by Michael Thomas
Another year older, Wavelength has not lost its touch as it advances in age. As is nearly always the case, the Wavelength Festival got off to a diverse and immensely satisfying start. From hip-hop to “future pop” to electronic experimenting, there was a little something for almost everyone.
The most experimental act on each Wavelength bill seems to always be first of the night, and that was just fine for Organ Mood. The duo is something bigger than a musical act—they’re an audio/visual/participatory force. With their own screen, four overhead projectors and a cavalcade of electronic instruments, they created swirling, joyful synthetic soundscapes. Right off the bat they had a device that recorded an audience member’s heartbeat, which became the backing beat of their first piece. Later they improvised a beautiful, spacey number with the help of an electronic percussive instrument played at will by someone in the crowd. The final number employed the audience to shake some shakers. And oh yeah, the projections in front of the screen were always changing. It was positively magical, and Organ Mood prove why you should always show up early to a show.
At first, Blunt Chunks seemed to be the polar opposite of Organ Mood. Her first two songs were slow and contemplative, backed by nothing but minimal guitar. However, she changed things up with her third song, where she used a loop pedal to back herself up vocally for a serene song that used the sea as a metaphor. Her fourth song used the vocal loops again, but at that point she used her looped phrases in increasingly psychedelic ways. First she shifted pitch, then she pushed the loops to their extremes; eventually they were ethereal moans after the odd bit of industrial noise. Had her set been twice as long, I can only imagine she would have continued to push the limits of what’s possible with a guitar, vocals and a pedal.
It didn’t take long for Keita Juma to bring a new energy to the Garrison as more people began to trickle in. The rapper from Mississauga was brimming with confidence from the outset, using the first two songs to get loose. From there on in, the audience was his. Throwing hands up? Dancing? All he needed to do was ask. His song “Pyro” was the first to get people grooving, and many other songs had an undeniable something that got people moving. Just the opening seconds of his backing beats elicited cheers, none more so than his final track, which featured multiple interludes to get people dancing. He was all smiles throughout, and it was clear that the audience was relishing every spoken syllable.
It says something about Wavelength’s eclecticism that Calvin Love and his band—guitars, bass, drums and keys—almost seems unusual in its common setup of instruments. Still, Love and his band kept things loud and groovy. At first his vocals got lost in the mix, but by about the third song, balance was restored. His music is often described as “future pop,” and it’s easy to see the future in the high-energy drumming and catchy-as-hell guitar. Love wasn’t much on words, but when he implored the audience to be transported to a tropical beach as he began a song, it wasn’t hard to travel along with him. Perhaps the pop of the future will be a portal to new worlds.
Something felt so, so right with headliners Foxtrott. It was apparently their first show of 2016 and Marie Hélène Delorme, Erla Alexdottir and Christian Olsen looked as if they were in a trance as they launched into their brand of hypnotic electro-pop. Their almost hip-hop-influenced rhythms bring to mind the music of Royal Canoe, but one thing that helps Foxtrott stand out is the liberal use of French horn. It tends to add even more gravity to their carefully constructed beats and delicate percussion. It’s music to easily get lost to, and the perfect kind of post-midnight delirium.
Five acts down; 13 to go.