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Federale: Cinematic music filled with darkness, romance and danger


Portland band Federale is playing The Seasons Performance Hall on Friday.

You know “Some Velvet Morning,” the surreal Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra duet? It doesn’t make narrative sense or even try to, but you kind of just get it anyway because the atmosphere it creates is so specific and evocative. You couldn’t tell someone what it means, but you can feel what it means.

Federale, the Portland band playing The Seasons Performance Hall on Friday, has a little of that going for it. That’s not to say their songs are as inscrutable as “Some Velvet Morning.” Some are downright literal by comparison. But that almost campy, overdramatized darkness — that feeling, that eerie, creeping sense of dread (but not just dread, dread cut with longing or love or pain or death) — that’s what Federale’s got going for it.

The band’s stated purpose is to create cinematic music, a continuation of the spaghetti Western tone created visually by Sergio Leone and musically by Ennio Morricone. But there are other influences at play, namely Hazlewood and Nick Cave, both of whom deal in the same brand of danger and mysticism and both of whom have a keen sense of society’s underbelly.

Federale, though, pushes that aesthetic to the point at which it’s hard to tell whether they’re on the level. Are they mocking? Are they being ironic? I don’t think they are, but I also don’t necessarily think that’d be a bad thing. (Consider, for example, Quentin Tarantino, whose work could be called exploitation-exploitation; movies that are always kind of winking, or at least always kind of self-consciously aware of the artifice upon which they’re built. Does that detract from how good they are?)

It’s not music to intellectualize anyway. Like “Some Velvet Morning,” I couldn’t say exactly what Federale is about. But I can definitely feel what it’s about. It feels exciting and weird. Maybe even a little bit scary. I really like it.

If you go

What: Federale

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: The Seasons Performance Hall, 101 N. Naches Ave.

Tickets: $15, $30

Information:, 509-453-1888

Reach Pat Muir at

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