Sunday, December 4, 2016

Recording: All Ears, All Thumbs

Artist: All Ears, All Thumbs

Song: [excerpt from first piece]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Southern Cross Lounge (416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival – Night 2), November 3, 2016.

All Ears, All Thumbs - [excerpt from first piece]

When I was asked to present a night at the 416 festival, I wanted try and bring in some guests from further afield than I might normally do, so I was pleased that bassist Raphael Foisy-Couture agreed to come down the 401 from Montréal. Given the chance to put together a 416-meets-514 ensemble, he brought along guitarist Vicky Mettler to face off with Colin Fisher (playing drums) and Karen Ng on alto. (He also brought the festival's best band name.) I had seen thee of these four (minus Ng) playing together a couple months previously, so I kinda knew that I was expecting a bit of a shredfest. And indeed there was no shortage of that, but also some nice moments of holding back between bursts of sweet tumult.

Recording: Man Made Hill & Friends

Artist: Man Made Hill & Friends

Song: [excerpt, in two parts]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Southern Cross Lounge (416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival – Night 2), November 3, 2016.

Man Made Hill & Friends - [excerpt, part 1]

Man Made Hill & Friends - [excerpt, part 2]

When I was asked to present a night at the 416 festival, I considered it a part of my remit to bring something that might not otherwise be considered for the festival. Randy Gagne, best known for his work as Man Made Hill, puts himself into a lot of inventive situations, but they usually fall outside the "formal" spheres of what gets called creative or improvised music. So I invited him to put himself in that headspace — and to bring along whatever sort of ensemble he wanted.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the collaborators he brought, including Zoë Alexis-Abrams (of Manticore, on keyb and vox), Becky Katz (of Hamilton's Sourpussy, on vox, percussion, clarinet and more) and Jeremy Dennis (on sax and vox). I had no idea how this was going to hash out on stage — musically, it turned out, this was somewhat "outside": sonic dank memes, if you will. Rather than focusing on the formalities of musical exchange, there was a strong sense of play, especially from Katz, who had a whole bevy of tricks on hand, including readings from the Guinness Book of World Records and an occasionally confrontational relationship to her drums, stopping and declaring, "it's not... it's not doing what it's supposed to do!" And in that might be captured the anarchic joy of the whole enterprise.

Recording: Deenzi

Artist: Deenzi

Song: [excerpt from first piece]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Southern Cross Lounge (416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival – Night 2), November 3, 2016.

Deenzi - [excerpt from first piece]

When I was asked to present a night at the 416 festival, I knew I wanted to present a range of different sounds. I think it was right after seeing her play an excellent modular synth solo set that I asked Heidi Chan to come perform, and when she said she wanted to do a Deenzi set with Andy Yue, and I was totally enthusiastic. There was a lot of ground covered in their set, from groovy diversions to electroacoustic drift. There's a core to the sound-word that the pair are exploring, but plenty of zones off to the edges to keep the developing picture really interesting.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Recording: Nidus

Artist: Nidus

Song: [excerpt]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Southern Cross Lounge (416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival – Night 1), November 2, 2016.

Nidus - [excerpt]

This night of abstracted sounds lead off a rather satisfying edition of the long-running 416 Festival. It'd been awhile since I had seen Marc Couroux, Jason Doell and Matthew Ramolo drifting together as Nidus. A last-minute cancellation on the night had the evening going forward with only two acts, but that played right into Nidus' don't-rush-us aesthetic. Preferring long stretches of sonic toffee drizzle, Couroux's keyboard vistas, Ramolo's modular blipdrones and Doell's pop culture interventions carried the trio through for about seventy-five minutes — it's best to think of every Nidus performance as a double-gatefold, triple LP set just waiting for you and your beanbag chair.

Recording: Electro-Acoustic Orchestra

Artist: Electro-Acoustic Orchestra

Song: [edited excerpt from first piece]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Southern Cross Lounge (416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival – Night 1), November 2, 2016.

Electro-Acoustic Orchestra - [edited excerpt from first piece]

This night of abstracted sounds lead off a rather satisfying edition of the long-running 416 Festival. Under the leadership of Doug Van Nort (conducting and mixing desk), the room-filling EAO is based out his DisPerSion Lab up at York University. It contains a mix of veteran players (such as Robert Appleton, Glen Hall, and Ted Philips) with a crew of emerging performers, mixing laptop-based electronics with a full range of acoustic instruments. Van Nort deployed a lot of gestural conducting, presumably shaping the way the performers interacted with each other, mixing a couple big swells with more subtle sonic fields. Pay attention at the end of this extract for the way the Hall's saxophone pulls itself into clearer focus from the general swirl of the ensemble. (There were a few faces here that were, as yet, strangers to me, but the ensemble was listed as: Chris Anderson-Lundy, Robert Appleton, David Bandi, Aaron Corbett, Marcello Fiorini, Glen Hall, Ian Macchiusi, Mackenzie Perrault, Liz Petzold, Ted Philips, Danny Sheahan, Fae Sirois and Lauren Wilson.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Recording: Determinist?

