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  • Nathan Yoder

Feels Like Floating

If you're on IG and follow a lot of SoCal new-agey, electronic-ish music accounts (you know, folks that seem to be connected with the Leaving Records crew), you've likely seen photos posted from the ongoing "floating" series. These scenes typically show groups of friends, gathered outside in idyllic green spaces, enjoying live music. It's all very dreamy - picnics and sun, synths and sitars. Meanwhile, those of us who live hundreds of miles away sit indoors, gazing at the rain falling outside, and scroll through our feeds jealously.

But this spring, the floating series announced a handful of out-of-state gatherings! Colorado! Washington! And yes, Oregon! Here in Portland, it sounds like the feels like floating crew plans to host shows in Leach Botanical Garden across the summer months, and speaking personally, this is just perfect since my wife and I have been members at Leach (which is just down the road from our house). Lucky us! We've spent a lot of time in the garden over the past couple years, and it's even where I drafted bits of my booklet last summer.

This past Sunday was the first floating get-together at Leach, with scheduled performances by Francisco Botello and Patricia Wolf, and a DJ set by Cyrus. Allison and I arrived in the late afternoon with our picnic, chairs, and blanket, and found a spot to settle high upon the garden's aerial tree walk. Cyrus' warbly DJ set was already drifting over the understory, sounds bouncing between doug firs before they reached our sitting place. The music was minimal, likely purposefully so, which allowed attendees to chat, snack, and we even brought our books to read. At one point Allison and I noticed a mourning dove call on loop, but besides that, we allowed the set to simply serve as unassuming background texture.

I caught the beginning of Francisco Botello's performance, but after a while, decided to take in the rest as I walked through the garden grounds. I zigzagged around the east side of the property, through a grove of Oregon grape and sword ferns, eventually reaching a series of cascading staircases leading down to Johnson Creek. The camelia tunnel (my favorite part of Leach) was far past blooming season, but a mock orange was still going strong, and a swallowtail even landed as I passed by. Down by the creek I could hardly hear any music, but the faint sounds from far above blended with my more immediate surroundings, which created an interesting and unique soundscape. After some time spent by the water, I slowly trudged back up to the tree walk for the end of Botello's set.

After a short break, Patricia Wolf came on. We had chatted a bit in the days leading up to the event, and she relayed that her plan was to play some old songs and some new songs, but she would strip her compositions of all field recordings so as not to cause issues with bird habitation at Leach. Wolf is an avid birder, so her sensitivity to humans' impact on outdoor spaces really comes as no surprise. In planning her presence, it was important for her to "leave space for some of the sounds of the garden." And sure enough, as Wolf's set flowed into her standout See-Through track, Springtime in Croatia, the garden's sounds blended with her real-time, responsive, live constructions. It was a beautiful approach to music-making, and really, just a thoughtful and intentional consideration for the living beings around us in the garden.

The event ended early, but this allowed attendees time to continue socializing and to walk around Leach a bit more. Allison and I packed up and took off soon after PW's set ended, but plan to come back for floating's next event. Here is a link to the organization's site again, and I'd recommend following them on socials to track upcoming events in your area. Check out a few amature photos below, and a big thanks to everyong who made this event possible. See you next time!


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