Review – “Catalysts Mixtape” – Bosveld

catalysts mixtapereviewed by Michael Thomas

Music is always a work in progress. There’s no guarantee that the music you hear on record will sound the same hearing it live, and artists tend to move on past a lot of their older material as newer material is produced. Some bands take several years to produce any kind of new music, while some hammer it out so quickly you wonder if they’re doing anything else.

Bosveld is an interesting path between the two extremes. The Ottawa “electro-acoustic folk” duo has released a type of recording not associated with the folk genre—a mixtape. This isn’t a finished work by any means, and the duo is making no statements to the contrary. Rather, Catalysts Mixtape is a glimpse into where Bosveld is right now (or more accurately, in February when the mixtape was released).

The recording consists of two sides filled to the brim with fragments—songs that have yet to be finished, outtakes, field recordings and whatever else. They are glimpses of what’s to come, but they also function as a fluid piece of music with more surprises than can be anticipated.

There’s, to be expected then, a wide range of instruments and track lengths, with bits of piano, the odd bit of orchestral sounds, being it strings or horns, and the odd bit of field recording, like the sirens heard in the first few minutes of Side A.

Side A is truly a smorgasbord, with many more changes than Side B. Side A also introduces Velodrones (Théan Slabbert) and Jeremy Mulder who each contribute an impressive number of instruments—and also provide vocals. The middle of the first side is the most powerful, a combination of guitars and horns.

Side B starts with the closest this mixtape gets to a full song, featuring picked acoustic guitar and dual vocals as well as horns. After this the snippets become more fleeting, with ominous sounds 6:30 and the hint of a marching-band style song that fades far too quickly.

Think of the Catalysts Mixtape as a stream of consciousness that will eventually lead to fruit. There’s a lot to take in, and repeated listens will open new avenues. What the full-length will sound like is anybody’s guess.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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Review – “We’d Be Good Men” – The Lion The Bear The Fox

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis a3237734205_2

The story of how The Lion The Bear The Fox came together sounds a bit like a never-ending jam session. The trio were touring together in support of their individual projects when they found themselves sharing stories and inspiration, before moving on to supporting each other on stage and eventually walking away from the tour with a new full-time project together.

It requires some coordination as Christopher Arruda (The Lion) and Cory Woodward (The Bear) live in Vancouver while Ryan McMahon (The Fox) is based in Ladysmith, B.C. The three were able to work out recording their debut EP We’d Be Good Men by self-producing it in numerous locations throughout British Columbia, including bedrooms, boardrooms and undefined open spaces.

Despite the varied location for the recording, We’d Be Good Men comes out clear and unified—bound by powerful and passionate performances. While The Lion The Bear The Fox shift between country, folk and rock, that smooth, emotive feel never wavers—adding depth to the vocals and boosting the instrumentation so that it soars alongside.

There’s a blues-infected rolling rhythm to opener “Freedom” while titular “We’d Be Good Men” plays out with a somber indie rock feel as the voices of all three come together to create a hauntingly memorable melody. “Go Your Own Way” again shifts gears with a strong country twang.

Most tellingly is how the three take Ray LaMontagne’s Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s A Shame) and work it seamlessly into We’d Be Good Men so that it feels like one of their own songs. The final shift comes with “Home,” a soft acoustic track that lets the chorus shine as the three voices unite to carry the tune—it’s a beautiful finale for an album that exemplifies the experience each member brought to the band, and how easily that came together for a new project.

Top Tracks: “We’d Be Good Men”; “Home”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent)

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Review – “Split 7″ ” – Sightlines/ Crystal Swells

Reviewed by Jack Derricourt

sightlines

Split seven inches! Part of me wonders what the world would look like without these morsels of music and cohabitation — more than likely a clammy, Brazil-esque waste land of no joy and cold comforts. But we don’t have to worry about that now, as split releases are plentiful, and Vancouver bands Sightlines and Crystal Swells are doing it the right way.

Both bands delight in fuzzed-out guitar work — but don’t think that you’ll be playing a two headed coin when you throw this new release on: Sightlines have a restricted, experimental sound, with a pop punk foundation; Crystal Swells have evolved from their early noise pop work to something more evil — the bass is working twice as hard to create a mood of dread, and the guitars are happy to go along with it. This is a split that gives you two different flavours of rock and roll and doesn’t waste a lot of time doing it.

