by Luke Baumgarten & r & There's no way to talk about Portland's Invisible without sounding like a pretentious wiener. Of course, with me, you're accustomed to that. This time, though, I don't want my affectations to reflect negatively on the band. Though my description may be tired, impenetrable and contain hopelessly archaic words, understand that the music I'm trying to describe has a gorgeous, highbrow vitality that's also, somehow, incredibly fun. So no matter what I write in the next 800-odd words, don't hold it against them. Promise me.
Invisible's shtick is this: They create videos to accompany (interweave with, react to) their songs, effectively turning each live show into a time-based art installation. I'd been trying and failing to describe how cool this effect is for several days by the time I reached them, on Monday, as they drove northeast from Washington, D.C., to a gig in New Jersey. I'd previously been in e-mail contact with band member Zach Okun as early as the previous Wednesday, near Atlanta. He'd given me cell numbers for each of the three members of the band, fearing that one or more of their devices might be getting bad reception at any given time. When I tried calling, all three phones were unreachable. By the time I prepared to call back, my own cell phone had died and, oops, I'd forgotten the charger. So here we all were, hyper-connected via cell towers and broadband hotspots, and we couldn't even manage a simple interview.
Ladies and gentlemen, the post-modern dilemma. Gaze ye upon it, and despair.
When we finally hooked up, via e-mail (me in Cambridge, Mass., looking for a Cingular store, they on the New Jersey Turnpike looking for a town called Bound Brook), sails fairly deflated on both sides, the band replied with jokey answers to my half-serious questions. When I asked whether the band ever got out of sync with the video playing behind them, for example, Chris Larson replied, "If you see lasers coming out of my eyes, somewhere someone in the world has dropped a beat." Delaney Kelly, who hails from Spokane (an adequate excuse for being a smart ass), answered all of my either/or questions with "yes."
Amiable sorts, they told me to get back to them if I needed real answers. Thanks, but I've got a better idea. I'm going to dice up the comments into a form I can use. The following, then, is the interview I wish I'd had. The quotes are real, the context is not.
Which comes first, the song or the video?
Chris: Generally the song comes first, but as the video takes shape, the song may be altered. Imagine video and audio in an arm-wrestling match, drunk, in a DC bar that wouldn't book us, with two female onlookers ... and a Marine who kept handing them drinks.
Delaney being one of the girl onlookers?Delaney: Yes.
So, how closely tied are the creation processes? Delaney: Let's say rope, some cuffs and a hankering.
All of which you supply?
Enlightening, but not in the way I'd hoped. Maybe it'd be best to try to describe a couple of the videos through the magic of words. "Now It's a Year (and Going on Six Years)" is an artsy-ass found-image-and-illustration collage. The images build in piece by piece from white space, offering a feeling of creation before systematically deconstructing, only to be built back up. The construction and deconstruction roughly Mickey Mouses a spare, jangly piano line. In the last minute and a half, things start exploding.
"Too Clean" places computer screens, network cable and office paper against a bucolic setting. Black-and-white video images of hurried civilization populate the paper as the camera tracks past. Imprisoned on the sheets and stripped of their color, the cultured world suddenly pales in comparison to the simple verdant symmetry of nature. Or something. I don't know.
I'm an English major; I lack the vocabulary to explain visual art. You know what they say about a picture's worth in words? Well, video is 30 pictures a second, and each song is like eight minutes long, feel me? I'd need a million words to describe these videos. I don't have that kind of room. Also ... I'm a hack.
The point I'm failing to make is that Invisible create voluminous layers of music -- each erudite as hell while still rocking like landslides. Their visual presentation strikes exactly the same balance, adding further layers of imagery. Potent alone, the audio/visual fusion creates something greater still. Corporate America, I believe, calls that adding value. The Happy Meal and the toy inside, for example, synergize to create a unique and family-friendly dining experience. So it is, too, with Invisible.
That is to say: hearing the music without experiencing the visuals, by my calculation, loses two-thirds of the effect. As mentioned, though, the music alone has this unhurried, artsy rock quality, like watching Headbanger's Ball on Vicodin with Steven Hawking.
... No, it's not really like that at all.
Look, all I'm saying is: Multiply awesome (this group's music) by a factor of three, and you'll have an inkling of Invisible's live audio/visual power.
Check out Luke's & lt;a href= & quot;http://www.inlander.com/soundadvice/44982928390697.php & quot; & interview with Invisible & lt;/a &