At first look, anything that is described as minimal, whether it be architecture, music, art, or even a way of living, is often also characterized as simple. However, a deeper examination can actually reveal a more complicated and challenging story, which proves that minimal does not always have a direct relation to simplicity, and that minimal can mean different things to different people. Such is the case for Austin duo Deep Time, who on their Facebook page describes themselves as "minimal weirdo pop."
When the two members of the band, Adam Jones and Jennifer Moore, talk about being "minimal," they refer more to the literal meaning of using limited resources, as opposed to the more known term of "minimalist music," which is defined by the use of repetition, ambiance, and often, electronics. Unlike the latter, Deep Time's music is considered minimal because they play the game of figuring out how to give life to their complex ideas knowing that they are limited to what they can do between two members.

 

Multi-faceted director Ryan Staake of Pomp&Clout has created a music video this year that arguably blows his previous ones out of the water. Using dance as its centerpiece, Staake's video for Diplo's "Set It Off" focuses on the glam element in the art of striptease. Hyperreal, high-resolution camera footage blends with fantastical, over-the-top elements to create a vertically unraveling video that recalls space travel as much as it does a dingy club. In the conversational back-and-forth between Staake and his producers T.S. Pfeffer and Robert McHugh, readers will gain an understanding of the physical, technological, and artistic scale of this project, along with the process behind its shiny, mirrored infinitude. And before you jump in, keep "cocaine-Vegas" and "infinite stripper pole" in mind as buzz words, for they are perhaps the most accurate descriptions possible.
"I've always been into creating videos which appear seamless, with little to no sense of edits... Several months before the request to make a video for “Set It Off” came through, I’d shot some test footage of a friend pole dancing, and loved the look of it... there was definite sexiness to it, but the potential to add a bit of class to the depiction of beautiful, strong women showing off their skills." -- Ryan Staake, Director

 

The other day I saw this graphic on Facebook: And it occurred to me that I got the promo for Sandrider's debut, what, about a year ago? Seriously? Holy fuck? When I thought about the slew of other releases I'd gotten from Seattle's Good to Die Records in that span I kind of couldn't believe it. Typically as you get older, time speeds up -- but in regards to this action, the exact inverse was happening. It felt like this had been going on forever. Quite a lot of fantastic shit from a label in its inaugural twelve months or so. Since I don't want to get yanked from the distribution list, I figured I'd better earn my keep and write a retrospective here.
Truth be told, despite being a lifelong fan of loud rock (I grew up in the freaking ‘90s), I must profess my profound disappointment in how incredibly trendy craptastic thrash metal became in the early ‘aughts. I know nu-metal was heinous and a backlash was obviously necessary, but I guess I just grew up listening to shit like Barkmarket, Drive Like Jehu, Cop Shoot Cop, and Soundgarden rather than Slayer and Titanica. Slayer have a good song, I get it -- it's just never been something I geek out on in anything more than small doses. All in all, that stuff strikes me as sort of dumb-fuck-white trash-y a lot of the time (not that there's anything wrong with that, just not my vibe). As Kim Thayil stated in a recent interview with regards to Soundgarden: "We've always tried to explore how to make this really heavy, aggressive music without sounding like a bunch of knuckle-dragging meatheads.” Exactly. Which is why I think Good to Die Records is resonating with a lot of folks so far. It's all loud music, but none of it succumbs to cookie monster/chug-a-chug metal genre clichés. Also, let's face it; to this day, you still can't read an out-of-town article about a Seattle group without grunge coming up in some capacity, even if it's about a lesbian trip-hop. What most people don't conceptualize is that because of the supposed "grunge explosion” in the ‘90s, crap tons of artsy people moved here, and a lot of them brought an amplifier-worshipping, booze-chugging blue collar spirit with them in droves. The fading mirage is what attracted them in the first place, often subconsciously. The word becomes flesh, as they say. What are you going to do? Ever since I've lived in Seattle, which has been over a decade now, there's always been a thriving scene of stoned underground agro super freaks. So leave it to an unabashed Pearl Jam fanboy to point out to us all that music louder than louder than love not only never went away in the Jet City but also spread to Portland and just kept spitting out kids.
To follow are my top five albums from Good To Die's first year (or so… excluding Sandrider; methinks I've covered them enough already).

