Viper Creek Club: Bridging the Gap

The Seattle duo brings together electronic music and 206 hip-hop's collective spirit.

For fans of The Young and the Restless,the haunting piano chime of "Nadia's Theme" might as well be the soap opera's only song. But Seattle electropop duo Viper Creek Club—who tend to utilize keys for their own provocative ends, and whose music was featured on the daytime drama—would beg to differ.

Also featured in a Nike commercial, the melodies of singer/keyboardist Mat Wisner and guitarist Brandon Jensen's debut album, Letters, hint at an indie-rock influence marked by ethereal tenderness. But their follow-up is, for the most part, nothing like that.

Viper Creek Club's foray into hip-hop began innocuously enough; Wisner, who has a background in hip-hop production and previously worked with the likes of Tacoma's Rockwell Powers, began working with Jensen on a new direction. At first it was a mixtape project, in which they planned to stitch together original 16-bar verses backed with their beats, but after getting hold of the vocal tracks for some local hip-hop songs, the duo opted for a different path.

The resulting remix album, Viperlust—released by local hip-hop label Members Only—includes original takes on songs by the likes of Blue Scholars, Fresh Espresso, Mad Rad, Sol, and State of the Artist. And with a far greater reliance on heavy, spacey arrangements and harder-hitting bass lines—a direction that began with the very first remix—VCC's sophomore release is an undeniable departure from its gentler sound.

"I think once Fresh Espresso hit . . . it was just dirty, you know?" Wisner half-shouted over the blaring music at Capitol Hill fixture Linda's Tavern. "That was an interesting angle to take, and it's more fun to produce those kind of tracks because you get to play with these crazy synths. Our album was more of a delicate thing."

With the exception of a few softer titles like Blue Scholars' "Lumiére" and State of the Artist's "Innovation"—songs that don't fit the mold of pulsing dance-floor anthems like most of Viperlust's other remixes—VCC takes an exemplary slice of local hip-hop and transports it into a grimy electronic tumult. More traditional drum kicks and samples are traded in for aggressive synths, and rather than simply replacing the instrumentals, Wisner occasionally rearranges vocals to complete the songs' transformations. The melodic reinterpretations aren't about being better, but they're certainly different.

Already planning on both another pop record and remix installation, Viper Creek Club's split personality rests in a skilled balance, thanks to fresh sounds on both ends of the spectrum and the collaborative approach the duo advocates.

"In hip-hop, everybody's a little more free and open, and they really support each other," Wisner said. "If that happened in every genre, it would be powerful—that's what creates the community and creates the strength."

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