icture a boy – a weird boy dwelling deep in the woods of Washington State, collecting the eggs laid by the hens, making books of blinkered etchings, playing a lot of Nintendo, and falling head over heels for the preset beats and pad sounds of the keyboard his grandma gifted him. That boy was Cassidy DeMarco.
DeMarco now plays music under the alias Gouseion, for those of you itching for what it might sound like if tree-living solitude smashed into Top 40 hip hop, blasted out syrupy pop, and 80s/90s video game scores. Let the record show that it sounds a lot like an exploratory kerfuffle made up of hungry brainwaves, electric frenzy, and sweet, sweet seclusion – you know, exactly what the making of music is supposed to sound like.
Gouseion’s drums have been called “hard as fuck.” And it’s true—they really are. But they also transcend mere profanity to reach peaks most producers can only dream of. I am here to tell you that Gouseion’s drums are as hard as the mighty hammer of Thor, Mjöllnir, and there are times on his new album, Nijikon, that they make sounds akin to that legendary weapon fiercely banging a sheet of slate in a thunderstorm.
Gouseion—or Cassidy DeMarco, or Casio, or Casiocity, as he has been known variously over the years—is likely Portland’s best, if least-known, producer actively releasing records. Years ago DeMarco began making a name in the Portland beat scene producing for the now-defunct hiphop duo Brokaw. While the union between emcee Colin Jones and DeMarco never managed to birth an LP, it did cement the idea in the consciousness of many listeners that DeMarco is a truly gifted beatsmith.
“[The album] had been in production for a really long time,” explains DeMarco of the failed recording. “It’s hard to remember how long we worked on it, but it started around 2003.”
With Brokaw unready to release a debut, DeMarco turned his efforts to solo instrumental electronica. In 2007 he signed with Run Riot Records on the strength of his previous work, releasing the classic Puisne—which is, start to finish, the equal of any electronic release Portland has ever seen.
While it received good reviews in various press outlets (including XLR8), Puisne did not garner DeMarco the attention or status of some other area artists. “Musically I think the album was a success, but financially it wasn’t,” says DeMarco. This is unfortunate, because the speedy sound of it takes NES electronica to new heights of intensity and prowess. It’s like listening to the soundtrack of Mega Man 2 on coke while stabbing your most-hated enemy with a lightsaber.
His newest release, the digital-only Nijikon, continues where Puisne left off, combining ferocious synths with drums; all the while layering them over somber keyboards that add pathos to their intensity. The aforementioned drums are what truly set DeMarco’s work apart from the crowd. Too often electronic music features kicks and snares that sound as if they were manufactured by a wind-up monkey toy, choosing to lazily motivate listeners by means of melody alone. In his catalog of tracks, DeMarco slaps that position in the face, with thumping kits and some ridiculously geeked-out programming.
The kind of constant, blinking vehemence that DeMarco supplies to his Gouseion productions creates a sound more in tune with downtown Tokyo than downtown Portland. Perhaps that’s by design. DeMarco is a certified Japanophile whose moniker, Gouseion, roughly translates to “synthetic sound” in English. In Japan, it’s also a word used to describe ring tones.
“The decision to name things in Japanese was more about abstracting the words so that people wouldn’t have preconceived notions about what things should sound like,” DeMarco explains. “And you can’t get much more foreign than a different language with a totally different alphabet.”
On Nijikon, the formula for DeMarco’s previous success remains in effect: crispy synths, catchy melodies, and banging drums. After being relatively anonymous for some time, DeMarco’s new release has the potential to catch on with a wider audience.
- Graham Barey, The Portland Mercury
As far as breakout techno musicians go around these parts, Gouseion’s (Cassidy DeMarco) a more than worthy successor to the Copy throne. The cuts off this debut have both a melodic immediacy and seriously interesting, complex layering. It makes for something bound to lure scene outsiders and electronic heads alike to the same claustrophobic, intensely possessive world of grubby analog tones and heart-attack bass stutters. This track adds a sliced-up vocal sample (a deep voice cut into nths), coloring the whole thing kinda ominous: more of a sense of threat than Copy’s sense of melancholy. It’s good stuff, nay, great stuff. DeMarco’s at the top of my list of people to watch in Portland techno musics.
- Michael Byrne, Willamette Week
Some artists stand out in Portland that can make one think, “I can’t believe this cat lives here!” Gouseion is one of those artists. Seriously, I can now be proud of our hipster city for not sucking on the IDM tip. This dude brings production precision the way any Warp Records artist would. With his new release entitled Puisne, each track is chalk full of discordant melodies wrapped in glitched out beats. But even with all the techno wizardry Gouseion displays, the sum is still greater then Puisne’s parts. Gouseion’s dramatic static cling percussion is brought forth in a constantly changing jiggafied bounce, keeping everything chaotically intact and the listener confident that a pro is at the wheel. Not once do you feel that Gouseion is demonstrating his editing skills for lack of feeling since every track hints at a stronger emotional charge with a reflective quality one cannot fake. Gouseion also produces for the group Brokaw as Ca$io City with mc Colin Jones, approaching hip hop with a jilted cut and paste tech style that would even make Timbaland raise a brow.
It would, however, make sense if Portland takes longer then usual to warm up to Gouseion’s Puisne, giving our city’s techno lackluster and possible fear of techno sincerity. But fear not my tongue n’ cheek partiers, because Gouseion has whipped up some mix tapes for your fornicated ears. Back in IDM’s infancy I never would have imagined someone using diva vocals atop of some Autechre style beats, but here we are in 2007 and the game has changed. Mash up madness just might save Gouseion from keeping his fan base full of non-dancing white dudes (a classic IDM symptom). I’m not sold on ironic pop remix’s most of the time but Gouseion, at least, brings it darker and more creatively then most. If he can pull the kids in with some Hillary Duff remix he just might eventually work them into the real peanut butter. Maybe then our club scene can finally take off with out the need of teen pop training wheels. Carry on Gouseion, show em what you got.
- Dan Hagan, Renegade
Reading about Portland, OR’s Gouseion, one learns he is also known as Cassidy DeMarco, Monodec, C++, Brokaw and Minijack (for his slowcore, hip-hop and breakcore projects) and, in true underground style, has more than two mix-tapes out. It takes a few listens to get into this CD but it is surprising and cool. Gouseion delivers melodies throughout the album in a patchwork style amongst hard, chewy noise, à la Aphex Twin, but with less frequent noise variations. The sounds create a consistent flow and each listen brings out something new and special. The album starts with hard-hitting songs, later creating more of a spacious, wide-open feeling via the thick grooves. The music on Puisne is imaginative in a Nintendo and Atari old school industrial kind of way. Puisne conjures images of a robotic factory or a mythic monorail train journey under a sky full of stars.
- Sarah Ferguson, Exclaim.ca