by Chris Matei
Ryan Dahle has seen a hell of a lot of action in the West Coast music scene. Whether tearing up the airwaves of MuchMusic as a member of Age of Electric and Limblifter in the 1990s, recording his own solo work, or collaborating with a veritable hit list of Canadian talent from Pat Steward to Ian Browne to Steve Bays and Hawksley Workman (as the power trio Mounties.) He’s also produced work at Vancouver’s esteemed Greenhouse studios for everyone from Hot Hot Heat to Prairie Cat to k-os. In short, the 44-year-old Dahle shows no signs of slowing down.
Limblifter’s fourth record Pacific Milk, recorded with the lineup of Dahle, Megan Bradfield, Eric Breitenbach and Gregory Macdonald, comes out in just a couple of weeks on April 7th (you can preorder it right now!) Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret was the venue for the record’s highly anticipated release show, with locals Invisible Ray and the Passenger.
Invisible Ray brought raw, old-school rock slash and dash to the stage, rolling through a set of energetic tunes with more than a passing resemblance (both sonically and in their frontman’s gloriously bearded appearance) to Black Mountain/Pink Mountaintops’ Stephen McBean – albeit displaying more aggressive, punchy garage vibes rather than a penchant for sprawling, gritty acid trips. The fierce playing and wry wit of frontman Bernie and drummer Penny definitely jump-started the engines for what was to come.
A huge tonal shift followed, as the Passenger, aka. Jesse Creed, took the stage behind an imposing and impressive barricade of synthesizer and sequencer hardware. His lengthy, abstract electronic set was a transition into mellow, vibed-out sonic territories built on layers of drum grooves and shifting oscillator patterns. Some of the audience were clearly expecting something a bit more energetic in the vein of Invisible Ray’s sizzling wattage, but your reviewer was particularly happy to make his way through Passenger’s darkened LFO landscapes.
For a band whose output has been spread out fairly widely across the last couple of decades, Limblifter’s sound has gone through a process of careful honing rather than outright revision. Their set was largely composed of material from the upcoming Pacific Milk and the band’s 1996’s self-titled debut, whose recent remastered edition really does the material extra justice for the modern listener. Each song in the set seemed to receive the reaction you’d expect from a cult fan-favourite cut – even some of the ones that were being played live for practically the first time, like “Dopamine” and “Travel Light.” Dahle’s songwriting style has mellowed out a bit since the mid-90s, but the bite of songs like “Screwed It Up” and “Tinfoil” has stayed remarkably sharp. A few songs from 2005’s I/O also made an appearance, as did “Chop Chop” from Dahle’s Irrational Anthems solo effort. The effect was at times one of warping back to a simpler alt-rock era built on edgy melodic jangle and bursts of crunching overdrive. That being said, this was no throwback gig or effort to coast on past successes. Look out for Pacific Milk and more from this bunch very soon.