Review – “Hedera” – Isaac Vallentin

reviewed by Laura Stanleya3268732608_16

Isaac Vallentin describes Hedera as “a near 40-minute torrent of texture and colour, both balanced and chaotic, simultaneously empty and overflowing.” This ambitious description of a recording is usually one that I would be quick to roll my eyes at but does Vallentin ever get it right. Hedera (another name for ivy) is a dense display of electronics, hushed guitars, poetics, and some plant imagery for a little extra colour. Frequently changing into something completely different with every passing bar, Hedera is one of the most detailed and diverse recordings you will hear all year. 

At times Vallentin is reminiscent of fellow Ottawa dwellers The Acorn’s 2015 standout record Vieux Loup but where Vieux Loup sounds smooth and sexy, Vestige stutters with anxiety, grief, and uncertainty – a soundscape that’s equally powerful nevertheless.

Very early on, in the opener “Cloud of Smoke”, we find Vallentin mourning, graphically revealing, “I loved you so much that I gave you my arms to use as a weapon when you got afraid.” Later, in “Hindsight” the uncertainty takes over, admitting, “In hindsight, I’d say you’re right: I waste my life chasing something only I can see.” The sentiments found in these two similarly minimalist guitar-driven pieces continues under a different guise throughout the LP. In the pulsing and scattered “Fake Harp,” Vallentin sings, “you stand over me, stealing momentum” while in “Garden I (You Own To Fight),” a hushed and skittery number, he explores his vocal range a little more, singing in a vulnerable sounding falsetto, “I like it when you lie or make a face of disdain, but we’re “happy,” and our parents are approving of our love.”

Shedding a little light on all this darkness is “Selena” – the most danceable and straight up groovy sounding track from Vallentin. Sampling the words of Audrey Hepburn from the movie Sabrina and mixing it with a poppy beat and a light backing melody, this needs to be added to your post-work “dance-it-out” playlist. (Or the beginning of one if you don’t already have one!)

In a record filled with numerous intricate moments worthy of attention, the all-instrumental “Peach Boy” has an almost 8-bit quality to it, “I Will Be Water” drips with emotion, and “Screaming Light” is a reverb-heavy acoustic guitar centred that is the closest things we get to a folk-rock song while still managing to match Hedera’s overall vibe.  

Allow yourself to be covered by the multiple layers of Hedera. 

Top Tracks: Selena”;  “I Will Be Water”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Fooled by the Fun” – Katie Moore

a3469040740_16reviewed by Eleni Armenakis

For her fourth album, Montreal artist Katie Moore stripped down the recording process. Getting by with one or two takes—and adding in the arrangements after—she partially withdrew to her family home and Mixart Studio to assemble the 11-track Fooled by the Fun.

It’s an example of how experience pays—there’s nary a note of out place as Moore’s vocals take the lead. Although an impressive set of helping hands—from members of Montreal’s Sin and Swoon, Silver Mount Zion, Islands, as well as Andrew Horton, Socalled, Warren Spicer, Angela Desveaux, Josh Zubot, Simon Nakonechny—no doubt helped to strike just the right balance to leave Moore’s voice as the album’s biggest takeaway.

As the album sways from folk to soul, languid country to sashaying R&B, the clear draw is the gentle croon pouring out delicately over those versatile notes. The rocking opener “Leaving,” with its touch of twang begins Fooled by the Fun in a far different place than the bopping closer, “Find You Near.”

Captured in between is the slow transition as the titular track bleeds into “Talked All Night,” easing from country to folk seamlessly—abandoning the steady pace of the intro for a lively, passionate chorus as the drums reach their crescendo. It’s on the middle track—and Tracy Chapman cover—“Baby Can I Hold You” that Moore’s vocals strike their strongest, drawing on the song’s longing to pull some of the sweetest notes yet out of the songstress.

“Wildwinds” only builds on this intensity as a solitary violin matches Moore’s reaching voice—offset by mellow, masculine backing. Meanwhile, French interlude “Tu ressembles a tous ceux qui ont eu du chagrin” is a captivating surprise that adds yet another spark as the album moves into its coda.

The remaining tracks finalize the journey Moore has charted through the genres, stretching her voice and leading her troupe of players to just the right notes—coming out with a stronger second half as her voice comes into its fullest. Energy pulses through “Chain-Link” before “Find You Near” taps its way to the finale, offering the kind of build-up that can only be sated by the slow pattering of the last track to a fulfilling—but noticeably empty—silence.

