Ramona Andra Xavier wants to move beyond music.
For the past seven years, Xavier has helped to define vaporwave, a sample-heavy genre of electronic music that repurposes digital relics from the late 20th century. Under monikers like Laserdisc Visions, New Dreams Ltd., Macintosh Plus and, most consistently, Vektroid, Xavier has released dozens of albums. Her latest, Vektroid's superb Seed & Synthetic Earth, arrived about 11 months ago. That hiatus would be negligible for other artists, but next to Xavier's otherwise breakneck, multifaceted discography, it seems significant.
"I think a big part of why I haven't put anything out this year is that I've been really trying to change my priorities," says Xavier, who lives in Portland.
With her level of eminence, it's nearly impossible to release sample-based music like she used to without running into copyright roadblocks, which completely upend her computer-based composition style. "I'm not 100 percent a musician to the extent that I don't think I would fit into a studio, as much as I really want to, just because I can't play keys and do live instrumentation," she says.
Considering Vektroid's virtuosic sound—especially Seed & Synthetic Earth's proggy synth squiggles and dextrous drum programming—it's a little baffling to learn of Xavier's lack of musical training. But it also speaks to her utter mastery of the computer as an instrument.
Still, Xavier has had to lean more and more on her own compositions. While that seems to have produced vibrant results, she says it's not sustainable. "I'm trying to take some time and maybe do some jazz training, so I can really come back feeling fluid with composition," she says. "I can write music, but it's just super-painstaking, and it takes forever because I can't do it with my hands, I can only do it with my head and Ableton. That's a problem."
Xavier basically entered music through a side door. Her gift for manipulating digital forms initially gave her a leg up, but now she's reached the limit of what's possible for sample-based artists in our legal climate. This hasn't been an easy realization. "I got kind of desperate over the last year and a half to try to figure out where it is that my skills really lie," she says.
The good news is that, as versatile and self-taught as Xavier is, the possibilities are nearly endless for digital art. Some of her new ideas are music-related, including Pure Data, a programming language for interactive music, and algorithmic music composition. But many of her ideas aren't. "I feel like I can do so much more than I can in music," Xavier says, "because computers and games are so much more in my blood. My dad was at Microsoft. Nobody in my family was a musician."
Many of Xavier's projects are more long-term, such as game design and programming, but Vektroid has some surprises in the more immediate pipeline. Last August, Xavier launched Chronos & Vermilion, a "multimedia imprint" that handles Vektroid's self-publishing and merch, and will soon distribute selections from Xavier's discography.
This weekend, Xavier will debut Peace Forever Eternal Vol. 1, a "video mixtape." Taking inspiration from Derrick Beckles' TV Carnage compilations and the website Everything Is Terrible!, Peace Forever Eternal Vol. 1 is a comedic video collage comprising found footage. It all started with Xavier playing around on YouDubber, a site that lets you sync a YouTube clip's video with another's audio. "I've mashed all these up into a supercut," she says. "It goes back and forth quite a bit, but it's weird things like a slide show about creatine mixed with audio from a MacBook setup video, and it's eerie how well it syncs up."
Projects like Peace Forever are a vehicle for music— the video mixtape includes a few snippets of previously released music— but more importantly, they build on skills Xavier has picked up as a musician. "The pacing is very much informed by me having done music and knowing how that should be paced, mixing-wise," she says.
Xavier will premiere the project Saturday at an event that will also include DJ sets from Vektroid and Lincoln Up. Peace Forever is "not supposed to be fucking with your heartstrings," she says. "It's really meant to just get people in a good mood for the night, and also just not bore them." Xavier has her sights set on more ambitious video projects in the future, ones that incorporate more 3-D design and glitch art, but for now, she's "excited to show people and, in a hands-off way, gauge the consensus reaction."
As seems to be the case with all of her projects, Xavier isn't sure what the future holds for her video mixtapes, but her restless drive persists. Her future successes are difficult to predict because we lack the terminology to describe the intersection of gaming, music, art and data that those projects will champion.
"I definitely have a lot left to prove," Xavier says. "I keep forgetting I'm only 26, but also I've got to keep getting closer to whatever that end goal is, because it seems like I'm not 100 percent certain what it is yet."
SEE IT: Vektroid screens Peace Forever Eternal Vol. 1 at Bit House Saloon, 727 SE Grand Ave., bithousesaloon.com, with DJ sets by Vektroid and Lincoln Up, on Saturday, Oct. 20. 9 pm. $10. 21+.