 

 

There is a moment on the new Flying Lotus record -- let's call it the first five seconds -- when one has to decide whether to climb aboard Steve Ellison's shimmering magic carpet for the next half hour (or century... drugs like this tend to distort time a little) or to simply survey the beautiful landscape he's laid out on his newest album-trip, Until the Quiet Comes. I say this because like all Flying Lotus records, there are a myriad of experiences to be had within the layers of subtle details, ranging from active to passive and or up and down to goddamn spiritually ecstatic.

 

The Miracles Club latest music video for "The Wheel" works the most surprising of effects upon theatrical costumes and full body paint, as if to drive home the fact that one needs not take contemporary dance or house music too seriously. Directed by long-time band collaborator Judah Switzer and set in a digital environment crafted by glitch wizard Brenna Murphy, "The Wheel" intersects a powerful core of Portland dancers, musicians, and visual artists into one eyebrow-raising, off-kilter music video that is centered around mythological symbolism and the tarot. The Miracles Club vocalist Honey Owens speaks about the video in the Q&A to follow, and we discuss the symbolism of its tarot references.
"'The Wheel' was written about The Wheel of Fortune Tarot card, so when we were thinking of a concept for the video, [band member] Rafael [Fauria] suggested that we literally reproduce the tarot card in video form." -- Honey Owens, of The Miracles Club

 

In the music video for Polica's "Wandering Star", Los Angeles-based director ELY (Eugene Lee Yang) unifies a strong grouping of contemporary dancers who one-by-one attempt to raise an elderly woman from her emotional slumber. As they engage the woman, who seems like an artist past her prime, she slowly comes to life once again, shared sensuality leading her to eventually participate in movement herself. The setting is raw -- with dancers donning bodysuits in a stripped room and projections shot onto white sheets -- but the music video's strength lies completely in its display of human intimacy and diversity of dance styles. Director ELY discusses the fundamentals of creating "Wandering Star" in the Q&A below. Polica's "Wandering Star" will also be featured at REDEFINE magazine's Motion & Movement In Music Video panel at Bumbershoot and MusicfestNW 2012. Director Eugene Lee Yang and producer Cathleen Cher will be attendance at Bumbershoot. SEE FULL DETAILS
 

Like a datamoshing alchemist, Quinn George crunches data to transmute air and negative space into melting dancers and lovers, as black and white pixels melt in and out of each other in this short video for Wombs "Bone Soothing Heat". In the Q&A below, George offers some insight into his technical and aesthetic decisions. His subsequent project for Wombs, the music video for "Heart & Lungs", will be ready for public viewing in about a month.
"I truly believe that whatever an individual gets out of a particular piece of art is far greater than anything the artist could have intended." -- Quinn George

 

 

SEE OUR REVIEW OF SUBSTRATA FESTIVAL 1.2
Anticipated Highlights from Substrata 1.2, 2012 Tim Hecker is about as acclaimed as they come in this musical realm. In 2011, he was named as one of NPR's Top 100 Composers Under 40. 2011's full-length release Ravedeath, 1972 was released to wide critical acclaim, including praises from this website, and was nominated for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize. Lawrence English is a prolific composer, multimedia artist and curator from Brisbane, Australia. He is one of the leaders in Australian sound art and experimental music and is about as intertwined as possible with the musical community there.
"Substrata is truly a community supported event... Interconnectivity... seems persistently ingrained in Substrata: everything flows and happens in a rather organic manner." -- Rafael Anton Irisarri

 

In just two years time, Seattle's tiny Substrata Festival has become one of the better curated festivals of the ambient and experimental electronic genres. Put on by Rafael Anton Irisarri, of The Sight Below and Orcas, Substrata seeks to entertain as much as it does to enlighten, as half of the experience is spent enjoying the music, while the other half is spent listening to the musicians describe how the music is created. Performances, lectures, discussions, and a field trip are all on the festival's itinerary, limited to a select and lucky few. Like last year's festival, Substrata Festival 1.2 is sold out (save for a remaining 20 tickets on Friday) -- and 1.3 will most likely be sold out as well. Held in The Chapel at Good Shepherd Center in Seattle's Wallingford Neighborhood, showgoers will have the rare opportunity to bear witness to the beauty of the weird, bizarre, and challenging sounds of a global set of musicians and artists. In the Q&A below with Irisarri, he takes REDEFINE behind the scenes of the festival to offer insight into its goals and curatorial aspects, and what the grassroots efforts which set it apart from other festivals. This year's festival takes place from August 3rd through 5th, in Seattle.