Top Tracks: “Wildwinds” ; “Chain-Link”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Behind the Hoots: August

Mieke

Mieke

“O, My Heart Is Full” – LUKA (Lyrics by Luke Kuplowsky)

Well sometimes late at night I get to be talking to my heart
I say “heart, why are you beating so fast? I’ve been feeding you right?
but you just keep on throbbing! That’s not nice, I don’t like that!
So I get stern with it
I say STOP
I say GO
I say keep making my blood flow
but if its not too much trouble, will you just not let my feelings show tonight…  


As mentioned in a previous post, “O, My Heart Is Full” is one of my favourite songs from August. In a charming execution of sing-speak lyrics, LUKA battles with his heart, desperate to keep it under control and prevent himself from acting on his feelings. In the song’s first verse, LUKA sings of his full heart and how he’d “like to kiss someone.” It’s only later, in the verse above, that he describes how complex moving on these feelings are and the eternal struggle to ignore your desires. As LUKA reveals right in the final moments though, sometimes you’re a lost cause.   

– Laura Stanley 

“4 am” – Megan Hamilton (Lyrics by Megan Hamilton)

It’s 4 am
This bed is cold
This year is over
Don’t know if I made it or not.


In the song “4 am” Megan Hamilton starts out with the above four-line passage. She then goes on to speak about time relentlessly passing by and how it’s raining both inside and out. What’s interesting is that at the very end Hamilton repeats the same four-line opening passage, but this time the final line is, “Don’t know if we made it or not” (my emphasis). A subtle difference? Maybe, but it has an impact on how you view the entire song.

If she had reversed these two passages then at the very outset you would be aware that we are talking about a relationship in trouble and therefore that is the issue you would focus on. As the rest of the song unfolds you understand that her feelings are a consequence. As it’s written, however, the narrator and her feelings are the sole focal point. It doesn’t become apparent why she is feeling that way until the end.

Subtle, yes, but that’s good writing.

– Mark Anthony Brennan

“Silver Car Crash” – Majical Cloudz (Lyrics by Devon Welsh)

And we will both die laughing / ‘Cause there is nothing left to do

It wasn’t long ago that Majical Cloudz made their name with music that was decidedly sombre in tone and subject, a fact that makes this lyric from “Silver Car Crash” all the more intriguing. It’s a beautifully fatalist idea: an imagined future where nothing is more vital than the sheer act of being together. That these images are rendered in such theatrical and earnest strokes only underscores the thrill—and the drama—of falling hopelessly in love.

Brennan McCracken

“Sleeping Alone” – Mieke (Lyrics by Elissa Mielke)

You walk home late, take off your lipstick, fall like a leaf between the sheets. Loosing skin cells, there are a hundred other beds where you could sleep. 

This is such a strong opening line to Elissa Mielke’s standout single “Sleeping Alone” which is aided by her spectacularly simple yet emotional delivery. The song isn’t so much about being depressed about being alone but rather it is about being strong despite not having a partner to share the bed with. Happiness shouldn’t be defined by the people we are with. There are worse things in the world than being alone.

Tiana Feng 

“Whose Hair?” – Cupcake Ductape (Lyrics by Alanna Gurr and Steph Yates)

Whose hair is that in my salad?
I’m gonna come to your house and puke!
You did not wipe off my table
I’m gonna come to your house and puke!
This old coffee tastes like a wet dog
I’m gonna come to your house and puke!
Did that mouse run under my table?
I’m gonna come to your house and puke!


Cupcake Ductape are the babysitters I pined for as a 6 year old. They’re like a pair of pubescent Kathleen Hannas singing “See See My Playmate” in the alleyway outside an LCBO, while a 21 year old high school student by the name of Shark Rat’s inside buying Mike’s Hard Lemonade. If their lyrics have taught me anything, it’s to pick a person to blame in this world, accuse them of all my unmet expectations, and go to their house and puke. Disregard boundaries. Manifest externally the indigestion within. This can be the only sensible response to a bad dining experience.

What I love most about the lyric is how goddamn bratty and entitled the character is—completely unconcerned with whether it was the server, the busser, or the chef who sullied her salad. Bottom line, someone’s house is getting puked in. Perhaps every table has been besmirched by those who came before us. Perhaps everything we consume has been contaminated by the refuse of humanity. And perhaps the only coffees we come to enjoy are the ones we brew ourselves, with the beans we crush in the grinders of our hearts.

– Benjamin Hackman

“Smart Phones For Stupid People” – Gregory Pepper and His Problems (lyrics by Gregory Pepper)

Smart phones for stupid people
All I really need’s a beeper
Just page me girl when you are down to fuck.


