Friday, February 28, 2014

Recording: Hat & Beard

Artist: Hat & Beard

Song: Jackie-ing [Thelonious Monk cover]

Recorded at The Tranzac - Main Hall ("The Second Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival" - Show 2), February 22, 2014.

Hat & Beard - Jackie-ing

Full review to follow. Hat & Beard is guitarist Ken Aldcroft and drummer Dave Clark's playful tribute to the compositions of Thelonious Monk, interpreted in the style of a classic comedy duo, with straight-man Alrdroft adding nimble complications while Clark hams it up with rhythmic accompaniment. Joyful, delightful stuff. This gig celebrated the release of Reflections, the project's second album.

Recording: Girlfriends Encounter a Father Figure

Artist: Girlfriends Encounter a Father Figure

Song: [excerpt from an improvization]

Recorded at The Tranzac - Main Hall ("The Second Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival" - Show 2), February 22, 2014.

Girlfriends Encounter a Father Figure - [excerpt from an improvization]

Full review to follow. The somewhat unlikely name here is a testament to how this was envisioned as a sonic meetup between Thom Gill (who performs sometimes as Father Figure) and Matthew Pencer and Christopher Willes's Girlfriends project. That conceptual clarity was knocked askew a bit with Willes busy webcasting his Listening installation project — so his absence was countered not only by using his project's livestream as one element in the mix, but also by adding Philippe Melanson's knob-twiddling complications. The result was a shifting, oft-spare soundscape.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Recording: Alaniaris

Artist: Alaniaris

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Tranzac - Southern Cross Lounge ("The Second Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival" – Show 1 late set), February 21, 2014.

Alaniaris - unknown

Full review to follow. Self-proclaimed purveyors of "rebetiko/surf/jazz/rock/improv", this trio rocks out in fine style — a groovy reminder of the fact that creative improvised music can take many forms. And if you like the sounds of this, you should check out the live stuff they have up on their bandcamp — and also check them out at The Tranzac, on the third Sunday afternoon of every month.

* Michael Kaler called out the title of this one, but I couldn't quite make it out — something along the lines of "Ego Phenomena Mangus". Please leave a comment if you know the proper title!

Recording: The Kyle Brenders Quartet

Artist: The Kyle Brenders Quartet

Song: Noir

Recorded at The Tranzac - Main Hall ("The Second Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival" – Show 1), February 21, 2014.

The Kyle Brenders Quartet - Noir

Full review to follow. The reconfigured KBQ continues to build up its songbook with new material, combining serious compositional and musical chops with an off-kilter sense of humour.

Recording: Broomer-Bull-Vespaziani-Lee-Stach

Artist: Stuart Broomer/Arthur Bull/Bob Vespaziani/David Lee/Eric Stach

Song: [excerpt from an improvization]

Recorded at The Tranzac - Main Hall ("The Second Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival" – Show 1), February 21, 2014.

Stuart Broomer/Arthur Bull/Bob Vespaziani/David Lee/Eric Stach - [excerpt from an improvization]

Full review to follow. Although I had some things to say about the Somewhere There Music Festival, there were several strands I left out for brevity's sake. One thing I held back that was on my mind was the notion that when you're making resolutely uncommercial music you're probably not too worried about "making it", and instead of a chase for the golden ring, a career is more of a lifetime pursuit.

It worked out nicely, then, that one of the festival's threads was an attendance to the historical context of improvised music in Toronto. David Lee gave a spirited discussion on the roots of the scene, reaching back to the 60's to talk about the links between the visual arts and experimental music. And after that, he brought together a group of musicians that he has played with over the years, including Stuart Broomer (who as a youth played in the Artists' Jazz Band, the first-ever free improv unit in T.O.) and Eric Stach (who has been central to London, Ontario's creative music scene for several decades). This starts with some nifty guitar interplay between Broomer and Arthur Bull before the whole band joins in. There's a lot of decades of experience in this group, and a lot of now.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recording: Cousins

Artist: Cousins

Song: Thunder

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 4), February 16, 2014.