The Sightlines material features wholesome, predictable chord changes and fat drum fills. Eric Axen’s vocals dictate a space of poetic reflection within the storming rhythms of the music, as he switches with expertise from robotic to creatively slurred phrasing. Veterans of bands Tough Age and Cascadia, the guys in Sightlines know how to put on a sonic carnival within a limited time frame. “Commiseration,” while only a minute long, offers up everything a good crowd pleaser of a punk track should, especially the sentiment of the final line: “Vancouver knows how to keep a poor man down.”

Crystal Swells use their portion of the album to show why they’re one of Vancouver’s best bands. As if they’d been communing with Stephen Colbert’s nightmares, both song titles deal in the subject matter of bears. The tracks also showcase a renewed sense of anxiety and muddy metal influence. If you could have grabbed me by the shoulders all those months ago, as I spun the original CS seven inch over and over again, and told me that the future would hold two tracks of Motorhead thrash-tastic material by the same group, I would have broken down and cried with excitement. Thankfully, I’m older and wiser now. I’ll probably settle for cranking the new split at the beach, appropriately decked out in a jean jacket and flip flops.

This new album is a self-release, so feel free to show your love for hardworking DIY record junkies who think putting out their own peach-coloured vinyl makes sense. Did I mention the two tracks about bears?

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

Top Tracks: “Commiseration” ; “Beach Bear”

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Review – “Double Seeker” – Uaxyacac

uaxyacacreviewed by Elena Gritzan

Uaxyacac’s band name (it’s pronounced O-ha-ka) comes from a southern Mexican state. University of Moncton music grad Nick Smith first came across the word at the age of 13 in Gary Jennings’ Aztec, describing a tribe with a melodic and tone-based language. He promptly made it his Hotmail handle.

The idea of melody in language stuck with him and informed this eventual musical project with Montreal’s Denis Mazerolle and Miguel Marcil-Pitre. Double Seeker is synth music endowed with rich tones and a strong sense of melody, topped with beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking lyrics. They describe the EP as “inward-facing music for slowly-swaying night owls,” and this owl can picture slowly dancing while gazing through a telescope at celestial bodies with this as a soundtrack.

I get the overwhelming sense that this is a break-up record. It opens with “Don’t Let It Go,” which details staring at an estranged lover’s back mentally fighting to hold on, but knowing that the relationship will change unless you do. The songs that follow get a bit more desperate, throwing in lines about “needing the love” of someone who is gone, and peaks in the mental image of teeth knashing at your brain bits, the pain is so strong. Even the metaphorical “Two Stones” talks about grass withering and turning brown, much like the fate of the narrator’s heart.

You can hear the pain in the instrumentals, with echo-y ghost voices making quick appearances, though you could be forgiven for mistaking this as a straightforward dark synth pop record. The hooks are good enough to distract you from everything else going on.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Top Tracks: “Teeth,” “Double Seeker.”

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Review – “Seasons Inside EP (August)” – YouYourself&i

reviewed by Laura Stanley a1180251383_2

Montreal’s YouYourself&i welcomely pushed the envelope with the release of The Treacle Well last year. In a rush of blissful chaos, The Treacle Well mixed hushed folk-experimental songs with upbeat rock numbers and the occasional mess of noise all in both French and English. In volume two of their Seasons Inside EP series, the month of August finds YouYourself&i embracing their more quieter folk sound in a breath of warmth, suitably fitting the EP’s theme.

Beginning on a very strong note, “Allies” has a benevolent charm about it that makes for the perfect introduction to Seasons Inside EP (August). In a simple instrumental pairing of a picked guitar and the beat of a tambourine, YouYourself&i frontman Daniel Gélinas leads a choir of backing “ooo”-ers, for an excellent melancholic musing.    

As a child, the summer months are a time for your imagination to run wild. Free from the restraints of school, you are left to defend your homemade fort from outside (fantastical) intruders and the like – a fun childish sentiment that is captured in both the following song, “Spiders” and the EP’s fourth song, “Sharks.”

In the mythical realm of spider tales like those of Shelob and Aragog, YouYourself&i’s “Spiders” begins with the dusty body of a guitar before launching into an adventurous tale of its own. After one “spider smiles and says hello,” fighting both internal and possible external demons comes next in “Sharks.” Whether you are scared of the “black in your heart” or the “sharks on the shower curtain,” as the song demonstrates, it’s clear that Gélinas pushes his lyrical prowess to a new creative level in this EP.       