Gregory Pepper doesn’t take himself seriously, and it’s what makes his lyrics all the more fun (and far more pointed than one might suspect). The song is only 55 seconds long, but here he manages to rail against current technology (and attitudes) while namedropping an anachronism. And as the cherry on the cake, he ends his thought with a fully 21st-century expression, perhaps suggesting that there’s some merit to all this newfangled technology that inhabits our world. Sure, the narrator of this song might be angry, but I can fully see him prowling on Tinder.

Michael Thomas

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Review – “TORCH” – Gold & Shadow

gold and shadow - torchreviewed by Chris Matei

Nanaimo, BC is a small town on a big island, perched on a hillside overlooking the Pacific: the sweeping water and forest, the shifting calms and energies, bright days and crashing storms that mark this vista have inspired the creation of Nanaimo-based Gold and Shadow’s debut LP, Torch.

The BC foursome trades in cinematic-sounding art rock of the kind that sounds like it should be played in the widest, most awe-inspiring of outdoor festival settings – the kinds of natural amphitheatres like Pemberton and Squamish that now draw tens of thousands over summer weekends. From the get-go, Torch strikes a balance between vocalist Dane Letorneau’s immediately approachable, kind-voiced delivery and the band’s propensity for spinning simple, charming folk-alt riffs into anthemic crescendoes reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie at their most ebullient.

Search for Sara” is an early highlight, its punchy guitars and bright, groovy drums framing a touching story of a family’s complex response to grief. On many of TORCH’s tracks, complex and crunchy guitarwork gives the choruses major heft, contrasting with delicate phrasing in the verses. Listening through, I was reminded of the recent songwriting work done by Hey Rosetta!, a band with a similarly ambitious, focused and energetic musical aesthetic, albeit one hailing from the far opposite coast. By contrast, “Running Out of Room” is far simpler; a bouncy, poppy arrangement driven by ambling organ lines that roll invitingly under the drumbeats.

Some of TORCH’s songs, like “Half Moon,” start off with a sinister tension in the arrangement – shades here of the early, funk-infused output of those much-stereotyped Californians, Incubus – allowing their choruses to be shiny gold-tinted accompaniments to the more shadowy verse sections. “Providence” burns slowly, the flame of persistent piano stabs licking away at layers of post-rock-influenced guitar and revealing dynamically cresting and falling drums. These songs and textural choices – like the trumpet lick that flavours the middle of “Creature Down”- help TORCH show off the diversity of sonic colours on Gold and Shadow’s wide empathetic palette.

In an indie-rock world where oversized, overblown thundering of the Imagine Dragons mold has come to signify “big” sound, Gold and Shadow display a sense for scale and dynamism on TORCH that is driven by keen songwriting and the ability to craft emotional weight in lyrics and instrumentation alike. It’s an album that, like its birthplace, contrasts things fearsomely large and wide with others intimate and quiet.

Top Tracks: “Providence,” “Half Moon,” “Search for Sara”

Rating: Prout Hoot (Really Good)

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Camp Wavelength Festival Review

Wavelength’s ambitious Toronto Island festival had been enticing me all summer. What was the point of carting all that gear and all those music fanatics over to Hanlan’s Point, when they would all have been overwhelmed by summer music festivals already by the end of August?

As the festival program indicated, there are many music fests filling up empty fields and mountain valleys these days, but they don’t capture what Wavelength terms “Our Toronto.” What do they mean you ask?

Day 1: I Hope You Brought Enough for Everyone: Kurt Marble; Doldrums; Holy Fuck

The weekend started out tentatively. The campers were beginning to set up in the balmy weather on Friday afternoon, but by the time the music began at 6 o’clock, the crowd hadn’t really owned the space between the European style front lawn of a camping plot, the stage, and the beach. An equilibrium of debauchery had yet to be reached.

Not to undercut by the momentum of the occasion, Maylee Todd took the stage to MC. I love everything the electronic performance artist does, so it was no surprise to me that she turned out to be the perfect host for the weekend’s festivities. She broke through to the weekday slaves and used some smirk-inducing, smutty jokes to get the crowd to loosen up, just in time for Kurt Marble to take the stage.

kurt

Marble and his group were sensational, dusting off poppy structures and laconic slacker vibes, showing them to shine like new. The guitars are fatter and the drums have more flat crack to them than a lot of other garage stuff floating in the sewers these days. “My banter is not on point today,” said Kurt, a few songs in; but that was no indication of how triumphantly the four piece opened the weekend up for anyone with ears. And in the end, Kurt pointed to me, and declared me the one he loved the most, which is all a man standing without a beer at a music festival can ask.

