A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Welcome to the reboot of Portland Week, where we will be sniffing some of the brightest, boldest, weirdest and most wonderful sights, sounds & smells from the City Of Roses.
While this may not entirely be a revelation at this point, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by possibilities. Finding ways to find art in a world deluged by people’s creations is a large part of the game, at this point, and a large part of what we hope to achieve at Forestpunk: investigating the weird line between curation, journalism and criticism. Our motto could read: What is it? What is it like? and What To Do With It, Once I’ve Found It.
There are so many ways to organize information, now, so many scenes to get lost in. You can pick a point, any point will do, from which to spread and radiate, and reach cosmic illumination, even if you were only writing about steel strings or the local scene in Pittsburgh.
Like i mentioned at the beginning of Folk Week, most business guides recommend for a blog to find its very specific niche, and build from there. But the concept of Forestpunk is many and varied and is more of a feeling, a cast of light, and is constantly spreading. Seeing as how the past is bleeding into the future, genres blend like soft-serve ice cream and scenes and bands overlap, the ways we think about music + art is always shifting and expanding.
Forestpunk could be seen as a Field Guide through our dusty trawls through the Akashic Records, through the coal mines of the musical underworld. We are tracing invisible trajectories, we are describing hidden histories, naming the nameless.
While there is no unifying trend or aesthetic here, its more like there’s 6 to 8 of them, 6 to 8 styles of which we are endlessly fascinated. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be exploring what it means to be a Forestpunk, and what exactly the fuck we are on about.
Listening to Ghetto Hexes, it becomes clear that Gavin Neves has something to say, and is tired of waiting – he’s got to say it now. ‘low life//high $ociety’ is a refined and updated version of the ‘bury my heart//at wounded knee’ EP, which we wrote about a few months. ‘Bury My Heart’ was a raw, analog electro affair; the sound of synths, drum machines and FX pedals laid straight to tape. It was a charming, lo-fi electroseance – a dance party in the 5th dimension.
I had mixed feeling when i received the news that ‘low life//high $ociety’ was a polished, refined version of ‘bury my heart’, but i needn’t have worried. They both have their charms, and are their own separate entities. You got the feeling, with ‘bury my heart’, that Gavin needed to break the writer’s block of overintellectualization; to just hunker down and write some fucking songs. After doing that, he’s been polishing the jewels, taking the analog heart of ‘bury my heart’ and then gilding the Lily, multi-tracking vocals, playing with stereo space, refining the mix, giving each element more room to breathe.
‘low life//high $ociety’ is, quite simply, the sound of a man mastering his tools, and discovering his vision. It is a full and well-realized debut LP, with a consistent tone and voice that is both unique and immediately recognizable. Gavin’s doing his thing; a one of a kind.
As i mentioned last time i wrote about Ghetto Hexes, the fashionistas would tell you that Witch House is dead. You won’t hear about bands with funny symbols in their names on the front pages of the popular music magazines, and for all extents and purposes, witch house//ghost house//drag//ghost drone” has gone back down whatever hole it originally crawled of. But the overlap of dirty, raw hip hop, arty electronics and soulful vocals is pretty much the story of the last decade of music, and is most likely not going anywhere, anytime soon.
Basically, Ghetto Hexes combines rigid trap beats with dirty, distorted synths and a glammy, seductive falsetto – what might happen if you were to run Prince, Wocka Flocka Flame and Tobacco through Seth Brundles‘ transportation device.
The results are equal parts sexy and sinister – spectral and visceral. There’s odd moments of body horror, like on ‘pulling teeth//like a sad basterd’
my business is pulling teeth
The lyrics frequently come off as broken, metaphysical spells, oblique and deranged, not coming right out and telling you what he’s talking about, rather using the incantatory hypnosis unique to language, acting as the MC at a seance, calling up weird visions and strange worlds, with their visions. ‘low life//high society’ might be what it sounds like, if a rapper were to get trapped in Insidious’ limbo, making beats for eternity.
I won’t claim, definitively, whether i prefer ‘low life/high $ociety’ over ‘bury my heart’. I truly love the raw sonics of their initial output, and feel that the grittiness suits their style well. But it is thrilling to hear Ghetto Hexes working it out, finding their aesthetic and polishing it to a titanium sheen. Gavin’s becoming almost frighteningly adept at drum and synth programming, in a very short amount of time – while the beats and sound design might not be that complicated, they are perfectly sequenced and arranged – truly revealing a pop sensibility blended with an experimental ear.
Ghetto Hexes seem to intent on casting the world under their spell. They are recasting life in their image, making things they way they want them to be. Things have been picking up, with the band getting more and more shows, and it seems the world is catching on to Gavin’s singular vision. Witch house dead, indeed.
Ghetto Hexes is for running in the night. It is music to take you beyond your senses, beyond the limits of your daily personality, past logic and dry imagination. In the chinks, in the cracks, it spreads and grows, glowing like phosphorescence spelling out ancient incantations.
You never wanted us anyway, so we found comfort in the darkness. We found our own friends, built our own universe, grew strong and mighty – a demiurge in the void. Defying safety, Ghetto Hexes challenges you to truly live, to fight and fuck and sweat and talk to strangers.
While i will not say that Ghetto Hexes are representative of the musical norm here in Portland, its more that there IS no musical norm here, a bunch of independent styles and nations, which frequently mingle and cross-pollinate. That’s why I’m writing about bands from Portland, this week, to rep for the things that we appreciate, even if they don’t have a name, to make the world a stranger and more dangerous place.
Ghetto Hexes are brand new and worthy of yr attention and praise. Get informed.