The round-the-clock onslaught of digital media has changed what it means to be human, and a husband and wife duo from Portland aim to interrupt that with a little magick. Not flashy tricks. Magick.
“Much of our culture is engineered insanity,” said Dusty Santamaria. “Serving the powers that be by keeping folks digitally narcotized is, in my opinion, insane.”
But, Santamaria and his wife Moira Ichiban aren’t creating music and art to complain, he said.
“We’re making music to help. Acknowledging that everyone else is as divine as you are is a good place to start.”
The latest album by Dusty Santamaria + Moira Ichiban, “Innersexion,” explores this theme. The reverb-heavy set of guitar-rich tunes dropped April 12 on their label, Voodoo It Yourself Records.
The overall message of the album is to love everyone and always tell the truth, Santamaria said.
The duo will perform in Port Townsend April 23.
Ichiban said the audience can expect an atmosphere of inclusivity and love and a performance that comes from a place of artistic integrity.
“We’re always wanting to elevate the vibration of a space in that moment through music,” she said. “That’s what music was made for.”
The duo hold “magick”, a term for changing the world with our will, as an integral part of their life together, and it’s a major aspect of their creative collaboration and performance, Ichiban said.
“We make time to perform rituals throughout the day leading up to performance, and usually try to ground ourselves and create a ritual atmosphere for the actual show,” she said.
The results aren’t always perfect, but it is that imperfection that seems to be part of the duo’s message, Ichiban said. “And of course, the participation from the audience on any level always elevates experience and is sometimes incredibly, palpably magical.”
Art through music and film
A music video for a song on the new album, “Digital F*** Talk,” is filmed in black and white, includes elements of Dia de los Muertos, the Latin American celebration of life and death, and includes nudity. Both Santamaria and Ichiban are naked throughout, and at one point shave off all the hair on their faces and heads, including eyebrows.
“The shaving of the head was a symbol of rebirth and an exercise in softening the ego,” Santamaria said.
Ichiban got the idea to shave each other’s entire bodies and film it while she was meditating, Santamaria said. It was also in meditation that she came up with the idea to title their album “Innersexion.”
The nudity is a way to desexualize the image of the naked body, Santamaria said.
“Moira and I are both on board with the total abolishment of shame. I think de-sexualized representations of nudity can be massively healing for our culture.”
Bodies could be considered as just flesh, while also being sacred because they are the only thing a person truly possesses, Santamaria said.
Santamaria said the video originally was intended to include abstract scenes focusing on geometric shapes and shadows. This would have kept the viewer from being able to tell what part of the body was being filmed or even if it was a body at all.
But the footage they accumulated vanished from the couple’s hard drive, meaning they had to film again.
“We took it to mean that we were only supposed to use what was salvaged,” Santamaria said.
Throughout the re-shot final version, there is extensive use of mirrors and masks because those are two pertinent symbols of the way humans present themselves and receive one another, Santamaria said.
The elements of Dia De Los Muertos incorporated throughout are homage to his Mexican heritage, he said. “I’m happy to honor my ancestors any chance I get, which is always.”
While the vibe of the video may be disturbing to some, Santamaria said that is not the intention.
“I think our video is quite optimistic,” he said.
A statue of a skeleton woman appearing in the video was purchased in Tijuana by Santamaria when he was 19, he said. He later came to associate it with a time in his life that was unfocused and confused.
“We burned it to release that stagnation,” he said. “We put it in the video to remind ourselves and others that old hindrance is often only hidden purpose asking to be transformed.”
The new album was recorded in Astoria, Oregon by Graham Nystrom at a studio called the Rope Room.
The duo wrote five out of the seven songs after coming home from a forty-day tour, Santamaria said.
“We just felt very much alive and wanted to capture that on record. It’s a couple of artsy kids into magick taking a crack at playing soul music.”
Art in many forms
In addition to music, Santamaria is a poet, and lives by the motto “all art aspires to the nature of music.”
Music is fluid and specific to vibration, just like consciousness, he said.
“It literally changes your body chemistry. That being said I think that language is alive and the printed word is a poignant reminder that language itself may be the most dominant species on the planet.”
Both Santamaria and Ichiban are also prolific painters.
“When I paint or make any art, I come from a feeling-space,” Ichiban said. “I let my subconscious guide my actions, making decisions without overthinking them.”
Ichiban delights in self-portraits. “I view all art as self portrait, because the self always shines through and tells its story,” she said.
Sometimes that story comes through in the expression on Ichiban’s face, the colors she uses or the medium and lines and strokes, she said.
“Sometimes the collages come out like a dream journal entry, and a story unfolds that even I don’t understand until later.”
Escaping a dreary life
Before she met Santamaria, Ichiban was working in a bar in Portland, Oregon.
She was miserable.
“I was drinking a lot and just kind of burning out because I had a lot of energy but I didn’t know how or where to direct it.”
She quit her job and dove into her art.
“I began processing a lot of trauma, both in my art and through therapy, and I started to reconnect with my integrity and true will.”
Meeting Santamaria helped Ichiban crystallize these movements toward a higher goal, she said. “He opened up the door to creative collaboration, something I had never done before.”
The two began performing ritual magick together, meditating and practicing yoga. They later decided to form a band and travel together. They have performed around the West, from Taos, New Mexico to San Francisco.
“It’s really clear to me that I’m moving in the right direction these days, and I know a more traditional life script just doesn’t really make sense for me.”
That sort of life has never been satisfying, she said.
“I think my energy is just too fiery to ‘work’ as a person within that sort of container.”
Though artistic soulmates, Santamaria did not immediately think of marrying Ichiban when they first met.
“It wasn’t until we made a ritual game of breaking old china plates in an alley that I knew we had some deep karmic lessons to learn from each other,” he said.
The connection is alchemical, Ichiban said.
“When we work together we are creating something that’s bigger than the two of us combined, and it guides us. You can call it the third mind, or you can call it our cosmic-creative child.”
As such, the two can achieve more working together than apart, she said.
“A lot of this comes from the combination of our masculine and feminine energies and our different creative and personal backgrounds. What we really want from this collaboration is to help facilitate positive change in the world. We want to send a message of hope.”