by Elena Gritzan
The first night of Wavelength’s birthday party was a loud ball of energy, full of interesting visuals, intriguing bursts of static, and, of course, a selection of boundary-pushing and creative artists across a span of genres.
SlowPitch began the evening with crackly beats and nuanced textures, indoctrinating us into the world of turntablism. Before starting, he explained each part of his system – turntable, mixer, sampler, drum machine – which gave an understanding of how he was building his layers and made it fascinating to watch him pull it off. He was joined for a couple of songs by Colin Fisher on saxophone. The two improvised together seamlessly; the saxophone murmurs and roars flirted with and complimented the woozy grooves.
Doc Pickles’ introduction for the next band was written by his daughter and began with a few questions: “Do you like pancakes? Do you like blueberry pancakes? Do you make mistakes?” On the surface, it makes no sense beyond the rhyme, but I guess that pancakes make a mess of your kitchen just as much as mistakes can make a mess of your life. This Mess released their debut album this week, and delivered a jam-packed set (you can certainly fit a lot of songs into one go when your average track length hovers around a minute). They introduced various songs as being about working in investment banking, Marc Jacobs, and shoes. The punk trio were able to fit in a lot of energy and raucous ideas.
One of Wavelength’s new projects is the Artist Incubator series, in which they take emerging bands under their wing and support them along every stage of the music business process. One of these such bands is Fresh Snow, a psych-instrumental act with a dedication to interesting live visuals. Their first song began with a female voice: “Hello, welcome to sleep hypnosis”, before leading into meditation and relaxation instructions. The instrumentals around the message were fuzzy, eventually turning to loud static. The accompaniment of moving shapes on a television in the middle of the stage added to the atmosphere; as the song began, the moving image looked like you were travelling down a highway on a mountainside, but as the static drone grew, the screen turned to white noise.
Their set was short, clocking in at under half an hour, but the sleep hypnosis referenced at the start seemed to be at least slightly working. Their songs were trance-like, engaging the room to hold rapt attention and sway their bodies to the music.
At this point, the combination of flashing visuals and flash photography were retina-burning, and that did not let up for Elle V Gore’s set with the addition of strobe lights. I have seen frontman Elliott Jones use the moniker to play dark electronic DJ sets, and the sinister mood carries over to the band’s rock music. Jones got closer and closer to the microphone as he sang, eventually fitting the entire thing into his mouth during the final song. While he orally engulphed the stage equipment, the gothic punk waves of their music aurally engulphed the audience.
Lullabye Arkestra are a band that have a long history with Wavelength anniversaries. Katia Taylor and Justin Small met at a Wavelength anniversary, fell in love, and started a band. They have played every single anniversary except for one – last year’s festival. They were a bit distracted by the birth of their first child that fell on the same weekend. But this year they’re back, and are as loud and energetic as ever. As I left to catch a late streetcar, they were yelling and ripping through bass riffs, with the remaining audience rocking along enthusiastically.
Join us for the second night of the festival tonight at Black Box Theatre (the downstairs of the Great Hall).