Ruins, as a word, can mean two things: as a noun, it is a decrepit run-down structure, no longer inhabited. Ruins, as a verb, is to degrade something, to bring about its demise, to fall into ruin. This ambiguity of meaning reveals a hidden face in Grouper's new album, which is much concerned with uncertainty, in marginal spaces that don't necessarily add up or make sense. The word "maybe" occurs multiple times, alongside dream language and landscapes, of cycles and mountainous bodyscapes. Grouper - Ruins Album ReviewToo often, when we talk about music, we talk about it in declarative, categorical terms, as if we were ranking market positions and cataloging guitar solos. This way of thinking and talking about music completely negates the purpose of Grouper's music, and leads to a culture where only the brashest, hypiest, blaring-est musics get heard; the equivalent of everyone shouting to be heard at a dinner party. Instead, Liz Harris' music invites you to lean in and listen closer.

 

Natasha Kmeto
A couple years ago, I asked Decibel's founder Sean Horton how he manages to make an appearance at every single one (or almost every one) of the showcases during Decibel Festival. His advice was simple: "Don't drink, don't do drugs, don't eat, DON'T STOP!" While this may indeed work for Sean (is he a robot?!), I am but a mere human and had to abandon at least one of his key tenets (I'll let you use your imagination as to which ones). Overall, I felt like my Decibel Festival 2014 experience was less cohesive than in past years, but that may have just been due to my own headspace; I had a hard time settling for just one showcase each night, so ended up show-hopping far more than I ever have at Decibel. Here are a few of the performances & showcases that stood out. Natasha Kmeto @ EMP Sky Church for the Opening Gala; Photography by +Russ
See all Decibel Festival Coverage

Travel with Midday Veil for eight minutes, into the pixelated fractal universes of "Within and Without". Premiering today on REDEFINE in anticipation of the Seattle band's upcoming west coast tour with Swahili, this music video is shot and edited by the band itself, as tends to be their modus operandi. What is perhaps most exciting here is not necessarily each individual shot itself -- for though highly processed, they are pretty mundane at their core; instead, what is to be celebrated are the transitions, which live up to the wax and wane of the title, the ebb and the flow of the track's oceanic imagery. Floating overlays and smooth washes of lo-fi patterning are sprinkled with just a touch of glitch, to make one forget the images from which they originally evolved. (And this is all to say nothing of synth warlock wizard David Golightly's seriously awe-inspiring cult leader robe, which naturally adds its own inexplicable charms.) Music video and full list of tour dates below, beginning tomorrow evening in the great northern lands of Bellingham, Washington, and expect records from both of these bands, coming out next year on Translinguistic Other.

Portland, OR based art-collective-of-two MSHR have had a busy year. Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy deepened their self-mythologizing practice during a residency at NYC's Eyebeam and just returned from Langenthal, Switzerland, where they constructed the sister show to this year's Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) installation. All this work means the TBA crowd gets more MSHR than ever before - more complex interlocking shapes of ambiguous signification, more mind-bending feedback loops of sound and light and, notable for the group's artistic evolution, more physical space, as the installation sprawls out in a large corner of the warehouse-like Fashion Tech building.
MSHR's installation, Resonant Entity Modulator, is showing daily until September 30th from 12 to 6pm with a performance by the duo on September 19th at 10pm not to be missed.

MSHR

MSHR
"Where we're at right now, it doesn't make sense for us to join a preexisting community or culture that has a set of rules or traditions. That can't happen for us, but we want that -- everyone wants that -- and with this project, we're creating our own sacred spaces and traditions. Pathways in. And up." - Brenna Murphy, MSHR

 

"Although our work has a visual component, our work is more about a virtual realm. There are these invisible, virtual hyper-chambers that are there. - Birch Cooper, MSHR
MSHR Artist Collective Interview

Seattle’s 11th annual Decibel Festival is quickly approaching, which means it’s time to start the agonizing process of picking and choosing amongst the myriad of showcases, Optical shows, After-Hours, conference workshops, and boat parties the festival has to offer. There are shows and conference activities...

Captured Tracks has figured out that the formula to creating a successful label is to have no specific formula: just do what feels right, and do it for the artists, not for yourself. The Brooklyn-based record label works hard at getting new artists exposure rather than getting themselves exposure; they've built up a reputation as a great label on word of mouth, and label owner Mike Sniper uses his intuition when making big decisions.
Captured Tracks Record Label Feature
"We're a young company going about the music industry in what we think is the standard way, but it turns out we've been doing it pretty differently. There's no ethos or philosophy, per se. We're not looking for our label to be the topic of a release; we want the artist to be the focus. If exploiting whatever C/T is helps get a new artist's music out in the world, than that's great." - Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks

 

Phone Call - I'll Get My Coat Music Video
It's been a hot minute since a Portland band has possessed so much of their own force and flair, but draw your attention to Phone Call, who are now bringing their sound outside of local view for the first time with their latest 12", out on Aerobic International. The duo, comprised of Johnny Ziegler and Bailey Winters, formerly of local dance heroes Strength, is swaggerific; Zeigler's throwback funkiness bears endless satisfaction, and Winter's ability to install any lyricism with mad steez is seriously impressive. Never before hath grabbing a coat from a coat rack sounded so damn enticing (read: so as to go home and get down and dirty), and such playful, loving filth is just what one can expect from Phone Call. (And all the better that no soul or legitimacy is lost along the way...) Below, you can view two video clips associated to "I'll Get My Coat". The first is the slick new music video, directed by Portland's Lymay Iwasaki and edited by the band themselves, with coloration by Benji Brucker that adds a great deal of polish and gravitas. The second is a live performance taken from REDEFINE magazine's 2014 Intuitive Navigation Show, where Bobby Smith of Sex Life DJs was on visuals duty. The all-around level of satisfying simplicity is almost too good for this modern age.

Litanic Mask - Vampire Album Review
On Vampire, the second LP from gothy Portland synthpop band Litanic Mask, the trio draw upon vampire mythology to comment on the inability of people to connect. Like their name, a Litanic Mask is a thin veil, separating the viewer from the viewed, while giving a ritualistic flair. In this case, the porcelain shield would be the sound walls of noisemakers Mark Burden and Andrea Kulish, whose pounding beats, pulsing synths and melodic keyboards make rays of light in the darkness, through which vocalist Kenna Jean swims in and out of focus. While she sings, "All I wanted was to see/ Your reflection in my mirror", you get the sense that it might be she, and not the other person, who vanishes into smoke when you look.

Inventions Band Interview
Having culminated in a house on the Oregon coast, Inventions' self-titled debut may not be a psychedelic record in any traditional sense, but set and setting seemed to have definitely had an effect on the outcome. The endless shimmering slate, the breeze-tussled grass, the stoic stone behemoths wading in the tide: against this backdrop, Matthew Cooper of Eluvium and Mark T. Smith of Explosions in the Sky coalesced their energies into eight songs that bring something unexpected out of each of their established sensibilities. Invigorated by a vibe of spontaneity, Inventions unveils subtle surprises over time. Floating and fluttering amid the vapor trails of keyboard and guitar are intriguing sounds and tics not tethered to either Cooper or Smith's main projects. Unique to the album as well are the dominant beats on "Peaceable Child" and "Recipient", neither resembling the cacophonous live drumming of Explosions nor the pulse-tapping undercurrent of Eluvium. Where both of those bands' work can often present like complete statements, Inventions also sets itself apart in how open-ended it feels; a breathing, growing, glowing thing. A natural thing. So natural feeling, in fact, that it's almost surprising how long it took Cooper and Smith to decide to work together...