Seasons Inside EP (August)’s final song gestures towards the more experimental sides of YouYourself&i as found in The Treacle Well. As a very quiet number, “Strange Dance” creates an almost creepy feeling as the month of August, as captured by Gélinas, comes to a bit of an ominous ending.

Seasons Inside EP (August) marks another exciting chapter for YouYourself&i; a story you should be a part of. 

For another month’s adventures, Seasons Inside EP (July) is also available via Bandcamp.

Top Track: “Allies” 

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)  

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Review – “(it’s pronounced underscoreFace)” – _____Face

reviewed by Eleni Armenakis a2313676173_2

Enigmatic is one way to describe Toronto glitch-hop artist _____Face, whose debut LP is helpfully called (it’s pronounced underscoreFace). Although the lack of information on the genre-synthesizing artist could have more to do with the fact that he made his performance debut only last month when releasing his first batch of music.

Produced by Dylan Butler (with the exception of “frank horn blower” which is from Butler and Matthew Davis) the debut release features an eclectic blending of electronica and rap, hypnotic hip hop, and fuzzy rock mutations—although the word mutation could be applied to most of the tracks as Butler warps and layers the samples to his own vision.

The full-length EP lives up to its descriptor with an intimidating seventeen songs—although a handful are nothing more than 30 second interludes blending from one to another with hazy, modified vocals and churning beats. Other times the songs transition abruptly, playing up _____Face’s inclination for experimentation.

“meg lets loose” is a perfect example of this, bouncing from the smooth, clean stylings of “lose with her” to the whirring, choppy fourth track. And follower “u\underwater w\welder” lives up to its name with a muffled, crackly open—a transmission barely making it through before cutting out and evolving into something completely different.

The unifying thread of (it’s pronounced underscoreFace) is the mesmerizing feel of each of the songs—it’s easy enough to lose sense of time as the nearly twenty tracks pull you into their undefined world even as the album’s staple disruptions—self-referential “inter(how)rude | machine gun time slip fringe funk” in particular—jolt you out of it with aggressive rapping (and equally salacious lyrics). But _____Face is at its strongest with plunging, distorted vocals like in “booty on me” as Butler carefully measures out the rhythm into an almost trance-inducing pace.

Everything is warped, twisted and made new on _____Face’s debut—from the very flipping of the intro and outro that bookend the album. Nothing seems to be off limits, from lullabies to nightclub grinders, and (it’s pronounced underscoreFace) comes across as a captivating playground for the mind and ears.

Top tracks: “booty on me”; “u\underwater w\welder”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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Review – “Hot Dreams” – Timber Timbre

hot dreamsby Michael Thomas

When Timber Timbre released Creep On Creepin’ On, the band reached a whole new level. Sparse, minimalistic folk became atmospheric (read: creepy), lush, cinematic music that very few bands do well (Del Bel and TAIWAN are two more bands that fit in this descriptor). Hot Dreams manages to maintain the cinematic feel with the added bonus of some excellent saxophone courtesy of Colin Stetson.

The mood of the album is perfectly summarized by the first video from this album, “Hot Dreams” the song. The setting is at a strip club, but it seems to be the most miserable place imaginable. Which is not to say that one should imagine Hot Dreams as the visualization of a sad strip club, but as a subversion of what might be expected as normal.

The album begins on a creepy note (surprise, surprise) with “Beat the Drum Slowly,” a slow-burner that builds tension and showcases just one of many instances of excellent lyricism. describing “deco towers” and “emerald coffins” among other things.

And then songs two and three knock it out of the park. “Hot Dreams” is the most sensual song Taylor Kirk has ever written, both in terms of his repetition of words and slightly breathier delivery to the sparse instrumentation, of brushed drums and the odd note of a keyboard. And then Colin Stetson delivers the sexiest sax solo in years to finish the song off. This is followed by “Curtains?!” which totally (and wonderfully) destroys the slow jam feel of the previous song. Featuring lyrics from Simone Schmidt, the song also packs a killer bass line and guttural vocalizations. The creepiness returns, and it won’t go anywhere any time soon.

Schmidt’s lyrics are also a part of “Bring Me Simple Men” and features some real lyrical gems, the best being: “Every hunter’s got his spray/You can tell me I’m a good sport/But that doesn’t make me game.”

