Fri July 5

"I use a minidisc recorder to record sounds around town, like birds. I like to make beats out of cat sounds," explains Howard Gillam, the soft-spoken, imaginative mastermind behind Supersprite. With not much more than a sampler, a drum machine, and a couple of keyboards, Howard makes extra-cool, easygoing electronic pop music, with mellow globs of samples and understated beats. He's releasing his first full-length record, Color Mixing, this week on the super local label Audio Dregs, and it's packed with neat, weird shit that sounds like a conversation of Speak and Spells, cuckoo clocks, jewels landing at the bottom of enchanted fountains, and cat-meow beats. And yeah, it's vaguely videogame-like; it was mastered by this guy in Texas who "works at a digital museum and masters songs for video games," explains Howard.

Howard started playing under the name Supersprite in 1997 in bars around Salem, his hometown. "We'd just clear the place out. We had just gotten all these keyboards and we didn't really know how to use them, so it would take us an hour to plug everything in," he recalls. "Sometimes people would yell at us." When he started playing Portland, though, people dug it enough to keep letting him return. Eventually, he moved here.

Five years later, Color Mixing came to fruition. The record is subtle and as sweet as an instrumental album can be, chock full of neat samples over oceanic beats and bass. It's really illustrative music; for instance, there's one click noise that sounds like someone is flipping a switch, and then a buzz resonates, as if it's coming from a fluorescent light.

These thoughtful sounds make Color Mixing extra cool to listen to--Howard seems to have a specific, organic theme for each sample, and each song is practically a visual experience, rather than just some tracks thrown over some beats. Perhaps this is because Howard doesn't look at himself as some hardcore electro dude, but rather, a musician working with the tools he's got. He says, "It's just what I know how to do. If I was a guitar player, I would make records with guitars." Touché!