Adam Svenson of Du Hexen Hase and Little Claw interviewed Spencer D. of Cloaks who are playing Escalator fest 9/26 in Seattle…the results follow…
Portland’s Cloaks generate the sound of a new world, all boiled down to a slippery, looped stream of psychobabble, ethno-knowledge, and fractal smoke.
It’s easy to lose time in their sounds, as they repeat, interact, and spin off each other in an incredible crypto-funk space elevator muzak style. Phrases loop and disintegrate, tones burble, and temporarily a steeldrum band emerges from the murk, only to get sucked back in, digested, born anew.
The sound world that Cloaks operate in is an amalgamation of our own earthly musical cultures: tweaked, repeated, and then melded with a galactic counterpart, the resulting mutated offspring then makes its way to your eardrums and beyond.
We caught Spencer of Cloaks floating thru the bitstream of the interwebs and conducted this email interview with him:
Let’s take it from the start…who is Cloaks and when did Cloaks start…and are you originally from Portland?
Currently Cloaks is myself (Spencer D.) and Ryan C. At first it was just one of many names for my own solo recordings, first used around six years ago. Since then the project has cycled through many different collaborators, though it’s been in this current live configuration with Ryan for about a year or so. We’re from Arcata, California originally, and have been playing music together on and off for years.
On your Myspace page you have some awesome alien architecture drawings by Luigi Serafini…Your music makes a perfect soundtrack for getting lost in Serafini’s drawings. Is art an influence on you? Any certain artists?
How about musical influences?
I’ve always thought that music has the ability to create imaginary worlds within our own mental space in the same way that art is capable of doing…when you use as much processing and as many electronic effects as we do, it’s hard to imagine anything concrete or real from the abstract sounds we create. I see Serafini’s art as an apt parallel; he created an entire lavishly-detailed encyclopedia of a non-existent world, denoting everything from their dining practices to their architecture to their physics, something so magical and alien that you can’t possibly make sense of it. I’d like to think that our music has somewhat of a similar goal as visual art in this respect, though I wouldn’t say any specific artists influence us. Our musical influences are more apparent, though hard to pin down…electro-acoustic methods from GRM studios in France, post-punk deconstruction from people like This Heat and David Cunningham, visionary electronic composers like Nuno Canavarro, Ragnar Grippe or Craig Leon, the disco-dub effects of producers like François K and Walter Gibbons, the fourth-world sounds of Jon Hassell, textures from Vladislav Delay and Wolfgang Voight, Reich/Riley minimalism, Kraftwerk…I’m a fucking dork, I could go on forever really.
Is there a formal connection with Starving Weirdos or is the link more spiritual?
It’s formal…we’ve been good friends them for many years, having all lived in Humboldt together. The Weirdos are kind of an open-ended collective with Brian and Merrick at the helm, and both Ryan and I have played in the group on numerous occasions. Brian and I also have a side project (along with Brian’s brother John) called R.V. Paintings, and we both share similar ideas about post-production techniques. They also put out a Cloaks disc on their label.
How do you perform live? Is your live sound more stripped down, are you able to replicate your recorded sounds, or is the sound more improvised? Do you like playing live or do you think of Cloaks as more of a “studio” project?
Cloaks was primarily a studio project for many years, relying heavily on creative recording techniques, studio effects and layers and layers of overdubs. The band has really been reborn as more of a live vehicle since Ryan has joined…the kind of interaction and musical communication that occurs between the two of us live has become much more crucial to our current sound, though it is still rooted in the studio approach. Through the use of sample trigger pads and electronic drumsets I manipulate pre-recorded sounds and Ryan plays his self-assembled modular synthesizer, vocoder and other electronic devices…I sing and play electric organ too, all through heavy effect processing. Most of my stuff is hooked into Ryan’s so he’s effecting the parameters of things I’m controlling and vice versa. We have abstractly-structured “songs” that are often the results of in-studio improvisations…we try to record most of our practices in order to resample elements of them in order refract the studio process back into itself. Approaching a live show we usually have a rough idea of what we’re going to do (a “set list” you could say) but it never quite turns out the same.
Your releases also have some amazing tripped out artwork…would you consider your music psychedelic?
Most certainly, but not in the way you would expect…no wah pedals or echoplex vocals or anything.
Lastly, are you ready to levitate the building when you play with some like-minded weirdos at Escalator Fest?