Even a more sparse song like “Grand Canyon,” which wouldn’t have been out of place on a pre-Creep On Timber Timbre record, feels just right. It almost sounds like a travel song, as Kirk describes nearing the famous landmark, but then: “I pray the Grand Canyon, take our plane inside its mouth.”

Late in the game we get “Run From Me,” which is perhaps the scariest song on the album in its sheer simplicity. At least for the first part of the song, Kirk sings lines like “Run from me darling/Run my good wife/Run from me darling/You better run for your life.” At that point, the album ceases to feel like something stalking you unseen. At that moment, it’s like the unknown thing has caught you.

Mika Posen’s strings are brilliant as always, most noticeable in “This Low Commotion,” which gets more intense as it goes on. Stetson appears on half the album’s songs, and often sounds more like the avant-garde solo artist we’ve come to know and love on songs like the sinister instrumental “The Three Sisters.”

Timber Timbre is a band that has mastered the art of the eerie album, and with each successive album, we can only expect a new bout of chills, in all senses of the word.

Top Tracks: “Hot Dreams”; “Curtains?!”; “Run From Me”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

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Review – “I’m Alive, You Are the Whole Creation, Let Our Frequencies Rise” – Grizzly Waves

reviewed by Jack Derricourt

grizzlegrizzle

It’s not every day an artist chooses to describe their album as “Honest songs about existence.” That’s a pretty metaphysical statement, the kind of thing that stops you spreading the peanut butter on your slightly stale bread, makes you catch your breath, and think deeply for a moment. But the newest release from Grizzly Waves does in fact capture those moments of surprising insight, in little slivers, for convenient playback.

Prescription drugs, glorified sex and violence, finite minds in shopping malls, love, passion — many of the items under discussion on Grizzly Waves’ seven track release aren’t the usual Canadian folk content. But, with a title like I’m Alive, You Are The Whole Creation, Let Our Frequencies Rise (actually a compilation of all the song titles), listeners have fair warning of the third way being plotted by Grizzly Waves. Luke McDonald, as he’s also known, is a man with some original thoughts going around in his mind.

And it is fitting that the artist should scower the hills and dales for such unique song material: the recordings themselves offer few surprises. The comfortable chicken soup of guitar and vocals is ever-so-slightly disturbed by banjo punctuation. The production on the double layer of vocals adds a bare minimum of special effects, just to let you know you are in fact listening to a record, and not a live broadcast. But who needs a lot of distracting elements when the words are so compelling?

From first track to last, Grizzly Waves holds a captivating discussion. The opening line on the record, “I’m alive and I exist / To the best of my knowledge,” is sung with a hint of Beirut’s melancholy truth, and sets a tone of straightforward investigation for the rest of what’s to come. “You Are” follows a meditative strain of declarations — “You are every single object that has ever caught your eye,” “You are all the shit you hate,” — that is a refreshing moment of performer-audience interplay. While never getting to the point of anger, Grizzly Waves speaks with firey assurance.

Possibly the finest on this release, “Let” is a deft assemblage. The song is constructed from a memorable set of chords, an original, rambling lyric involving a prospective romantic interaction, and a muted ending that produces a wonderful denoument. The song leaves so many questions — which is possibly the greatest reward on offer for such constructions of the deep thought: isn’t a big metaphysical question so much juicier than an answer? Grizzly Waves would probably agree with me on this.

Nothing is certain, not even the artist’s upcoming tour dates at the moment; but thanks to this new collection of songs by Grizzly Waves, we can be sure that music is a wonderful medium for human thought — a playground of ideas and sentiments that can always surprise us.

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

Top Tracks: “Let” ; “You Are”

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Peter Demakos of Blimp Rock answers our Grayowl Questionnaire

Blimp Rock (Peter Demakos is second from the right)

Blimp Rock (Peter Demakos is second from the right)

1. Where’d you get your name?

We got the name from our previous agent, who said the band was less likely to succeed than a blimp full of rocks.

2. When did you start making music seriously?

I started taking music seriously at a very particular moment.  I was a small kid watching Beethoven’s 2nd, and it was the scene where the dogs go on a date and the song “The Day I Fall in Love” is playing by Dolly Parton and James Ingram.  I started just kind of vibrating, because I found it so powerful.  I think the same thing happened again during a Randy Newman song in Toy Story and I knew music was something special.