Cousins - Thunder

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Greys

Artist: Greys

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 4), February 16, 2014.

Greys - unknown

You can read my notes for this show here.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Recording: The Wet Secrets

Artist: The Wet Secrets

Song: Get Your Shit Together

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 4), February 16, 2014.

The Wet Secrets - Get Your Shit Together

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Lido Pimienta

Artist: Lido Pimienta

Song: Agua

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 4), February 16, 2014.

Lido Pimienta - Agua

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Elaquent

Artist: Elaquent

Song: excerpt*

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 4), February 16, 2014.

Elaquent - excerpt

You can read my notes for this show here.

* I think this contains three separate tracks, though everything came nicely mixed together. Does anyone know the titles to these? Please leave a comment!

Currente calamo: Wavelength FOURTEEN Festival (Night 4)

FOURTEEN: The Wavelength 14th Anniversary Festival

While it's all fresh in my mind, a few notes from this year's WL Fest. Longer, more comprehensive reviews will follow down the road a piece in some far, theoretical future.

Wavelength's annual February festival was a window to the change and continuity from the evolving institution, whose adolescent years are seeing it shift from volunteer collective to professional non-profit organization. The months following last summer's final ALL CAPS! festival saw some long-time organizers stepping back from the group while co-founder Jonny Dovercourt (thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation) remains to steer the ship in a full-time capacity.

The extra resources mean that the festival was a smooth-running affair, though at a few points I mised the rough-around-the edges scrappy spirit of the series' DIY days. (Where have you gone, Doc Pickles? Wavelength nation turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh-woo-woo.) But this was still an essential weekend of presenting some of the city's best emerging talent to a larger audience.

Night 4 — Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Garrison — feat. Cousins / Greys / The Wet Secrets / Lido Pimienta / Elaquent

The Venue & the vibe: Home sweet home! The Garrison — the last stopping point for Wavelength while it was a weekly series — still feels like the proper place for the festival to wind up. Like the other nights of the festival, this got started on time and moved with such quick efficiency, there was hardly any time to wade to the back of the room, grab a drink and say hello to whoever you ran into before the next band was ready to go. If there was anything to criticize about this show, it might be that instead of giving a full-on clash of musical styles, it felt a bit more like the "other stuff" got shoved to the start to be gotten out of the way before the part with rock bands started. But some of the best moments came early on, natch.

The show:

Guelph-based hip-hop instrumentalist Elaquent got the night started and probably deserved a bigger crowd for his chilled-out Dilla-esque grooves. Not too demonstrative on stage, Elaquent was largely content to close his eyes and nod to the beats, but there was a lotta inneresting stuff going on here. Quick beatscapes segued into one another showing of a range of textures, though it was mostly on the mellow side. A prolific producer with a stacked bandcamp page, this wasn't he most dynamic set of the night, presentation-wise, but certainly contained some of the deepest grooves.

Listen to a segment of this set here.

There's generally no complaints about a lack of energy when Lido Pimienta takes the stage, and this set would prove to be a memorable addition to her penchant for creating a bit of spectacle. Taking a shot at over-the-top Olympic rah-rah patriotism, Pimienta (alongside art-crew Tough Guy Mountain) covered the stage in Maple Leaf paraphernalia (because nothing shows devotion to your country like a trip to the dollar store) before starting the set with an "O K-K-K Canada" rendition of the national anthem. Trying to get across the messages in her Spanish-language songs, her outspoken and in-your-face outbursts on stage never feel didactic — and in the end, it's her talents as a musician that make her one to watch. (And for those who didn't seem to comprehend the critique in play here, Pimienta expanded in a tumblr post.)

