As far as I'm concerned, pop music is the most exciting frontier for musical innovation. From the mainstream radio-friendly mash-ups of Beyonce, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber down to your favorite neighborhood indie pop band or danceable electronic act, pop music is encompassing of a wide world of sounds, full of ground-breaking firsts. Yet it's safe to say that in the current indie music climate, with its constant breaking and building of narrow-minded subgenres like dream pop, vaporwave, chillwave, and the like, oversaturation often leads to myriad bands which sound more or less identical. Of these, most lack a truly distinguishing spark that makes them stand out. Which is why I get really excited upon the discovery of pop bands who don't easily fit in anywhere, and are able to -- if not reinvent it -- at least give the wheel a furious and energetic spin. My latest and greatest finding lies in Royal Canoe, a group of musicians from the uncommon birthing ground of Winnipeg, Canada. While undoubtedly considered "indie pop" by any wide-casting use of the term, Royal Canoe aren't actually easy to define, especially with non-abstract terminologies. With two drummers, two keyboardists, and four vocalists, the six-member band is kind of all over the place stylistically -- yet somehow, it just works. Royal Canoe Band Interview After talking to Royal Canoe's vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, I came to realize that what sets Royal Canoe apart from other indie pop bands is not exactly the genre tags they fall under -- of which there are many -- but their fascinating communal character. For a pop band, they are remarkably tenacious. They make a point of having extremely high standards for creation and performance, in service of being the best musicians they can be. Any self-imposed rules they have set for themselves are balanced by a willingness to share artistic duties, as well as an openness to inspiration and experimentation.
"I think everyone definitely has an appreciation for letting their voice be heard but also trying to reach a greater good..." -- Matt Peters

 

Los Angeles-based artist Rob Sato is more than a painter of fantastical watercolor dreamscapes. Challenging his own magnificent talent as a masterful visual creator, Sato is also a prolific consumer of culture. Profoundly influenced by historical events, dynamic music, and piles of life-changing books, he is able to channel many diverse creative explorations into colorfully horrific and disarmingly beautiful works of art; his work is an intriguing amalgam of childhood fantasies and literary consequence, adeptly bridging the gap between fantasy and reality.
"Writing feels like it comes from a separate part of the brain than where imagery generates from, so when I'm having trouble on a painting, I can turn to the writing to think about things from a different angle." -- Rob Sato

 

Watching a singular man or woman perform behind a stack of electronic equipment can sometimes really fail to really pull the heartstrings; it's easy for a showgoer to disconnect when there's a lack of connection between musical output and the actions a performer is making onstage. To combat this, electronic musicians have, in recent times, turned to innovation in the multimedia sphere to add an extra bit of oomph to their live sets. On Flying Lotus' latest tour for Until The Quiet Comes, he worked with long-time friends and animators to create Layer 3, a one-of-a-kind audio-visual experience that takes showgoers through three-dimensional worlds of tunnels, silly cartoons, metaphysical imagery, and biological forms. But more on that later, for his set with Thundercat had much more to offer than just a visual experience; it possessed a massive amount of novelty all-around.
May 24th, 2013 @ Roseland Theatre - Portland, Oregon
"I think as we get older, that idea of magic is just taken from us. There's just less of it and less of it... I really try to just kind of dabble in things that feel magical." -- Steve Ellison of Flying Lotus

 

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

 

Everything the rainbow light touches in this music video for Onuinu's "Ice Palace" turns to psychedelic flourish and ethereal whimsy. A lack of contrast and many a post-production effect create a piece that is half sensual and half digitized, a well-paired visual aid for Onuinu's music, which possesses those same qualities. Director Andrew Sloan and choreographer Jin Camou discuss the visual decisions and the mentality that led to the final creation of "Ice Palace", in the following Q&A. Onuinu's "Ice Palace" will also be featured at REDEFINE magazine's Motion & Movement In Music Video panel at Bumbershoot and MusicfestNW 2012. SEE FULL DETAILS
"This is a very sexy song. The images are meant to combine to create a visual aphrodisiac for the viewer; alone, an orange might not be that sexy, but when you bounce it around next to a pomegranate, a flaming house, and some nice looking women, suddenly the meaning of the orange changes." -- Andrew Sloan, Director of Onuinu's "Ice Palace"

 

In REDEFINE's first bi-lingual interview, we speak with Gabriele Ottino, director behind the acid trip visuals for Italian electronic artist TOMAT's latest track, "1984". Taking inspiration from George Orwell and a wide cross-section of human affairs, the video mixes archival footage of events between June 1st and June 6th, 1984, glitch and pixel elements, and modern day footage of the musician into a brightly-colored visual slideshow.
"The denser the number of events a second, the more we lose the facts itself, gaining objectivity but losing humanity." -- Gabriele Ottino

 

MUSIC VIDEO AND INTERVIEW CONTINUED BELOW Directed by Gabriele Ottino and produced by Superbudda Studio

 

"... All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome." -- George Orwell, London Letter to Partisan Review

 

Drawing from antiquated influences and software, directors Dawid Krepski and Jason Chiu translate the hazy pop sounds of New York musician Beca into a narrative about the understanding and acceptance of the self, whatever that may look like. Below, both directors and Beca answer a brief Q&A about the creative process and underlying message of the "Fall Into Light".

