Detroit is my second home….I’m enamored with the sense of community I have found here… The city holds a lot of feelings of freedom and possibility for me.

Alexa Dexa‘s musical manifestations evoke a dream-like quality. The way she renders a familiarity to strangeness with the tones she tills from her “toychestra,” can cause an imagery of the innocent, the impossible, and the sublime.

Dexa is a New York-based multifaceted performance artist, music composer and a visionary designer of electronic sounds. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2011 and has toured extensively, with three full-length albums, two conceptual micro-albums and two soundtracks for theater performances. Her influences blend the reverie of Debussy to the celestial detachments of Phillip Glass.

It is her blend of the mesmeric, the sweet, and the darkly atmospheric, that suggests a shared musical DNA with Detroit-based artists and collaborators, Natasha Beste (Director, Editor and member of the band Odd Hours), along with the visual sensibilities of Kevin Eckert. (multimedia artist, Cinematographer & Editor). Together they are the creative team behind Gold House Media, a full service video production company. Dexa collaborated with Gold House to produce this video for Nestlingthe single off of her album, ‘Year of Abandon,’ which premieres today.

Dexa’s performance demonstrates her expressive performance style, a sort of transcedent state where you see her distinctly embodying the emotion of the lyrics and the music. Gold House effectively takes away any foundation in “reality,” and gives the camera an out-of-body-type levitation. The colors are impossibly beautiful mergings of mauve and magenta, with a manipulation of lighting to suggest an unnatural dusk, interspliced with a rise in light from in unseen source.

Tell us about the song, Nestling; what inspired it?

Alexa Dexa: I wrote Nestling during one of my visits to Rothko Chapel in Houston, a sanctuary celebrating art and contemplation host to a wide selection of religious and meditative texts for public perusal. On this particular occasion, I sat down on a meditation pillow among floor-to-ceiling Rothko paintings, which the space was specially designed to hold, and began flipping through the Tibetan Book of the Dead, starting with a long and exhaustive list of incredibly specific physical symptoms of nearing death.

Flipping along further, I found a line that said, ‘if you dream you are growing a nest at the crown of your head for birds to live in, it is an internal symbol of death.’ I really liked the imagery of a nest as a crown-like ‘home,’ soon to be dismantled by infidelity- either to life, or in the context of a monogamous relationship.

What’s it like to collaborate with Natasha and Kevin? How did the concept and visuals come together?

Dexa: Because the writing of this song is so entrenched in visual imagery for me, I came to them with the concept and this bare-bones storyboard already in tow. From there, they managed to turn my proposed imagery into a gorgeous virtual landscape through video collage and animation. Natasha and Kevin are both powerhouses. I’m always amazed by their creative output and efforts!

Natasha Beste, (left) and Kevin Eckert (right) of Goldhouse Media.

Did they come to work with you in New York or did you travel to Detroit to collaborate?

Dexa: The music videos for Nestling and Leave, (my first music video collaboration with Gold House Media), were both shot in Detroit.

Detroit is my second home in the way my childhood best friend’s mom is my second mom. The city holds a lot of feelings of freedom and possibility for me. A lot of emotions, dear friendships and self-discovery have grown from my time touring and temporarily living in Detroit over the past 5 years. Specifically, I’m enamored with the sense of community I have found, as it’s one of the few places I’ve been that people so clearly and actively care about the well-being of everyone in their neighborhood.

Tell us more about “Toychestral” music. How has your collection of instruments come together? Why is this aesthetic appealing to you?

Dexa: My toy instrument collection is really a reflection of how enthralled I am with miniatures, how much I love resonant tones, and how absurdly thrilling I find the combination of those two things. I feel like there is something both satisfying and weirdly appropriate about being a woman in my late twenties who inwardly relates most to grandmas, and performs on instruments made for toddlers. It’s a lot to unpack.

My love affair with toy instruments started when I saw a video of Margaret Leng Tan playing the toy piano and a sand block when I was 20- not 2- the age I would imagine most toy pianists have their start. I bought my own later that day. Since then, I’ve slowly amassed a wide variety of toys, some lovingly gifted and some that I sought out after hearing them at avant-garde performances paying homage to John Cage in NYC. (My favorite one being the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival put on by Phyllis Chen every two years). I love how accessible toys are and find a lot of creative inspiration from their limitations and idiosyncrasies.


What’s up next for you? What are your future plans?

Dexa: Right now my super dream is to compose and perform an electro-acoustic toy operetta where the set is made up entirely of toys, and the sounds made while carrying out play routines on them are then electronically processed and played back to create a sound cocoon. It would be a more theatrical version of what I’m doing with my toychestral electronic pop solo project right now, but with more toys and live electronics. I’ve been applying like wild for funding for the past few months and hope to start composing soon, and I will also release my fourth toychestral electronic pop album entitled Instructions for Construction Paper Cut Outs early in 2018.

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About The Author

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Jeff Milo has been writing/reporting on Michigan-made music for 15 years. He's born and raised in metro Detroit and has a journalism degree from Michigan State. His interviews with local artists appear weekly in the Detroit Free Press, along with on-air music segments during WDET's Culture Shift spotlighting can't-miss concerts around town. In addition to PLAYGROUND DETROIT, he administers his own local music blog, Deep Cutz, contributes to Paste Magazine, and also documents the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti music scenes with The Current Magazine.

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