Outlands - Love Is As Cold As DeathWe all come from somewhere. Outlands, the duo of Melissa Smith and Mark Arciaga, are obviously more concerned with where they're going than where they've been, as evidenced by the fact that they hail from Virginia but currently reside in LA. They're willing to travel thousands of miles to find somewhere that suits them, somewhere they belong. And you can hear this same sense of adventure, this quest for self, for something unique and personal, on Outland's debut LP for LebenStrasse Records.

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your wiggly toes.
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Death Vessel - "Mercury Dime"

The type of song that just demands to be adored, Death Vessel's "Mercury Dime" flies through all jingle-jangling worlds of sonic pleasure, using titillating adjectives like "mercurily blue" to paint a scene that relates human forms to nature. Androgynously-voiced frontman Joel Thibodeau confounds and entices simultaneously on the band's forthcoming full-length album, Island Intervals, which comes out February 25th, 2014 on Sub Pop Records. This is just to wet your appetite for this neo-folk ambiance; catch them on tour this March.  

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your wiggly toes. This month, Gardens & Villa and Dum Dum Girls return, Howard Ivans of GAYNGS and The Rosebuds goes solo, and JMSN, Starlight Girls and The Slims show that they really, really know how to do their own thing.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS Gardens & Villa - Bullet TrainPhotography by Neil Favila

Gardens & Villa - "Bullet Train"

Returning with the introductory single from their February 2014 Secretly Canadian release, Dunes, Southern California's Gardens & Villa seem to be on a brand new tip of exploring death and life in the fast lane. Californian at heart and name-dropping Los Angeles and The Bay Area like rapstars, "Bullet Train" dishes out Prince-like funkiness and manages to one-up the band's previous use of falsetto-laden vocals and flute-playing majesty. My favorite track from the record, "Bullet Train" is just one quick glimpse into an album full of reflections on being and becoming.

Vex Ruffin - Self-Titled (Stones Throw Records)Vex Ruffin Vex Ruffin Stones Throw RecordsVex Ruffin's music has been variously described as "post-punk", "minimal", "gnarly", "primitive" and "a loose end". It is all of these descriptions and much, much more. An artist who began making music in his bedroom on his own, using an SP-303 sampler, Ruffin was scooped up by the label Stones Throw after sending in a speculative demo. Subsequently he took his pared back reductionist genre-splitting music on the road with a four-piece band, taking in shows at SXSW and Coachella. With influences including labelmate Madlib and P.I.L.-era Johnny Rotten, he produces music that is a reflection of the ordinariness and mundanity of his day job driving trucks for UPS and living amongst suburban monotony.

Although Asheville, NC certainly has a diverse music scene, the city sitting in the hills of Blue Ridge Mountains is probably more well known for its pickers and strummers than it is for its turntablists and synth wizards. That is, except for once a year, when Moogfest comes to town and celebrates the art of the electronic in honor of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog, whose foundation and burial site are both located in the artsy mountain town. Moogfest took a break this year in order to regroup, change promoters and pick itself up out of the brisk air of autumn and move itself to the promising days of spring (it will be held April 25-27 in 2014). Into its silent void flowed Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit , a three-day electronicaganza (promoted by Bonaroo-bringers, AC Entertainment) that delivered a variety of both big-name acts and up-and-comers. The gigs were held in various venues throughout the city, which helped create different pools of mood you could dive into and out of throughout the weekend, from the stadium-like Exploreasheville.com Arena (formerly the Civic Center) and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (both of which comprise the US Cellular Center—confused yet?) to the intimate and indie-feeling Asheville Music Hall. Acts overlapped each night, so decisions had to be made, but for the most part, it was possible to groove to a broad mix of sounds from about six to past midnight each night. Here's my extensive recap of the entire experience over the three days.
 
FRIDAY

Jacques Greene

For me, the festival got off to a bit of an unpleasant bass-blasting start. I began with a bit of Jacques Greene at the Orange Peel before getting pretty much "bassed out" of the venue. Greene is a 21-year-old house producer from Montreal who manned the decks on stage. His tracks definitely grooved, but the bass was so severely accentuated that it was hard to take in any of the other sounds he was unleashing. You definitely felt the music, but actually hearing it was another story.  

