Review – “Artificially Intelligfent Folk Songs of Canada Vol. 2” – LIVINGSTON

aifsocv2reviewed by Michael Thomas

That rascally computer algorithm is back again for a second helping of machine-written Canadian folk songs. But this time around, the songs are a lot more self-aware.

The first volume from LIVINGSTON already brought forth an interesting idea; what if a computer program could mine Canada’s rich folk history and produce new songs? The album brought together a string of players for a bunch of interesting songs (including one Eagles cover).

This time, the Burning Hell is essentially playing this album, which means Mathias Kom is the primary singer you’ll hear. This time around, the songs are basically the sound of LIVINGSTON talking about itself and even getting a little frustrated. As the EP goes on, the computer goes from speculative to angry to submissive.

As a result, Vol. 2 is probably some of the funniest music the algorithm has produced. “1101001 (That’s How I Get Things Done)” pokes fun at the work people have to put into making songs, while LIVINGSTON just inputs data. “See the songwriter shiver with no warm winter scarf/His hands frozen blocks on his dime-store guitar” is a particularly vivid image over more upbeat instrumentation. “Chanson-Nation-T-800” (sung by Ariel Sharratt) is sung with mundane French lyrics about the fact that it’s a Canadian folk song performed with a guitar and other such banalities. Sharratt’s passionate delivery makes it all the more worthwhile.

“This Land is a Complex System” is a rollicking number in which nearly everything—not just the land—is referred to as a complex system, from men and women to the act of writing a song.

After the sprawling “Aggregate 17566408,” which minces pretty lyrical observations with allusions to Leonard Cohen and Nelly Furtado, LIVINGSTON (through Kom) goes on the attack with “I Am the Greatest Canadian Songwriter.” Simple acoustic guitar accompanies a series of hilarious put-downs, from telling Neil Young to “Get off your crazy horse” to the more elaborate “Win Butler, you win nothing, and you are from Texas, so you do not count.” Throw in a snarky reference to Feist’s “1234” and you’ve got a winner.

But then, as described on the LIVINGSTON site, the computer seems to write its swan song, “I Have the Peaceful and the Easy Feelings.” It’s a gentle song sung gently by Kom to possibly bring the era of LIVINGSTON to a close.

From the way Svec writes, it seems like this could be the final voyage of computer algorithms into Canadian folk music, and that’s a sad thing to come to terms with, if true. But even so, in just two volumes the little program that could has already made a hell of an impression.

Top Tracks: “This Land is a Complex System”; “I Am the Greatest Canadian Songwriter”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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