In the years before Radiation City took up his energy and attention, Cameron Spies helped run Apes Tapes, a mostly cassette label that released work by And And And and Adventures With Might (featuring future Summer Cannibal Marc Swart). Though short-lived, the Apes Tapes catalog remains a valuable glimpse into the burgeoning talent that now makes up the core of Portland’s indie music scene.
Following his former band’s split in 2016, Spies is now hawking a new project, the synth-heavy Night Heron, and a new tape imprint called Gold Brick Records. And to bring both to the attention of local listeners, he’s overseeing the release of Gold Brix Tape 01, a compilation featuring tracks from his latest project and three other artists whose future pop sound and vision are in harmony with his.
The mood of this collection is a woozy one, fueled it would seem by the rush of current interest in opaque pop records from the ’80s and potent strains of weed. The second side of the cassette is particularly dank: Nurses member Aaron Chapman, recording as S.E.C.R.E.T.S., waking from a dream induced by the heady, freeform approach of Talk Talk’s final two albums, and Martha Stax (AKA Nate Lown of Star Club) creating miniature teenage symphonies as performed on a dying Casiotone.
The air is a little clearer on side A of Gold Brix, but the mood is far less intoxicating in turn. Night Heron’s three tracks are a welcome shift for Spies, as he takes on the persona of a robot soul singer with falsetto vocals and disco inflections. All these tunes need is a little more heat and lip-licking desire to really deliver the goods. Wet Dream does their collective best to dial up the psych in their shoegaze pop, but vanishes from memory like wet cotton candy.
Where Gold Brix and Spies ultimately succeed is in sharpening our gaze on a pop movement in development. All four acts on this cassette are in various stages of their musical evolution, some farther along the continuum than others. Where they take these ideas next will define whether they succeed or fizzle out.