Scanner aka Robin Rimbaud is a profilic British experimental artist. His first works involved found conversations on mobile phones and police scanners, creating heavily layered, yet incredibly twisted soundscapes that turned common communication on its head.

 

Liars continue to compel me to no end. Truth be told, with these days and their compulsive relentless onslaught of auditory information, I almost expect to get sick of a band after album four or so. So I downloaded Liars' new album when it came out, but only listened to it a few times before I found out I was going to be interviewing them again. I then decided I should probably rectify that and listened to it like six times in a two-day stretch. Holy shit! WIXIW is a freaking classic which finds them again refining their prime directive of reinventing their prime directive, which has always been their forte. Six straight albums of genius. Not many bands can pull that off. This one's more aberrant but still uniquely them. Basically, they use more computer beats and effects than usual – kind of what you'd expect a band to do circa now. Difference is, Liars were always kind of doing that, so it feels completely effortless. Oh, how it owns. I had the good fortune of catching them live a few weeks back and had my mind psychically ass-handed to me by the sound druids in the sky. Liars are one of the few bands I know that you can definitely say are better live than on record, that still actually make great records. There are plenty of bands that excel face-to-face but can't pull it together in the studio, ever. The way the bass amplifier worship reverberated through their new beat-heavy cuts brought a sinister vibe to sound, rendering the whole scene that much more exquisitely delicious. When they dropped into the punkier cuts from albums like Sisterworld and their self-titled third disc, there was more raw power per inch being blasted from the stage than most metal bands ever conjure forth in their faux demon-worshipping careers. A ton of acts are using pure volume these days as a way to mask underdeveloped songwriting chops, but Liars do it right. Frontman Angus Andrew talks about that and other fun shit like dreams below. Dig.

 

Liars – WIXIW Teaser
"'Wish you' is a familiar and universal sentiment of longing and hope, but when misspelt becomes uniquely shrouded and difficult to interpret, which in many ways is representative of our music and the songs we wrote for this album." -- Angus Andrew, on the album title WIXIW

 

Background On The 2011 Angolan Demonstrations Luaty DaSilva On His Airport Experience
In early 2011, as the turmoil from the Arab Spring protests made their way into pockets of Africa, Angolan youth began taking to the streets themselves. At the heart of their ongoing dissatisfaction remains the 32-year reign of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who protesters cite as the cause of mismanaged oil revenues, suppressed human rights, and widespread poverty, amongst other corruptions. 1 One early advocate for the protests include hip-hop musician Luaty DaSilva, aka Ikonoklasta, who openly voiced his support for the uprising during one of his February 2011 concerts, listing government officials as "exploiters of the oppressed" while the crowd responded to push them "out!" In June 2012, DaSilva departed Angola for Lisbon, Portugal, to play with the Kuduro band Batida. DaSilva's supporters at the Angolan airport warned him that his luggage had been tampered with by the National Crime Investigation Department, and DaSilva decided that upon arrival in Lisbon, he would tell customs that he suspected foul play. But he never made it there, as the police were upon him as soon as he got his luggage. A kilogram of cocaine was discovered in DaSilva's luggage, but the presiding judge of the case set him free, because, in Luaty's words, "the framing was so gross that not even the judge bought it." 2 For the following month-and-a-half, DaSilva stayed in Portugal, and has only just returned to Angola. As he shares in the interview below, he suspects that the government "must have something ready for me, some sort of "warm welcome home" for when I return on the 25th of July." He is just one of a handful of musicians known to have faced persecution. 3 The 2012 parliamentary elections are to be held in Angola on August 31st -- hypothetically the first time the government will respect the constitutional deadline of having four years between elections. Yet despite this fact, which ostensibly seems to be an improvement, demonstrators both young and old have seen an intense increase in violence in the past year, much of which has been captured on video and disseminated widely via the internet. As recently as July 15th, several hundred protestors, knowing very well the potential dangers which faced them, risked likely violence from security forces and protested in the Sao Paolo market. Twelve were arrested, including two journalists working for Portuguese publications, sparking a call for the postponement of the August elections until free and fair polls can be guaranteed. 4 In the following Q&A with REDEFINE, DaSilva gives his perspective on the situation in Angola, offering a point of view from the young and frustrated underclass, in both Portuguese and English.
September 2012 Headlines Thousands stay away from Angolan elections (AP News - 2012, August 31) Angola's ruling party declared election winner (CNN - 2012, September 2) Angola court rejects UNITA appeal, says vote was fair (Reuters - 2012, September 19)