Listen to a song from this set here.

the fact that the festival brought in artists from Alberta and Nova Scotia shows the ambitious reach of Wavelength nation. Edmonton's The Wet Secrets represented the west, taking the stage in matching marching band uniforms and looking like they would have been right at home as the band in a 60's frat party in a direct-to-video Animal House knockoff. Not taking themselves too seriously, they proceeded to create a frothy party atmosphere, filled with tales of the nightlife and knife fights in the City of Champions. With a pair of horn-playing backing vocalists enhancing the guitar-less bass/drums/keybs lineup, the focus was on the garage-y groove here. It's hard to argue with an easy visual hook like this and the band were certainly got the crowd worked up, implying there may well be some substance behind the gimmick.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Returning to a local stage after a few months' layoff, grungecore noise-rockers Greys were quickly bouncing around like the last popcorn kernels in the pot frustrated at their inability to explode. They also got a respectable moshpit going in the crowd as they previewed a few new songs from their forthcoming album. Loud, bracing stuff.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Closing out the festival was Halifax guit/drums duo Cousins, and it was interesting to observe how their non-stop road regimen has built them quite a devoted following. On the surface, Aaron Mangle (guitar) and Leigh Dotey (drums) aren't doing anything fancy or inventive — yet they present their minimalist take on classic rock with such convention that it manages to transcend itself in some sneaky way. Well, that's the spark that constantly reanimates rock'n'roll right there. When you see it, you don't doubt it — you just try and pull it into you.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Concert Listings Roundup #33

You can read more about why I'm doing listings here. Long story short: This curated and decidedly non-comprehensive list contains nothin' but shows that I am going to/would go to if I had more time.


Gig of the week — loud:

The Beverleys [EP Release Show!] (Greys / Wish / Mexican Slang) / Sneaky Dee's 2013-02-28 (Friday) [FB event]

It's been a bit of an extra wait for The Beverleys' first EP to come out on beloved local imprint Buzz Records, but this lineup certainly makes up for it.

Gig of the week — not loud:

Flowchart (feat. Victoria Cheong / Amelia Ehrhardt / Steve Kado) / Artscape Youngplace 2014-02-27 (Thursday) [FB event]

First show in a new performance series curated by Amelia Ehrhardt promises to throw together artists working in different media, and should be a great point of entry for anyone wanting to dip their toes in the city's rich dance scene. (also: a chance to visit the new Artscape facility on Shaw Street!)


This week's noteworthy shows:

Army Girls (Fresh Snow / Michael Rault / Wish) / The Garrison 2014-02-25 (Tuesday) [FB event]

"Ronley Teper becomes The Painted Lady" ["site specific multimedia performance experience"] + Ronley Teper & The Lipliners / The Painted Lady 2014-02-27 (Thursday) [FB event]

Doomsquad [LP Release!] (HSY / Petra Glynt / Moonwood / Mas Aya) / Comfort Zone 2014-02-27 (Thursday) [FB event]

Michelle McAdorey Band [February residency!] / The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2014-02-28 (Friday – early!) [FB event]

Silent Shout: Digits mixtape release party (feat. Ken Park / Mekele / Farragoes) / Encore Rehearsal Studios 2014-02-28 (Friday) [FB event]

Rival Boys [EP Release!] (Stella Ella Ola / Aron D'Alesio) / The Silver Dollar Room 2014-02-28 (Friday) [FB event]

Afrofest's Black History Month Concert Series (feat. Madagascar Slim) / The Gladstone Hotel 2014-03-01 (Saturday – free!) [more info]

LAL (Dub Fantasy) / The Music Gallery 2014-03-01 (Saturday) [more info]

Toronto Symphony Orchestra's New Creations Festival: Doctor Atomic / Roy Thomson Hall 2014-03-01 (Saturday) [more info]

Prince Enoki's Insect Orchestra (Mas Aya) / The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2014-03-01 (Saturday)

Feast In The East 35 (feat. Dildoniks / Sasha Chapin / Newsmen) / Gerard Art Space 2014-03-01 (Saturday) [FB event]

Allison Cameron and D. Alex Meeks / The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2014-03-02 (Sunday – 1 to 3 p.m.)

