Sketchy. Melani Brown

The tape rolled in three-hour increments, with each musical guest—and friend—allocated a precise amount of time to contribute, then graciously thanked and shown the door. This is how Brent Knopf—primarily known as a member of the collaborative trio (and arguably finest band in Portland) Menomena—directed the recording process for Intuit, his glorious solo debut under the pleasant moniker of Ramona Falls. "I feel like people were incredibly generous with their time," says Knopf. "If I took more than three hours, then I'd start feeling uncomfortable and I'd want to pay them, but I didn't have any money."

Leaning on friends is commonplace in the "it takes a village" process of recording an album with limited capital, but few villages could come together and create something as texturally precise and tonally ambitious as Intuit. The recording, which swells with a bevy of rich sounds that won't sound all that unfamiliar to Menomena fans, showcases both Knopf's effortless gift for complex art-pop arrangements and a Rolodex overflowing with friends/musicians on call. It's as much a statement of the artist as it is the city he resides in.

"This project was an excuse to cold-call my friends and ask them for three hours of their time," he says of the album's cameos from members of the Helio Sequence, 31knots, Talkdemonic, Nice Nice; his Menomena bandmates; a choir in New York; plus countless others. "I worked with Loch Lomond, that's 27 people right there," he jokes.

"It started to make sense to record this Ramona Falls project once it became clear that the recording of the next Menomena record was taking much longer than any of us had anticipated," Knopf explains. This confirms the outsider belief that the entity known as Menomena—in all its genre-twisting, decadent glory—is a lumbering beast that weighs heavy on the shoulders of all three members. Seemingly, the act of writing, recording, and finishing a Menomena recording is a Sisyphean task anchored by periods of deep frustration, constant compromise, and most importantly, time. As it should be. The three respective components—Knopf, Danny Seim, Justin Harris—are all multi-instrumental artists with an active role in the song-developing process, and each song they individually pen is initially presented and offered, like a sacrifice, to Menomena for approval. The material deemed unfit (for whatever reason) tumbles to the wayside or to one of the band's various solo endeavors (Seim being the most prolific, with his Lackthereof solo venture releasing its ninth recording last year).

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Yet digesting Ramona Falls never feels like feasting upon Menomena's discarded table scraps. Given its deep head count, Intuit is large but never unwieldy. "I Say Fever" opens with a muffled shake of ghostly percussion, only to unfurl into a catastrophic collision of boisterous noise and voices, capturing the album's community feel in a period of mere minutes. "Clover" flies closest to the Menomena mother ship, as all that separates it from becoming a missing Friend and Foe B-side are concise blasts of Harris's saxophone and some deep-voiced harmony foundation laid by Seim. The neatly fleshed-out "Salt Sack" finds Knopf alone, though in lyrics only—on a raft, unfairly set adrift at sea—as a string ensemble and blaring trombone guide him home. Throughout the album, Knopf's bewailing voice, steeped in vulnerable melancholy, is pushed to the forefront, a not-so-­subtle reminder that no matter the musical roll call on each track, this is ultimately his record.

As for Ramona Falls the touring band, well, there barely was one. Knopf explains, "I think I underestimated the amount of time this project required in terms of getting the live show ready." But much like the recording process, a few phone calls was all it took for Ramona Falls to blossom from quaint solo vehicle to a full-fledged Portland indie all-star ensemble, with Seim on bass, Matt Sheehy on guitar, and Paul Alcott of Dat'r on drums. Now all that is left is for the band to play a show in public, which, as of this interview, they had yet to accomplish. "No, we've never played a show," Knopf admits. "We're playing at a place called the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz first. What some call a test market, I call delicious crepes." recommended