Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

San Francisco artist Alexis Arnold loves to explore unpredictable three-dimensional sculptures. With previous works centered around everything from training bra nets to faux-lawn upholstered decorations, her more recent Past Of Our Future and The Crystallized Book Series sees Arnold mixing scientific experimentation with everyday objects. Combining Borax crystals with things near and dear to human hearts, like vintage furniture and weathered books, Arnold grows wonderfully organic forms out of objects both malleable and solid, invoking nostalgia all along the way. As Arnold says herself in the following interview, "Time (and its physical/visual presence) is an ever-present concept in my work, as well as a large factor in crystal growth" -- and it is this idea that adds even more importance to the past in her sculptures, as it contrasts with the present.
"Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway." -- J.D. Salinger - Catcher In The Rye

 

In 2009, David Daniell of San Agustin and Douglas McCombs of Tortoise disassembled and reassembled seven hours of in-studio improvisation into their collaborative LP, Sycamore. For their upcoming 2012 release, Versions, they've given the same seven hours of material and the same creative liberties to engineer and producer Ken Brown to offer up his assemblage of choice. The experimental approach has led to two vastly different records that still live in the same sonic universe. The surprisingly little amount of content overlap between the two releases sees to be, in and of itself, evidence of the importance of individual perspectives. Versions comes out May 15th on Thrill Jockey Records, and its initial introduction to the public comes in the form of a slow-motion video directed and conceptualized by filmmaker Timothy Leeds, with the help of David Merten. As the sounds of "30265" teeter gently upon small instrumental seesaws, shapes in Leeds' video pulse and throb in subtle response. In the Q&A below, Leeds describes the video creation process and some of the decisions behind it.

 

 

Portland artist Ian Michael Anderson's latest collection of gouache paintings contrast earth tones and light pink hues with symbolic imagery, to powerful and striking visual effect. In Anderson's own words, his paintings aim to address chaos and conflicts in life as well as order, to help him gain insight into their distinct natures. He explains by saying, "... Dualistic narratives take shape [and] opposing forces are typically revealed: Life and death, good and evil, man and beast, predator and prey, war and peace. These dreamlike and often nightmarish fables reflect an outward and subconscious view of man and his destructive role in this world. Through this lens, my own place in these mostly impossible scenarios can be triangulated, and I am on my way to resolving the confrontation and understanding the need for such destruction." You can see these pieces in person on First Thursday, May 3rd, at Backspace Gallery and Cafe (115 NW 5th Ave) in Portland, and read a brief Q&A with Anderson below.