But restlessness has set in. So the plan is to head up to North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, hopefully find a cottage in the woods near Asheville, a bohemian oasis with significantly more bustle. "We're not city people," says Grant, combing through a stack of cassettes next to his stereo. He slips a favorite into the deck: Xiphiidae's Iiustus / Transresonance Formation; its insectoid whirr quietly suffuses the couple's living room. "We still want to be somewhere scenic, in the South, but a place where there's more people doing stuff."
Moving is huge, obviously. But there are other developments preoccupying their minds these days. To begin with, the pair is busy prepping the latest batch of titles on their Hooker Vision label. It is, Grant explains, the most cohesive of the last three years, during which time they've churned-out over 100 cassettes, CD-Rs and, more recently, vinyl albums. Pitchfork's Marc Masters once described the label as a "Mom-and-pop drone factory," and that totally nails it—very do-it-yourself, but also wildly prolific. Their deep catalog represents a consistently excellent cross-section of names from America's sprawling psychedelic/ambient/noise scene. Yet it is the Evans' own projects—Nova Scotian Arms, Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, Quiet Evenings, et al.—that are most central to the Hooker Vision aesthetic: a striking union of the electronic and pastoral that only can rightly be tagged Southern Cosmic.
Speaking of their projects, Grant just retired Nova Scotian Arms and with it his longtime focus on synthesizers. Upcoming releases under the musician's real name, as well as new alias Crippling, will reflect his growing interest in merging homemade vinyl manipulation with tape loops and guitar. The shift is linked to the other big change in his life: this month's graduation from Lagrange College, the local liberal arts college (and one that's affiliated with the state's United Methodist Church). Having earned his degree in photography, Grant has entered that life-phase unique to the freshly graduated when, often obsessively, the old is laid to rest and the new set in motion.
Rachel navigates a zone of equal transition. With each subsequent release, including last year's critically lauded Luminaries & Synastry for Digitalis, her Motion Sickness Of Time Travel moniker garners greater and greater acclaim. Yet the fact that Motion Sickness has become the most popular member of the Hooker Vision family weighs heavy on Rachel. The imbalance upsets her belief (however romantic it may be) that everything she and her husband undertake are equal parts of some inviolable unity. "You never want to put your own stuff out there more," she says, reaching for words not easily graspable. "Our main thing has always been us—what we do. I get much more excitement out of a release from our collaboration Quiet Evenings or something on our label than I do my music."
Nearly lost in our discussion is a tidbit about Rachel also graduating: a Master's in Library and Information Studies she earned from Florida State University via online instruction. Commencement is today, as a mater of fact. But she's skipping. To attend would entail a drive down to Tallahassee, and Rachel and Grant aren't fans of travel. Even Quiet Evenings' recent appearances on the southern leg of Neon Marshmallow's Sunshine Daydream Tour (also featuring Rene Hell, Imaginary Softwoods and Chemtrails) were taxing on the unrepentant homebodies.
"We like playing one-off shows, then coming right back," admits Rachel.
"But touring just isn't for us," Grants adds, completing his wife's thought with uncanny succinctness.
Visiting the Evans' home goes a long way to explaining their lack of enthusiasm for the road. Hugging the shores of West Point Lake, a vast reservoir 20 minutes outside tiny Lagrange (also the name of the town), the faux-barn loft is the couple's secluded Eden: a combination recording studio, artist workshop, label headquarters and hippie den in a thick forest of Georgia pine, oak and dogwood. Though they started Hooker Vision while still living closer to campus, only after relocating to this idyllic locale in 2010 did their Southern Cosmic sound find its focus. A rustic calm permeates the place. Cool records, vintage ephemera and musical instruments abound. Grant's collages, many of which have been used for cover art, line the wood-stained walls. His style mirrors their music's blend of electronic and organic: sharp geometric angles frame earth tones and images clipped from periodicals and books of the gentle arts era.
