Turtle Island's Dallin Stevenson breaks out with new electronic project

Before Dallin Stevenson moved to Powell at the age of 10, his family lived in Idaho. They'd often visit his aunt, who lived across the state in the small city of Pocatello. Her house was set atop a hill where juniper bushes cascaded down the hillside and into the surrounding mountains.

“She had this shed that was on stilts, so you could climb under that, and it led into this big juniper bush. My cousins and I would play on it like it was a fort,” Stevenson said, recalling the specific smell of juniper.

Those early memories crept their way into “Sprawl to Shade,” the first track on .01ep, the recent release from Stevenson's new electronic project, Rafting. “Where am I hiding and why am I hiding from honest trains of thought?” Stevenson sings over pulsating drones and rhythmic chirps. “Why am I hiding in juniper bushes?”

“We moved away from most of my family, and in the time since we lived there, a couple of my grandparents have died and my aunt died. I just felt so disconnected from it,” he said. “I never see juniper bushes here.”

Stevenson's introduction to music came via early lessons on violin, piano and guitar, and also from his sister's future husband, who had a bunch of music stored on a hard drive the size of a shoebox. “That's how I found Radiohead, Jimi Hendrix, Flaming Lips, Sufjan Stevens — just digging through his hard drive,” he said.

An obsession with the Flaming Lips carried over into Turtle Island, the psych-rock band Stevenson launched with friends at age 16 while attending Olentangy Liberty High School. Turtle Island called it quits about a year ago, and toward the end of the band's run Stevenson began experimenting with electronic music. In fact, portions of the five tracks on .01ep (available as a cassette or digital download via Cleveland's Fah Q Catalog) began as Turtle Island songs three or four years ago.

In Rafting, Stevenson, now 24, hopes to transport listeners to different worlds through music and visual art. “Some of my favorite stuff is where music and visuals collide. I remember being with friends and we'd watch music videos for hours in high school,” said Stevenson, who enlisted the help of his partner, Emily Engel, to create a visual companion to .01ep, available on YouTube.

Stevenson also culled YouTube for the spoken-word collage that ends closing track “Under Different Lighting,” which was partly inspired by the experimental audiobook of Heiko Julien's I Am Ready to Die a Violent Death.

“It's really weird juxtapositions of strange stuff next to humorous, off-the-cuff non-sequiturs, combined with avalanches and found sound,” Stevenson said. “I just wanted to give my go at it. It became a message to whoever would be listening to it, but it's also overly personal writing about my relationships with people. … I was really only talking to myself, and I didn't know that I would ever release it.”