In Spanish, the word “vistas” means view — a landscape, a field of vision. It’s an oddly appropriate name for the Camden-based electronic duo of Owen Cartwright and Josh Nagle, whose expansive, intelligent music evokes the rocks, blue water, rolling hills and fields of coastal Maine.
“We were spending the summer on Vinalhaven when we came up with the name, which we thought sounded pretty cool,” said Nagle. “But it has evolved to have these deeper kinds of meaning. I think the sonic experience we’re trying to make is connected to the idea of seeing the world and landscapes and taking it all in. I guess that’s kind of abstract, but it makes sense to me, I guess.”
Nagle and Cartwright met while both were students at Bennington College in Vermont. Cartwright, a longtime guitarist, was studying music and computer science, while Nagle was pursuing a degree in art and playing drums on the side. The pair met and became fast friends — and discovered their shared interest in the art of noise.
“[Josh] was really into the raw kind of sounds we were making, and at the same time, I was starting to really, really love electronic music and was learning the software to make it,” said Cartwright. “It really kind of melded those disciplines for us, in music, computer science and art.”
“It was clear we had a real creative connection,” said Nagle. “We thought similarly about a lot of things. We both loved sound.”
Over the summer of 2008, after they graduated, Nagle came up to stay with Cartwright, a Camden native, for a few weeks. Eventually, he moved in, and the pair began seriously working on music together. They played their first open mike later that year, with a little analog drum machine. The pair has since developed their sound to include keyboards, guitars, samplers and a laptop.
Vistas is not music for a dance party. It’s not DJ music. Rather, it’s atmospheric and thoughtful, combining waves of pulsating sound with deep beats, evoking imagery less associated with the dance floor and more associated with nature and the world around you. Get the image of a DJ behind a turntable out of your head, and replace it with a two-man band wielding small electronic devices right alongside guitars.
If you’re familiar with what’s called IDM, Vistas recalls the emotive soundscapes of Four Tet combined with the sample-driven song-poems of the the Books — all washed over with a My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar sound. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, well, just trust me. It’s awfully pretty.
“It’s music for listening to,” said Nagle. “People who aren’t well-versed in electronic music think we play techno, but we do our best to try to explain to people what we do. There aren’t many bands in this state who are doing this kind of music, and it’s hard to find venues for it, but there’s a collection of people who are really, really into it. It’s listening music.”
The band released their first album “Mute” over the winter of 2010, and toured up and down the East Coast, from Baltimore north. A self-titled follow-up EP came out last January. Recently, they played a crowd-favorite set at the Belfast Free Range Music Festival, closing out the festival with a well-attended performance at Three Tides. Now, Nagle and Cartwright are hunkered down in their home studio, recording the follow-up to “Mute.” The tentative album title is “The Most Beautiful Place in the World,” and they’re shooting for an August release date.
“With the last album, we recorded it in one night, from stuff we had ready,” said Nagle. “This time, we’re going to take all the time we need to do it right, and really focus on it. I’m really excited about it.”
To listen to tracks from Vistas’ last album and keep tabs on future shows, visit http://vistas.bandcamp.com/. A new album is due out this summer.
Follow Emily Burnham on Twitter at @rockblogsterbdn, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.