After just a few hours here, the fact becomes obvious that for Rachel and Grant, their relationship, their art and their business do indeed constitute some inviolable unity. "We'll definitely miss this place," says Grant. "But hopefully, we can find something similar around Asheville."
Hooker Vision is in many respects a child of the modern age of virtual music scenes, where bandwidth is, according to media critics, far more vital than geography. Key indicators are embedded in Grant and Rachel's bio: young experimental musicians who reside in an isolated, non-urban locale, selling their music and interacting with fellow artists and fans through Tumblr, Facebook, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, etc. It's a story common among the ranks of hypnagogic pop, chillwave and any other micro-genre of the last decade.
Grant acknowledges this: "We wouldn't be anything without the Internet." It's a blunt truth that applies to many aspects of their lives (Rachel's new degree, for instance). But to frame Hooker Vision solely as a specter of cyberspace, as if the Evans grew-up sealed inside a vacuum of ones and zeroes, is violently reductive. After making the trek to the couple's home, as well as listening to their various projects while roaming the long stretches of rural road around Lagrange, it's become clear that their music possesses a complex relationship to the land and culture from which it has emerged. More specifically, Hooker Vision is both an escape from and an expression of Rachel and Grant's upbringing.
The most acute examples of the former are generally to be found in Grant's work under Nova Scotian Arms, notably Slow Architecture, a split cassette with Motion Sickness on the Sweat Lodge Guru label, and Hooker Vision's murkier Winds Over Silmäterä. Soaked in dark-matter sublime and sci-fi computer bleepage, both titles rekindle vintage progressive electronics and, by extension, the movement's embrace of space exploration as a metaphor for transcending the known. For Grant the known is Lagrange and its small-town minds, everyday boredom (no record store, no scene of any kind), intense Christian conservatism and, above all else, abject anonymity. "That's the reason we want to move. It gets depressing. We go about our daily life, and nobody knows what we do. Even if you tell somebody, they don't take a real interest. We haven't sold a single release locally."
Rachel jumps in. "Everything here is centered around the church."
But despite their status as exiles in a pious homeland, they possess a profound affinity for it. It surfaces in their output as Quiet Evenings (a name the couple says is as ironic as it is earnest). The Intrepid Trips LP and Patience Folding Waters cassette from last year are highly indicative of the duo's style. But the real gem to date is the Transcending Spheres CD on Australian label Preservation. Though synthesizers play a primary role, the addition of guitar (Grant), vocals (Rachel) and field recordings help create an array of subtle, electro-acoustic textures. These, in turn, lend Quiet Evenings' melodically rippling drones a warm, earthbound flavor. Several pieces, including "Relativity" and "Departing," sound like ambient distillations of the thick, moist haze that clings to the deep South's dense vegetation when temperatures begin rising in the springtime.
"There's something about Georgia and all its trees," says Grant, ruminating on the influence of the surrounding nature. "There are all these great sounds at night, birds and insects."
His wife takes that thought in a more abstract direction. "It's about how the water meets the land." She looks out the patio windows, pointing to a forest trail that leads to the lakeshore. "We're on top of a crystal hill, actually. If you explore the lake, there is quartz everywhere. I don't know if that affects us, but..."
Our conversation then turns to the cultural. "There's a pace in the South," says Grants. "Everything takes its time. That's a big thing with our music. It's just kind of slow." Such a comment echoes the old adage about how time down here is more fluid, less regimented, because the industrial clock never crept below the Mason-Dixon Line. It's a quality that's quite apparent when contrasting Quiet Evenings' understated drift to the heroically propulsive neo-Kosmische of Emeralds or Rene Hell (both of whom are stridently glass, concrete and steel in structure). Said contrast also makes plain the homespun sentiment that Rachel and Grant's music exudes. Rather than deal in grand Promethean statements (i.e. the relentless quest for dizzying new heights), they balance innovation with a sense of beauty and craft that's distinctively domestic, reflecting as it does the peace the husband and wife have obviously made with the South's passion for tradition—marriage, family, home.