dirtyfrigs

The Dirty Frigs kept the grungy, pop rock vibe going, serenading all those — including Kurt Marble — donning their swimsuit to hit up the beach, or those more strategically minded individuals playing giant jenga. They played “Swampy,” their killer crawl of a rocker that always impresses wherever it’s played, and many smiles passed through the crowd in response. Bri Salmena took the stage away and never get it back, stringing out extraordinary vocals, as always. One of Toronto’s very best rock acts did not disappoint, transforming the sunny afternoon into a swampy Mississippi mud pit for the duration of their set.

doldrums

If there’s music to make you feel you’re getting fucked up in a field for a weekend, it’s Doldrums. The group’s trance styles and ride cymbal of penitent adulation discombobulated all in attendance. These guys have a massive sound; though there were mere hundreds in attendance at Wavelength, when both the lead singer and the drummer joined forces on vocals, you could close your eyes, and daydream of being at the Royal Albert Hall. Not bad for field music!

The sounds of stellar Doldrums single “Loops” were only just dying out when the main event, the star spectacle of the night was quickly upon us. Holy Fuck is mind bending bliss. The opener for the evening sounded just like John Lennon’s dream of recording the sound of a thousand monks chanting down an echoing valley.

holy fuck

They played an assortment of material, including a few I’d not heard before, and the night had a crisp Krautrock direction I had not anticipated. Then again, this band never delivers what I expect, even after all these years. The group is sinister: it’s a hex, a scene, the dirge of youth. It sounded like Friday night.

By evening’s end, a gorgeous harvest moon had swung low over the beach, its sinew of orange beams having transformed us all into strange musical apparitions, caught in the dance and a swill of Steamwhistle pilsner.

Day 2: In Which Our Hero Recounts Missed Opportunities

I missed out on Saturday’s festivities due to Blue Jays fever. It’s a bad case, one which I may never truly recover from. But, by talking to my fellow campers, I learned a bit about what I’d missed out on:

The folks I spoke to also commented on what a treat the festival was. I’ll admit that when I first walked in on the Friday night, I was a little taken aback. Festivals with camping to me always meant cattle herds rushing between tents and stages, product placements soaking the grass as much as stale domestic beer and vomit. But the more wholesome vibe of Wavelength was enjoyed by all, and access to the beach for the whole weekend was something alt0gether new for most of the festival circuit veterans I spoke with.

Day Three: Mainland Calling — Don’t Pick Up the Phone: Pierre Kwenders; Loscil; Absolutely Free and Petrina NG; The Weather Station; Do Make Say Think

I headed over to Hanlan’s for the evening, knowing I had a long one ahead of me. The scene was an entirely different one from two days before. Tents were dismantled and piled haphazardly in various stacks. People stood or sat or hula hooped wherever felt natural in front of the stage. They owned the night by now, and the day for that matter as well.

pierre

Pierre Kwenders was a joyous surprise. The Polaris long list nominee delivered melodic francophone tunes that had all the campers dancing. Ghostly, smooth hip hop beats accompanied Pierre’s echoing vocals perfectly. “Kuna Na Goma” was a real pleasure to see performed, as the maestro moves to his music with unique style and enthusiasm, The Montreal artist left the stage to resounding applause, and he did the only natural thing in that situation: he went for a dip on the beach. Not often you see such a lighthearted transition from stage to lake; that’s what we call the essence of chill.

And that was just the start of what I’ll call ‘The Mellowing.’ The final three hours of festival programming were as calming as the evening light shimmering on the water.

Loscil provided grand, atmospheric concoctions, that instantly transported me from the lake waters to the BC salty shores which the ambient master of sound calls home.

abfree

Absolutely Free & Petrina NG took the mood to the trees, filling the art installation grove with even more groove. Ambient loops had been playing through speakers in this locale all weekend long, but now they were joined by a healthy dose of synths and a camouflaged drum kit. The campers squeezed in to soak it up. Beach swimmers could be seen in the background as one long piece drove on and on, and the rocking beat’s crescendo left everyone satisfied.

I’d heard a lot about Tamara Lindeman’s band, The Weather Station, and the six piece outfit did not disappoint. The songs stacked guitar, popping drum beats, and melodic bass lines to tell stories of the road, the heart, and the plains. Good stuff for a festival.

the weather station

You hear it around, those singer songwriter sound waves, that country fried pop style; but when it’s done right, it’s so damned fun. Tamara’s sweet voice curled like beach fire smoke above the dusk light, twisting through the songs from her newest release, Loyalty, as well as two songs actually written on Toronto Island. A stellar set indeed.

