Visible Cloaks' Utopian Soundscapes Connect a Through Line From Gregorian Chants to Lil Yachty

The experimental electronic duo mixes software and acoustic instruments, creating a dialogue between past and present musical forms.

WHO: Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile.

SOUNDS LIKE: If T-Pain and Brian Eno recorded an album within the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

FOR FANS OF: Golden Retriever, the Books, Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

To hear the members of Visible Cloaks describe making music together, it sounds more like excitable tweens strategizing a game of Minecraft.

"Our compositional process involves lots of shifting, movable layers and interlocking pieces, or blocks of sound," says Spencer Doran, half of the experimental electronic duo. "There is a sense of collage that guides the listener through different sonic environments."

Growing up in Arcata, Calif., Doran and his bandmate, Ryan Carlile, started out collaborating in their hometown's DIY electronic scene, but didn't come together as Visible Cloaks until 2009, after both moved to Portland separately. Around the same time, Doran gained attention online for his acclaimed Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo mix series, highlighting traditional Japanese synth composers of the '80s.

Expectedly, a sense of retro-futurism informs the music of Visible Cloaks. Doran and Carlile mix software and acoustic instruments with the idea of creating a dialogue between past and present musical forms. On new album Reassemblage—recently given a coveted Best New Music tag by Pitchfork—it's often hard to tell if you're hearing a synthesizer or vocoder. On the highlight "Neume," guest Matt Carlson of Golden Retriever harmonizes with the duo, and it could be interpreted as a cyborg Gregorian chant or an intro to a Lil Yachty song. The result is a sound as visual as it is textural—lush, ambient soundscapes reflecting a vision of utopia.

As heady as it all seems, though, Carlile and Doran insist the presentation is not difficult for the average listener to grasp.

"I don't think our sound is that unusual in the realm of electronic music," Carlile says. "EDM is far stranger. Our music is actually relaxing." WYATT SCHAFFNER.

SEE IT: Visible Cloaks play Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Motion Graphics, Massacooramaan and Women's Beat League DJs, on Tuesday, Feb. 28. 9 pm. $7 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.