On the 444-year-Old Grape God

Evan Gabriel takes a look at Portland stalwart Old Grape God.
By    July 21, 2017


Evan Gabriel is ready for the harvest.

Sticking to your story matters. This is one of the most significant parts of standing out as an artist. For Old Grape God, aka Tron, his story is told through snippets of his personal philosophy and fiction that make everyday life feel less grounded and more kaleidoscopic. With a spiritual frequency permanently tuned to 444, Grape God keeps a major focus on time travel.

And this motif is what really makes everything ironic: In 2003, Jay-Z told us he’d rap until 80, and that he could make four more albums off memories. Fourteen years later, he releases his fifth album since that statement, 4:44.

Meanwhile, Old Grape God, a twenty-something from Portland who’s been writing and painting about his personal connection to those three digits for the last half decade at least, suddenly finds his own aesthetic on smash by the Marcy Houses Behemoth. Still, given his nine solo projects, (the oldest dated July, 1970) Grape God shows few signs of fading. Trøntønømø Bay and Still Alive! sound like hip hop projects arranged by a free jazz head. Improvisation is at the forefront. There’s the minute-long, scat-filled intro on “Anvil,” the spacious drums on “Afterlife at the Apollo,” or the Fender Rhodes on “I Spent Most of My Youth Wheeling It.”

Tron, who often paints during his performances, seems dead set on capturing and enriching individual moments of expression. He works in multi-colored collages of blunted observations and Kerouacian quips: “Somebody love me enough to help me die sooner, buy me a pack of cigs, buy me a bottle of liquor,” he repeats on the coda in “Backwoods Derby.” By playing into his voice, Tron brings out those throaty tones we love to hear from E-40. At times, his delivery can even become challenging. But it’s always been important for artists to bend expectations and keep the landscape interesting.

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