By the time Do Make Say Think was ready to come up, the excitement was fluttering in the air as thickly as the mosquitoes. The post-rock veterans were easily the kings of the weekend, and the crowd that formed around the stage were eager to see the royalty. How they got all of that gear over to the island in time for Sunday is beyond me.

The plan was to “get uplifted” according to bassist Charles Spearin, and the crowd certainly obliged. Fan favourites were in abundance — I especially appreciated the Other Truths material on display — as the Do Make onslaught wore on into the waning night. But nothing could top guitarist Justin Small playing, waving, and smiling for his young daughter. Joy like that is how you close out a festival. Uplifted? Indeed.

dmst

And so it goes. The party was over on a terrific Sunday night, and the ride back on the ferry was one of easy enthusiasm. The music I saw was easily some of the best curated at a festival I can remember. Nothing was filler, all of it was weird and wonderful. The atmosphere was intimate, like a spa weekend for you and a couple hundred friends. All of it helped answer that question, what is Wavelength’s version of “Our Toronto?” It’s most certainly a place of play and musical experimentation, where the wilderness enters into the music and makes a place for itself to stay.

So far, Camp Wavelength is a unique one-off: the only urban camping music festival experience in Toronto. I hope it doesn’t stay that way for long. A weekend like this is one definitely worth repeating.

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Premiere: Doug Hoyer – “Real Problems”

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Our friend Doug Hoyer keeps us on our toes with his danceable pop grooves and honest and relatable lyrics that make us laugh, cry, and sometimes do both. We’re proud to premiere a song from Hoyer’s forthcoming album Dream Life due out September 8th

“Real Problems” is packed with strings, backing vocals (and drums) from Tasy Hudson and a swinging rhythm that reminds us why Hoyer stands out so much. Writing to us about his song, Hoyer describes it as “a song about realizing that the best way to help your friends with their issues of depression/poverty/relationships is obvious – listen to them; to genuinely be open to what they’re saying. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.”

Listen to “Real Problems” below and if you happen to be in these cities, go see Doug Hoyer live.

Sept 10 – Saskatoon @ Vangelis w/ Mark Mills & Yes We Mystic
Sept 11 – Edmonton @ Buddy’s w/ Mark Mills & Viking Fell (Bermuda Festival)
Sept 12 – Calgary @ Commonwealth w/ Mark Mills and Aleem Khan
Sept 14 – Lethbridge @ The Owl w/ Mark Mills
Sept 16 – Winnipeg @ Park Theatre w/ Mark Mills
Sept 25 – Edmonton @ Fionn MacCool’s (Acoustic Set)
Sept 30 – Edmonton @ Wunderbar FAREWELL SHOW w/ Diamond Mind & special guest

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Hermit + Sol Speech @ Ice-Fest III: Global Freezing

by Anna Alger

Crowds filled an East Vancouver arts space for the highly anticipated Ice-Fest III: Global Freezing on Friday, an all ages night of “bass/rap/experimental/hype shit” chockfull of infectious beats and a do-it-yourself aesthetic. Upon arriving, I passed through the entrance lined with paintings by local artists into the well loved space lit by a projector showing images ranging from anime characters to clips of New Order videos, providing an intriguing backdrop for the music to come.

Hermit live at Ice-Fest. Photo by Olivia Chaber.

Brash rap over synths, beats, and bass characterized the sound of Isaiah Bonnette’s rap persona, Hermit, his clever lyricism standing out against the fantasy visuals used in his set. A line to note was, “Call me Thom fuckin’ Yorke, ’cause you know I be a creep,” from “NEET,” produced by Jade Statues, who was also on the bill. The Vancouver based artist delivered his songs with conviction, engaging the crowd as he worked the stage with vocal intensity.

Sol Speech performs at Ice-Fest. Photo by Olivia Chaber.

Later on in the evening, Aidan Bugliarisi took the stage to perform as Sol Speech. Welcoming much excitement from the crowd, his technical difficulties proving no obstacle to the rolling, skittering beats that built the base of his music. Utilizing nature themed visuals, he took concertgoers on a journey into the mind of his self described “expiramental/electronic” sound.

Synth and bass provided layers and atmosphere to his music, hypnotic and entrancing as the beats built upon themselves in tracks such as the club bound banger, “Lights Out.” Looping vocal samples added texture to the dance and house inspired songs.

Hermit and Sol Speech provided two engaging snapshots of Vancouver’s all ages scene, certainly one to watch for unique and danceable tracks. Ice-Fest’s biannual showcase of young talent is a needed outlet for Vancouver’s newest producers, integral to the community its organizers have helped build.

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