3. What are you listening to right now?

Right now I’m listening to the Toy Story Soundtrack trying to figure out which song made me feel so emotional.  I don’t think it was “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” so it must have been this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2Y7Iz-ePOg

4. What do you enjoy most about the city you’re based in?

Toronto is a top secret Beach fantasy.  Hanlan’s Point and Ashbridge Bay are right up there with the best Miami has to offer, though I haven’t been to Miami since I was a small baby.

5. Describe your music in one sentence.

Top secret beach fantasy.

6. Where do you see yourself in six months?

In six months it will be September 23rd, which is a Tuesday, so I’ll probably go to work, come home and do some writing, make either curry, spaghetti or stir-fry for dinner and then go down to Lake Ontario for a swim.

7. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

That would have to be this: https://twitter.com/theburninghell/status/428191731591680000/photo/1

8. What is the most unusual compliment/insult you’ve recieved as a musician?

At our last show in Guelph, someone yelled “New Jazz!” during one of our new songs.  We took it as a compliment, but I think they meant it as an insult.

9. If you could go on tour with any band, disbanded or together, who would you tour with?

Shotgun Jimmie.  Or Meatloaf.  But more so Jimmie.

10. If you could be on the soundtrack for any TV show or movie, which one would you choose?

I’d love to provide a soundtrack for Toronto’s equivalent of Miami Vice.  Though I’ve never seen Miami Vice, so I might regret saying that.

11. What do you do for fun?

My ideal night of fun would be some take out, two carefully selected discount beers and a Wax Mannequin show with 2 bands on the bill that ended early.  Still chasing that dream.

12. If you weren’t doing music what would you do?

Trying to produce a Toronto equivalent of Miami Vice, called Hogtown Nights. Though it would need a better name,

13. What do you think will be a major trend in the near future?

Though I’m contractually obligated to say “Vintage office supplies,” I’ll also add “swimming in Lake Ontario.”  In case you didn’t know, Lake Ontario is notoriously safe to swim in, as cited in this article: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/07/11/are_you_afraid_of_the_lake_chill_out.html

14. What current trend do you think needs to stop?

Though I’m contractually obligated to say “Hating on blimps,” I’ll also add “Not buying vintage of supplies.”

15. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this survey?

I’m about to go out for breakfast at my local Greek diner, so I probably would have left earlier.  Bye-bye!

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Review – ”Teledrome” – Teledrome

Teledrome Artwork

Reviewed by Farah Barakat

A trend in synth-heavy sound has weaved its way into every corner of the musical hemisphere. Using digital substitution for instruments is now a norm in emerging artists dabbling in every genre. Teledrome follow with their brand of cyber-punk, new-wave and industrial-tinged goth. Their melodious, synth’y cavalcade of blips, bleeps, quips, and quacks should’ve been the soundtrack to the 1995 cult film, Hackers. Once we progress into invading the space-time continuum and inject that into music, maybe then we can combine the two.

The Calgary outfit are the brainchild of Ryan Sadler, who writes and records for Teledrome. The band’s debut self-titled album was released mid-February in Canada through Mammoth Cave Records. Their sound has been compared to cult-punks The Spits mixed with the quirky stylings of Gary Numan. In a nutshell, the comparison is on point, but I would hesitate to pinpoint them as ‘punk’, in the essence of the word. Most tracks such as “Dial Tone” and “Robot” are Duran Duran-esque pop tunes with an upbeat, danceable melody. Once in a while, Teledrome take on a darker edge. The digital ambience created for the rhythm of “Ultra-Instant” fits snugly with Sadler’s sharp proclamatory barks, (“Ultra-Instant…ultra-violet.’’) to create a goth-inspired, new-wave pop tune with an industrial feel. “Golden Dawn” has a heavy 80s new-wave sound combined with sci-fi inspired lyrics bringing it all back to the fact that the Teledrome album should be the soundtrack to Hackers.

Lack of the three-chord structure, pummelling anarchist overtones and preoccupation with creating dance melodies put Teledrome on a plane far away from being a ‘punk’ band. Their marketability stems from the fact that they can make you dance and their quirkiness works well with their sound. They toy with old conventions of new-wave’s past, with modern synth sounds that put them in the present and well into the future.

Top Tracks: “Dial Tone”; “Golden Dawn”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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