awe inside dissipated. No Fun, Portland’s underground jint, has become, well, no fun. We dragged our carefree bodies home. The birds have become resplendent with you gone, erased from the streets. Like them, some of us have turned to audio for solace. Notes have become medicine for the unknown.

My quarantine buddy came with a vinyl backpack: George Harrison’s Everything must pass (1970) Chris Squires A fish out of water with the London Symphony Orchestra (1975), and Obsidian Visions / Shady Lands (2017) by a band that I never imagined could exist: Abronia.

We listened to the records through my little Bose speaker, which filled my studio with sound. We drank from obscenely sized booze bottles I’d bought on pandemic runs, cleaning the shelves with the rest of the privileged. We made doomsday jokes and toasts that turned out to be too prophetic to keep funny. We played more records.

When the needle dropped on Abronia’s opening track, “The Great Divide,” an unwieldy twang followed by controlled mayhem sent a thunder through me. Behold, the bass drum helped me hold on. The rest was life changing; If lockdown meant I could live near this realm – I figured that would be fine.

Abronia’s second album, 2019 All from each eye, followed suit. Their sound and strength grew with equal intensity in players, and tenor saxophonist Keelin Meyer contributed more vocals. Listening accelerated my inner nature. I would go back to music when I wanted to scream when the deaths and riots and quarantine work undermined sanity. With lyrics that refuse to hold together, I could insert myself into the song, into the dirges as the world crumbled around me.

Keelin Mayer says, “The lyrics on all three albums are intensely personal. They are intentionally not explicit or I like the cryptic element. I want the lyrics to give an air of mystery or for the listener to find the lyrics personally meaningful and maybe come up with their own story or their own meaning.

The rise of Map Dawn

The new release of Abronia from the UK Feeding Tube / Cardinal Fuzz, Map Dawn, screens psychedelic landscapes. Within this framework, the range of influences from Morriconesque spaghetti westerns to progressive anthems accumulate. Listening to layers track after track until maybe, just maybe, such sound offers a compass.

Tracks like “Night Hoarders” and “Games” are transcendent in documenting our demise; “Invite Jeffrey Over” and “Caught Between Hives” are treacle in their construction. fundamental force to lean against, such as the syllabic drag, the hum or the chordal incantation, Abronia knows when to bring us back to beauty.

Just like sand verbena abronia bears his name, the group stabilizes the listeners in threatened land. Music mitigates dubious conditions like the demise of capitalism. Has Abronia achieved the momentum of its original vision and moniker? Founder and guitarist Eric Crespo laughs and confirms a sort of “control of musical erosion”. Indeed, lyrically and sonorously, Map Dawn explores an ever-changing landscape of folds, caves, and unreliable terrain.

Certainly, the back and forth of the endless pandemic plays into the rhythms of the album. The group rotated to rehearse, first sharing feedback on the zoom, then stepping outside with adjusted instrumentation. Crespo says: “When we were practicing outside, we were playing at a pretty low volume where effects and drones weren’t really part of the equation – we weren’t really getting the usual sustain that we would normally get. playing at a regular practice volume. So there was probably an impulse to make the songs a bit more defined and maybe more succinct than they otherwise would have been.

Mayer adds that the nature of modified rehearsals pushed her to become a singer: “When the pandemic hit and we had to play acoustically in the yard, I didn’t have my pedals to obscure my voice. I was now confronted with my own raw voice. It was a struggle at first. This then pushed my lyrical content and singing skills.

Abronia transcends gender boundaries

Abronia has a healthy resistance to labels, often circumventing the definition of gender. When prompted to discuss music camps, Crespo says he remembers a line from Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test“‘If you label it like that, it can’t be that.’ This one has always touched me I want to be free to be this and that.” Citing artists as disparate as Lee Hazlewood, Lydia Lunch and Fela Kuti as inspiration, he adds that he hopes Abronia taps into a kind of creative purity. the music – it’s about working from your own script It’s about finding the courage to present your own vision and then being willing to work to refine that personal vision into something worthy of presented. It transcends genres and international borders.

Each member of Abronia comes from different parts of America: James Shaver (bass drum) is from suburban DC, Paul Michael Schaefer (guitar) from rural Minnesota, Shaun Lyvers (bass) is from Florida, and Rick Pedrosa (pedal steel) comes from Maryland. Do their diverse perspectives provide a fullness of contribution or a sonic pulse? Mayer confirms that being rooted in Chicago is influential: “I could go to punk shows or see a blues band playing on a street corner on Maxwell and Halsted”, but migration affects him too “Leaving a post-industrial rust belt city to the great expanse of the west, I traded the decaying factories for the frequencies of decaying forest floors and the high desert of eastern Oregon. I appreciate death, decay and regeneration.

Crespo, born in Los Angeles but raised in North Carolina, says, “Having six people in a band will give you unique perspectives, especially if they grew up in different scenes. I think the affiliations and relationships you make early in your musical career will continue to influence what you do throughout your life as a musician. These imprints on the adolescent brain seem inescapable.

Map of Dawn’s Origin and meaning

As a band with a focus on collaboration and a democratic approach, Abronia was thrilled when they came up with the title, Map Dawn. Shaver was interested in the experimental work of artists and musicians Hetty and Angus Maclise, particularly their poem, “Map of Dusk”. Shaver says the album’s name was “triggered by their idea that the artist himself was the ‘map’ through time. The past two years have seen many twilights, whether through the pandemic, doomsday weather scenarios, runaway capitalism, or the decline of Portland, so I think the idea behind the flip-flop name was to rehash the idea that the artist could be a map to potential new dawns, This idea seemed relevant given that we as a group had been practicing throughout the pandemic, as if we were still charting our own vision despite the gloom.

Crespo adds that, metaphorically, Map Dawn reminds him of a “Terence McKenna talk where he talks about the idea of ​​witnessing a birth and how when you see it there’s blood and the mother is screaming – it looks like death, but it’s actually the start of something new. It is sometimes easy to forget that in order to enter a radically new reality, there will probably be a rather messy and painful window of time.

Map Dawn follows this transition – Crespo and Meyer’s lyrics deftly communicate a universality of coercion under late capitalism, while also capturing the specific pains Portlanders have recently endured: the racial justice protests, the shameless use of gas tear gas, the raid of federal agents, an overdue review of white privilege, the homelessness crisis and the wildfires of 2020. In their delivery, there is a lack of emphasis on meaning; there is more emphasis on their sound.

When collaborating, Mayer says, improvisation is important. “Much of my song-making process has been through improvisation. My subconscious is activated through improvisation and allows deep images to unfold through the music. Crespo recounts co-writing with Mayer via a loose and surreal method emphasizing working with the inchoative: “I am the midwife of these words that want to be born – trying to bring them out of their fetal state, then Keelin brings them words into maturity .

Map Dawn not only promises a sonic experience one won’t forget, but it helps us become warm cartographers capable of navigating the unknown. “What is the dawn card?” ” I ask. Crespo muses: “The map exists just beyond the veil. It is always there and some may see it from time to time, but it can never be printed because it is constantly changing. Every thought, every action, and even the slightest breeze changes the map in significant and lasting ways. There’s no telling where the map might take you. the the dawn card has always existed, and it always will.


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