Artist: Determinist?

Song: [excerpt, in two parts]

Recorded at at Dundas Video (Track Could Bend #20), November 1, 2016.

Determinist? - [excerpt, part 1]

Determinist? - [excerpt, part 2]

One suspects that this duo dig like their politics like they dig their sonic environments – defiantly radical. There are shades here of the sounds that Ian McPhedran is pursuing in Bodies That Matter and that Phil Hamilton is exploring in Beard Closet, but the extremes are being pushed further. That comes out in the intense volume (this might have been the loudest-ever TCB set), punishing feedback squeals, exaggeratedly ironic cock-rock guitar heroics and bursts of off-mic shouting. That was all paralleled by the spoken word-bursts McPhedran deployed, sampling Bob Black's The Abolition of Work and Judith Butler's Gender Trouble. Despite the uncompromising sounds, though, there was also a sense of play here, with the two performers seemingly trying to surprise or subvert each other throughout the set, as if they would leave no structure unchallenged — maybe that's why the project's name ends with a question mark.

[The next Track Could Bend will be taking place on Tuesday, December 6th with sets from No Parking (members of Protruders), Heather Saumer plus Del Stephen & The Bedroom Refuge Holiday.]

Recording: Billion-Year Contract

Artist: Billion-Year Contract

Song: [excerpt from first piece]

Recorded at at Dundas Video (Track Could Bend #20), November 1, 2016.

Billion-Year Contract - [excerpt from first piece]

I invited Andrew Furlong to bring whatever sort of project he wanted to TCB and was rather chuffed when he said he had put together a trio with two other double basses. Joined by Mike Lynn and Chris Adriaanse there was a bit of glorious impracticality in seeing the players grouped together in front of the stage. Moving from tasty pluck-twanging to triple-bow drones, there were some really fabulous textures here – sometimes utterly impractical experiments work out rather elegantly.

[Billion-Year Contract will be returning next Saturday (December 10th) as part of Audiopollination #49.1 at Array Space. The next Track Could Bend will be taking place on Tuesday, December 6th with sets from No Parking (members of Protruders), Heather Saumer, plus Del Stephen & The Bedroom Refuge Holiday.]

Recording: Bears and Children

Artist: Bears and Children

Song: [excerpt from first piece]

Recorded at at Dundas Video (Track Could Bend #20), November 1, 2016.

Bears and Children - [excerpt from first piece]

Some very interesting side-roads here from this trio whose normal stock-in-trade is a rather dense and stylized "electronic glitterdoom". For this set they were in improvisation mode, shedding any semblance of song structure. With the focus almost entirely on sonic textures rather than harmonic/melodic elements, one could sense the influence here of Doug Van Nort — the group's members also play in his Electro-Acoustic Orchestra up at York and are associated with his DisPerSion Lab. (This shift was especially apparent for Fae Sirois, who was investigating the violin's skrunk-skreetch acoustic possibilities instead of playing through an extended pedal chain.)

[The next Track Could Bend will be taking place on Tuesday, December 6th with sets from No Parking (members of Protruders), Heather Saumer, plus Del Stephen & The Bedroom Refuge Holiday.]

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Recording: HSY

Artist: HSY

Songs: Easy + More Over*

Recorded at Monarch Tavern, October 31, 2016.

HSY - Easy

HSY - More Over

It'd been a little while since I checked in with local sludge faves HSY, so it was interesting to see their development on a couple different axes. Sonically, Kris Bowering (ex-Crosss) is now in the fold, adding distorted synthwaves underneath the band's roiling noise. That leaves more room for Anna Mayberry to set down her guitar and drift among the crowd – an extension of the sort of movement work she's been doing with Open Fortress. The slo-mo kinesthetic vocabulary she's deploying here creates all sorts of interesting tensions with the sounds coming from the stage and lends as much grist for seeing the band from a different angle as the new synth parts. The upshot is that there were several times where I wasn't sure if I was hearing a new song or a mutation of an older familiar one — a rather pleasant sort of disorientation.

[HSY are playing next Wednesday (December 7th) at the 'Shoe alongside Frigs, Scattered Clouds and Prom Nite.]

* Thanks to the band for passing along the titles to these!

Recording: Vallens

Artist: Vallens

Song: Long Snake Moan [PJ Harvey cover]

Recorded at Monarch Tavern, October 31, 2016.

Vallens - Long Snake Moan

I missed out on this year's Death to T.O. Hallowe'en covers spectacular, so I was glad that Vallens held this one song over from their PJ Harvey tribute set. The forceful strangulating lurch here fit in pretty seamlessly with the rest of the band's set.

