CMW-ish: A Wavelength diversion

Prince Nifty
Prince Nifty

by Elena Gritzan

In light of the appearance of ill-tempered Elena yesterday, I decided to take a break from the Canadian Music Week circus and spend some time at Wavelength. Sitting down in a small crowd gathered around the main floor of the Monarch Tavern turned out to be a great mid-week reflection break.

Before Michelle McAdorey’s set, Doc Pickles instructed everyone to close their eyes and imagine it was 20º out and it was spring. Well, it was the official first day of spring, and McAdorey’s music was calm and pretty enough to make me forget about the snow still swirling around outside. Her set was the debut of a host of new material, played with a backing band for the first time in a live setting. Favourite moment: definitely the harp chords punctuating the chorus in the final song.

Looking back at my notes from last night, clearly I was excited for the next act. I’ve got in all capital letters: “PRINCE NIFTY TIME”. This was my fourth Prince Nifty performance, and it is becoming increasingly clear that he never does the same thing twice. I’ve seen simple sets with a guitar and I’ve seen electronic dance hypnosis, but today was something entirely else. He started the set by explaining his approach to music – translating a love of dancing and trance-states through a folk filter – before going into what he described as his “own loose interpretation of a Gregorian chant.” Bursts of static crackled through sustained reverb and a looped vocal line. He also played a pair of songs with his guitar, including personal favourite “Tinto De Verano” with conversational anecdotes about a trip to Peru interspersed between a chorus of “blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah”.

Prince Nifty was rather successful at putting the room into a trance, and that continued with Valgeir Sigurðsson. My week seems to be developing a theme of inventive instrumental Icelandic musicians between this and Apparat Organ Quartet last night. The heart of most of his songs was piano, but this was augmented by looped electronics, string samples, and heavy bass punctuation. Each bass reverberation was powerful enough to send shaking vibrations through the benches, couches, and chairs that everyone was seated on.

Sigurðsson’s complex and transformative music was exactly what I needed: a chance to just sit and breathe and contemplate, which was quite the welcome respite given yesterday’s CMW disillusionment.

I left Wavelength feeling calm and relaxed (and admittedly, rather sleepy), but I could not quite get away with skipping CMW for the entire night. I headed down to the Drake and was immediately hit with the contrast between the beautiful mellowed-out times to be had at Wavelength and the rambunctious nature of CMW late-night programming. I saw the end of a set by rap group Ain’t No Love. They certainly had a party going, with people dancing along, but I couldn’t help but feel far removed from it, still being in a quiet and calm mindset.

That brought me to my final and perhaps most anticipated event of the evening. Karneef’s In Error was unofficially one of my favourite albums from last year. The funky bass and distinctive vocals from the album all translate, yet somehow he comes across with even more intensity and personality on stage with his band The Life, something I would not have thought possible. They were all drinking Red Bull on stage. Fitting, given the high-energy nature of their groovy pop. I hope that I have a chance to see them in the city again soon; Karneef’s live set is seriously charming.

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