This dance between escape and expression reaches a distinct pitch in the music of Motion Sickness Of Time Travel. Rachel's life trajectory is unambiguously Southern. She was raised in a sheltered Christian home about 40 miles northeast of Lagrange. "I did a lot of choir singing. I took piano lessons from age five. It was all through the church—everything was." At 18, she moved from one shelter to another: Lagrange College, where as an undergraduate she studied voice and composition (as well as graphic design). With her new boyfriend Grant exposing her to the world of electronic music, she began butting heads with those professors who frowned upon her budding interest in experimentalism. "They wanted very traditional orchestration, string quartet stuff."
As a consequence, Motion Sickness' expansive washes of reverb and grandly cascading melodies constitute a kind of private zone reserved for dream-play and self-exploration. Rachel refers to this zone as her "real-time diary," and it allows her to shed years of convention and dogma while at the same time ruminating on the thing she cherishes most: her relationship with Grant.
Even so, Motion Sickness has gradually come to exude a palpable sense of reconciliation, something that's really quite evident on her new double LP for Spectrum Spools. While breathtakingly psychedelic and avant-garde, particularly in regards to stereo manipulation and stream-of-consciousness poetry, the record's quartet of 20-plus minute pieces betray Rachel's heady knowledge of choral and symphonic music. Seriously concentrated listening is required to even begin to decode the full sweep of her structures, melodies and changes.
"This is easily my longest project to date. It took almost a year to make," she says. "Grant and I listened to it for months, picking it apart over and over. He's my harshest critic."
Far more profound, Motion Sickness Of Time Travel also reconciles the artist with her religious background. Rachel probably bristles at such a claim, yet it's difficult denying the record—meditative, even sacred at times—shimmers in an amorphous, but no less potent, sense of the spiritual. Specific passages arise (the vocal-heavy middle section of "The Center" is but one) wherein the music sounds like a canticle stripped to its ritual essence: an exquisitely solemn human voice hovering in the chasm between bodily vessel and celestial apparition. Southern Cosmic, indeed.
Throughout our interview—which has included couch time, patio time, devouring-homemade-brownies-in-the-kitchen time—Grant has played a slew of Hooker Vision titles. Towards the end, he pops DJ Ecto Cooler's Late Night Grindin' on Sewer Pizza tape into the deck. Its cryptic, EVP-stained gurgle-goop (the sound of "ooze and slime, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and '80s Nickelodeon") is far removed from the Evans' own projects.
This, according to Grant, is by design. "We don't like releasing stuff that's too similar to what we do."
Because the couple's curatorial bent is predicated upon difference and diversity, the Hooker Vision discography boasts a wealth of titles that don't (at face value, anyway) jibe with the Southern Cosmic concept. Celestial Habitat, the stellar new full-length from Franklin Teagle and Ryan McGill's Afterlife venture, might be entrenched in classic Kosmische Musik (not unlike Nova Scotian Arms), yet its sharp urban zap is more a reflection of the duo's current New York environs than suburban Georgia roots. Even further out are the Turn Back the Hands of Time cassette and Theme for Ascension and Eternal Love 7-inch, both from one Pierrot Lunaire (AKA John DeNizio). The musician's feral flow of lo-fi mold, antique detritus and space jazz makes for some of the most satisfying hypnagogia out there. And again, markedly dissimilar.
But with each title Grant plays, an underlying connection gradually emerges: every one sounds right at home in the couple's personal habitat. Though not a conscious decision on their part, it feels as if release on Hooker Vision is in large part dependent upon how deeply an artist's music melts into this rich, rural space. Thus, the tapes and records they put out belong (just like their own music) to a larger identity, one that's inextricably linked to geography and culture.
This larger identity is the true object of their nervousness. Though Grant and Rachel have an anchor in the lives they've established online, saying goodbye to west-central Georgia also means saying goodbye to a lot of what has helped shape their art and music. The Hooker Vision aesthetic is certain to evolve in unforeseeable ways once Rachel and Grant relocate to the mountains, where they will create a new home, as well as encounter an entirely different incarnation of the South.