When Eric Crespo started writing what would become Ghost to Falco's third album, Exotic Believers, in 2007, he was fretting about the end of the world—or rather, trying to avoid contributing to the end of the world. But the books he'd been reading—by author/environmental activist Derek Jensen—didn't leave much room for optimism. So if there's a theme to Exotic Believers, "I guess it's about coming to grips with the idea that humans are fucking up terribly," Portlander Crespo says with a chuckle. "[And] even if you go live out in a shack in Nowhere, Montana, you're not going to get away [from it]. As much as you think in your head and in your dreams that you can, you're not going to."
If it sounds like a bummer of an album, well, we'd be lying to call it upbeat. But as purging goes, Exotic Believers is quite an exercise. Crespo's lyrical monologues dart and dive between sharp, crusty riffs and bursts of unpredictable instrumentation from dozens of notable local musicians that include the Shaky Hands' Nick Delffs, Dragging an Ox Through Water's Brian Mumford and Horse Feathers' Heather Broderick. At times, as on the Elephant Six-esque opener "Black Holes" and "Secrets of the Free," Crespo scrambles and hollers his demands; at other times he's a voice of calm, questioning realism—singing as if explaining the human race to an alien ("We're just trying to survive/ And we invent things and we die/ The generations carry on," he sings on "Everything Alive."). Crespo presents his existential crisis alongside the natural one—I hesitate to use the word "spiritual," as God never really comes into the equation.
The s-word doesn't scare Crespo. "I think that's the right word," says the 28-year-old songwriter, who moved to Portland from his home state of North Carolina in 2001. "I think everyone, no matter if they acknowledge it or not, has to have some kind of spiritual release—whether it's shopping or television or sports or church. Music didn't start that way for me, but when I come to realize what it is in my life, it's like religion. It fulfills the same need."
If music is Crespo's religion, the upstart Portland label Infinite Front is his new church. Though Crespo and GtF bandmate Ryne Warner dreamed up the imprint, it will be collectively run by a number of like-minded artists. Infinite Front's launch party this Saturday presents releases by GtF, Ohioan and a four-way split 7-inch record featuring those bands alongside Dragging an Ox Through Water and Castanets. It's a musically like-minded collective: All these artists teeter on the divide between melodic songwriting and noisy experimentation, and all analyze (however uniquely) big-picture issues of consciousness and existence in their lyrics.
But what good is a record label, or a new album—even one as epic as Exotic Believers—in the face of the impending Armageddon? Crespo says there's value in the simple things. "You've gotta make yourself happy and feel alive," he says. "I think it's good for the world when people feel alive."
Ghost to Falco plays Artistery on Saturday, Jan. 23, with Castanets, Dragging an Ox Through Water and Ohioan. 8 pm. $5. All ages.