[Vallens will be playing at the super-stacked, can't-be-missed all-star summit at The Garrison on Friday, December 16th, alongside Odonis Odonis and Doomsquad.]

Recording: DRI HIEV

Artist: DRI HIEV

Song: Debris*

Recorded at Monarch Tavern, October 31, 2016.

DRI HIEV - Debris

This Calgary crew was a pretty reasonable pairing with HSY, making their first trip to T.O. before joining the similarly de-vowelled locals for a tour. With plenty of menacing un-ease, this had something of the feel of a version of Big Black that wanted to stay locked in its room to update its livejournal instead of heading out to burn down the next town over.

* This seemed to be the title as gleaned from the band's setlist. Please leave a comment if you can confirm or update this!

Recording: Protruders

Artist: Protruders

Songs: In Line + Cold Energy + Hot Glue

Recorded at Monarch Tavern, October 31, 2016.

Protruders - In Line + Cold Energy + Hot Glue

At some point over the past year, the mighty Kappa Chow disappeared, to be supplanted by Protruders. Musically, that has been accompanied by straight-line evolution more than any sort of radical reinvention, meaning there's still plenty exuberant garage-punk momentum on stage. Careening through songs like a subway on a crash course (one of the lyrical topics essayed here) and gaining momentum throughout, this set basically followed the track laid out on the first side of their tape.

[There'll be some different modes of propulsion being explored when No Parking ("follicles flaked from The Protruders' skin mass") take the stage at Dundas Video on Tuesday (December 6th) at the next Track Could Bend.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Recording: The Mike Smith Company

Artist: The Mike Smith Company

Song: Famous Wildlife Movies

Recorded at The Tranzac's Main Hall (All-Set! Autumn Release Show), October 28, 2016.

The Mike Smith Company - Famous Wildlife Movies [part 1]

The Mike Smith Company - Famous Wildlife Movies [part 2]

This second release spectacular from All-Set! Editions added three new albums to their catalogue, and all three of the recombinant groupings played to celebrate. The highlight of the night was seeing the tunes from Mike Smith's new album presented by what was, by his own admission, "a large band".1 That added to a history of Smith treating his compositions with a certain malleability — besides its "fixed" iteration as a recording, I've seen the album's title track take on a few different manifestations. These large group arrangements were quite lovely, going as often to smaller, quieter shadings with different subsets of instruments as veering into full-on big band wallops.

[A less-expanded version of the Mike Smith Company will be playing at the Music Gallery's Moondog 100 concert this Saturday (December 3rd), playing songs from their own book as well as some new arrangements of Moondog's pieces.]


1 If my notes are correct, the ensemble at this show was:

  • Mike Smith – composition, conductor, flute
  • Pete Johnston – bass
  • Blake Howard – percussion
  • Jamie Drake – percussion
  • Jake Oelrichs – percussion
  • Jonathan Adjemian – synth
  • Ali Berkok – piano, clavinet
  • Heather Saumer – trombone
  • Tom Richards – trombone
  • Rebecca Hennesey – trumpet
  • Mika Posen – violin
  • Jay Hay – Tenor sax, flute
  • Karen Ng – alto sax, flute
  • Jeremy Strachan – guitar, sax, flute

Recording: Aurochs with Jean Martin

Artist: Aurochs with Jean Martin

Song: [excerpt]

Recorded at The Tranzac's Main Hall (All-Set! Autumn Release Show), October 28, 2016.

Aurochs with Jean Martin - [excerpt]

This second release spectacular from All-Set! Editions added three new albums to their catalogue, and all three of the recombinant groupings played to celebrate. Since the release of their Rational Animals album a couple years ago, Aurochs have evolved from the original trio, seeing Mike Smith join the ranks as a sound manipulationist. Another Helpful Medicine sees a more warped'n'ziggzagged group with Ali Berkok's piano (and accordion), Pete Johnston's bass and Jake Oelrich's percussion building and burbling through a continuously-evolving improvisation, further filtered through Jean Martin's mixage. To give a taste of the process that created the album, the group invited Martin to join them at this release show, adding further layers of melting, ping-ponging swooning dub-drip interference to the musical interface.

Recording: See Through 5

Artist: See Through 5

Song: Piecing Together That Dream

Recorded at The Tranzac's Main Hall (All-Set! Autumn Release Show), October 28, 2016.

See Through 5 - Piecing Together That Dream

This second release spectacular from All-Set! Editions added three new albums to their catalogue, and all three of the recombinant groupings played to celebrate. Margins, the new album from Pete Johnston's malleable chamber-prog ensemble, is cut from the same cloth (and was recorded, so far as I can tell, at the same sessions) as least year's Utilities. That means listeners can expect further tuneful explorations with plenty of counterpoint and zigzag diversions. (All-Set! has also released Johnston's See Through Two album of bass duets with Rob Clutton with a bit less fanfare. Both albums are available on a name-your price basis over on bandcamp.)