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.