07.05.13 — “Beginnings” by Houses


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Beginnings” by Houses (2013, from the album A Quiet Darkness).

Houses is the ambient electronic/dreampop duo of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina, based in Los Angeles. The way they make records is something akin to the way method actors envelop themselves in the roles they play. More on that in a bit.

Until very recently, I had never heard of Houses. They’re one of the nearly 175 bands who will be playing at Hopscotch Music Festival this September in downtown Raleigh. 175 bands. 15 venues. 3 nights. I’ll be there for the whole festival again this year, and this is one of the many bands on my long list.

They started in 2010, and have released two albums. Each album had a rather unique and painstaking creation process. Today’s song is the first song from their sophomore album A Quiet Darkness, which was released this year.

“Beginnings” by Houses

To give a little bit of backstory, the couple spent a few months in Hawaii raising indigenous microorganisms and doing some sustainability farming. They had no modern luxuries, and the only water that they had for drinking, bathing and cooking came from rainwater. Hardcore sustainability living. This experience was the inspiration for their 2010 debut album All Night.

After a while, they moved to Los Angeles, signed a deal with Downtown Records, and got to work on their second record. A Quiet Darkeness is an album about a husband and wife who become separated after a nuclear disaster. They make several attempts to reunite along California Highway 10, but in the end, they both die. Each song on the album is about an abandoned house or some other abandoned building along the 10 where they had attempted to meet. In real life, Tortoriello and Messina did a bunch of research by actually driving the 10 and visiting abandoned buildings along the way. At each stop they made audio and video field recordings. Some of that stuff ended up in the songs. Some of it ended up as promotional material for the album.

Here’s an album teaser video with some of that video footage:

When I read about the whole process, something sounded a little familiar about it. When I watched the above teaser video, I remembered what it was that I was reminded of: Kalifornia, the 1993 film starring Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, and David Duchovny. It’s a fairly good movie about a couple (Duchovny and some girl) who are doing research on historical serial killers by visiting the sites of the killings, most of which are abandoned buildings. For some reason, they bring some strangers (Pitt and Lewis) along with them. Strange things ensue. If you run across this movie on cable, watch it.

More importantly, you should check out Houses.

Houses will be playing on Friday night of Hopscotch (September 6). They have the 11pm-midnight slot at Berkeley Cafe. Between now and the first week of September, I’ll be featuring a lot of the bands who are playing at Hopscotch. At least the ones I want to see anyway. The festival will be celebrating its fourth year. You can still buy single-day, three-day, or VIP three-day passes. Ticket details are here, and the alphabetical roster is here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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