Purity Ring

So I chalked things up to the sound engineer possibly being more comfortable with larger spaces and trotted across town to largest venue in the mix, the ExploreAsheville.com Arena to catch Purity Ring. This Canadian duo has been turning heads since the July 24 release of their first album, Shrines, and features Corin Roddick on the decks and Megan James on vocals. Roddick's arrangements are deep and icy, full of cycled vocal samples and echoey deep-space synth. Above this, tethered by a thick cord of bass, James' sweeter-than-Bjork voice floated. Again, there were times when that low-end tether was a little too thick, smothering the lyrics and turning James' sweet and sometimes spooky voice into just another component in the wash of sound. But it's hard to tell if that was intentional or just another case of bad mixing. On Purity Ring's recorded work, the vocals are often smeared deeply into the music, so the lyrics don't always pop. What did pop on stage were the pod-like lanterns that the duo both played with drum sticks, getting a satisfying percussive boom from each.  

Deltron 3030

Next up, in the same venue, was Deltron 3030. As opposed to the Purity Ring duo who looked a little dwarfed on the big stage, Deltron staffed the scene with a full string section, a horn section, guitars and four back-up singers lending support to the stars of the supergroup: Del the Funky Homo Homosapien and Dan the Automator (both of who've been part of Gorillaz), as well as DJ Kid Koala. The squadrons of sound they constructed moved the audience and my whole body: the guitar hooks worked my hips; Kid's scratches jiggled my head from side to side; the horns got my shoulders shrugging; and the drum beats took care of the rest. Del's lyrics tickled my brain too. I say tickled because — you guessed it — most of them were buried beneath not just the bass, but by the weight of all that sound. One of the clearest vocal moments came when Dan the Automator, dressed in tails and conducting the band with a baton, taught the audience the verse: "Deltron is our hero; if he can't do it nobody can." It was our part to play as they told their futuristic rock opera staring Deltron Zero. But I suppose at this point in the night words were becoming meaningless anyway, and you really didn't need any instructions to enjoy the Deltron ride.
I will say that the bass overload from the night did cause me to miss Bassnectar who manned the stage after Detron. The beams and batting in the ceiling out by the concession stands were already vibrating in an ugly way from the night's festivities; I didn't really want to stick around to see what might happen when the ace of bass let lose. From what I heard, the set was hot and the building held up.

After their Earth Tour of 45 countries in 90 days, you might think the members of Horse the Band would loathe each other to the point of disbanding. After such a frenetic pace of travel, the close quarters of their interactions, and the meager financial compensation paid to them, what incentive is there to endure? To enact the Kauffman-esque humiliation upon their audience they are known for: that is the incentive. And now here in 2013, absent record label and foregoing a new album since 2009, Horse gladly take on bonus levels for touring outside of the US. It has become increasingly clear: American audiences no longer excite Horse, and our incessant need for retro gaming nostalgia is exactly what drove them to other shores. We could have been a bit more appreciative that they didn't always write lyrics about video games, and from our folly, Europe has capitalized. Along for this particular tour is UK band Rolo Tomassi, past tourmates of Horse who also call themselves admirers of the band. When asked about watching Horse address the audience on tour, keyboardist James Spence sums it up in a very apt description, joking that they are "a mixture of entertaining and terrifying." "Having spent a fair amount of time around them offstage," he continues, "it starts to make way more sense. I appreciate their honesty and that they're unafraid to be themselves at all times." The tour's Berlin date meant a brief homecoming before departing to Russia for Horse's Lord Gold (Erik Engstrom), who now calls Berlin home base. It would also be the end of the road for Rolo Tomassi, whose upcoming tour schedule has them visiting Japan and Australia this fall. Between the matched amount of enthusiasm for animated keyboard playing between both bands and Horse's outlandish hilarity, the show at Berlin's Magnet made evident that Horse's fun on tour is exponentially higher when not playing at home.
August 12th, 2013 @ Magnet in Berlin, Germany PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH CONNOLLY (ROLO TOMASSI) AND MATT CARTER (HORSE THE BAND)

 

In the brightly-colored music video for TOKiMONSTA's "Clean Slate", featuring Gavin Turek, adorable creatures galore get beamed down from outerspace as well as give you control over placing their sticky behinds. This HTML5 and Javascript-driven sticker book features and artwork by Overture and interactive directorial skills by fourclops ::). Here, they share with REDEFINE some of the ins and outs of their collaboration and creative process.

fourclops ::) (Directors)

fourclops ::) are an incredible duo consisting of Jeff Greco and Eli Stonberg, who create interactive music videos for unique web-browsing experiences. Their work for MNDR's "C.L.U.B." takes information from your Facebook feeds and integrates it seamlessly into a music video footage.

Overture (Animators)

A two-person animation, illustration, and live performance unit comprised of Jason and Aya Brown, Overture use intuitive and improvisational collaborative processes to "reach creative places neither could arrive at on their own." This dreamy, jiggling piece entitled "Mr. Sandman" features music by The Kleenrz.