 

"The title 'Fall Into Light' is a bit of a paradox since I associate light with upward movement, and the concept of falling makes me think of darkness. So it's this juxtaposition of light and dark which can be taken literally or figuratively, and I like that it's left open for interpretation. Maybe it means opening opening up yourself enough to see your true self." - Beca

 

Drawing from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and one of the area's most majestic creatures, Rafael Anton Irisarri of The Sight Below and Thomas Meluch of Benoît Pioulard have breathed life into a new project, Orcas. On their debut self-titled disc, the two have created nine tracks of ambiance-heavy songs featuring a number of opposing elements, including light and dark, acoustic and electronic, textured subtlety and straight-forward hook. In that spirit of balance, this bilateral feature places side-by-side interview responses and sample tracks from both artists, to dissect the strengths, weaknesses, and sonic tendencies both musicians contribute to making Orcas the rich collaboration that it is.

Benoît Pioulard

"Sault" from Lasted Where Irisarri's soundscapes lay a gentle foundation for the work of Orcas, Meluch's work as Benoît Pioulard provides more accessible and structural elements, complete with singer-songwriter pop melodies. "Sault," from Benoît Pioulard's album Lasted, has guitar and vocal tendencies that connect to the piano and guitar lines of "Arrow Drawn," which is streaming below.

Rafael Anton Irisarri

"A Great Northern Sigh" from The North Bend As The Sight Below, Rafael Anton Irisarri's compositions rebuild familiar emotions and spaces by way of minimal electronic soundscapes. According to Irisarri, "A Great Northern Sigh" has conceptual and thematic ties to the work of Orcas, as it also relates to the Pacific Northwest. "Almost like an audio postcard," he adds. "What can I say -- I'm deeply inspired by this region and wouldn't imagine composing our Orcas album anywhere else."

 

When Nicholas Bohac left behind the Midwest to pursue his artistic career in one of the most expensive cities in the country -- San Francisco -- the decision must have been both wise, for the connections and experience, and terrifying, for the potential financial burden. But thanks to a sympathetic landlord and a supportive wife with more gainful employment, Bohac lives in the SF's Outer Richmond neighborhood, within blocks of Golden Gate Park, and has a studio space that he shares with his landlord, free of charge. The garage studio is hardly one to lounge about comfortably in, but considering the skyrocketing housing rates of the city and its general shortage of space, Bohac is one lucky man. Bohac is one of a small percentage of artists who has the rare luxury of working on art at his leisure. His leisure, however, is not one to be taken lightly; he estimates that he created 15-18 mid-sized pieces, 165 small pieces, and participating in eight shows in 2011. 2012, though, is a new year -- and with it, comes a new approach. He has taken the time thus far in 2012 to step back and reassess his work and his direction. He is learning to be more choosy and to expect more from his work, at the same time that he is reconstructing what he wants his outwards-facing image to be.
Upon first glance, Bohac's works are complex and psychedelic in nature, full of unnatural colors and shapes. But despite how obscured, manipulated and tweaked they might be, their very cores are centered around landscapes -- one interest that is deeply-rooted and enduring in Bohac's life. After all, it is landscapes which drew Bohac from the Midwest, where he had lived his entire life, to the West Coast. "I came out here to visit a friend who had moved out here... [and] I just was like, 'Whoa, there's a lot of stuff out here happening that I've never seen before,'" he recalls. "I'd seen mountains and I'd seen oceans, but I think everything just coalesced together in this area, and it makes these really interesting landscapes." To pay homage to his new surroundings, Bohac began with painstakingly rendered tempera paintings based off of photographs he had taken of the ocean. Ultimately, though, it was attending art school and taking in critiques from others that refined Bohac's style from mere imitation to reimaginings of everyday scenery.
"I think one of the best things anyone -- any instructor -- ever said of me was when I was making two or three of these collage paintings at once, and they were all at night and you could see the blue sky and the stars. He said, 'Why don't you make the sky this pink?' and that's all he had to say, and all of a sudden everything opened up a little bit more."