"A Percussive Evening with Jean-Pierre Drouet" / The Music Gallery 2014-03-02 (Sunday) [more info]

Queen of the Fleet (EONS / Lil' Andy) / Holy Oak Café 2014-03-02 (Sunday) [FB event]

Clara Engel (The Morals / Ah! la lettre! / Amateur) / The Magpie Taproom 2014-03-02 (Sunday) [FB event]


Add these to your calendar:

Freelove Fenner (Bile Sister / Gay / Dilly Dally) / Oz Studios 2014-03-08 (Saturday) [FB event]

Absolutely Free / Miles Nadal JCC Pool 2014-03-08 (Saturday) [FB event]

Crosswires (feat. Young Doctors in Love / Spectre Hearts / Brent Randall And The Rainbow Twangers) / Handlebar 2014-03-09 (Sunday) [FB event]

East Side Boom! (feat. Clara Engel / Deciduous) / Gerrard Art Space 2014-03-08 (Saturday) [FB event]

Scott Merritt (Sandro Perri) / Holy Oak Café 2014-03-09 (Sunday) [FB event]

Audiopollination #16.1 (feat. Nicole Rampasaud performing duets and trios with Emilio Guim and Chris Wallace / Arnd Jugensen and Alvaro Giron / Wade Whittaker and Steve Lederman / Colin Fisher) / Array Space 2014-03-11 (Tuesday) [FB event]

Hands & Teeth ["Before The Light" Release Show] (Amos The Transparent / Blonde Elvis) / The Dakota Tavern 2014-03-12 (Wednesday) [FB event]

Audiopollination #16.2 (feat. 6 heads / Glen Hall/David Sait /Ted Phillips / Gil Delindro) / Array Space 2014-03-13 (Thursday) [FB event]

catl (Beams / Young Running) / 3030 2014-03-15 (Saturday – free!) [FB event]

Little Ghost [CD release] (Shipley Hollow / Hana Lu Lu / Dan Daly) / Double Double Land 2014-03-28 (Friday) [FB event]

Wavelength 592 (feat. White Ribs / B-17 / New Positions / Toronto Homicide Squad) / Bike Pirates 2014-03-29 (Saturday) [FB event]

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Recording: Ark Analog

Artist: Ark Analog

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Sonic Boom Records ("The Toronto Music Moment" talk + event – Wavelength FOURTEEN), February 16, 2014.

Ark Analog - unknown

Full review to follow. The second in-store event of the Wavelength FOURTEEN festival took over Sonic Boom's stage for an afternoon, presenting a talk called "The Toronto Music Moment" that looked at problems and opportunities in conceiving of T.O. as a "music city". And, surrounding that were three entirely diverse sets of music.

Dan Werb and Maylee Todd weren't too thrown off their game when some of their gear started acting up. Instead, they simple extended their grooves and let the music's groove imperative overpower the need for pop perfection while also finding some new knobs to twist, weirding things up with live remix versions. This song takes a couple minutes to find its footing, but really gets cooking once Todd and Werb start messing with it.

* Does anyone know the title to this one and/or the name of the MC who hopped up on stage to add some verses? Please leave a comment!

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Recording: Mexican Slang

Artist: Mexican Slang

Song: Blisters

Recorded at Sonic Boom Records ("The Toronto Music Moment" talk + event – Wavelength FOURTEEN), February 16, 2014.

Mexican Slang - Blisters

Full review to follow. The second in-store event of the Wavelength FOURTEEN festival took over Sonic Boom's stage for an afternoon, presenting a talk called "The Toronto Music Moment" that looked at problems and opportunities in conceiving of T.O. as a "music city". And, surrounding that were three entirely diverse sets of music.

Fighting against technical gremlins (and a vocal mic that seemed intent on shocking vocalist/guitarist Annabelle Lee), Mexican Slang (now down to a trio) were fierce and focused in delivering their fuzz-pop blasts. The vocals are pretty low here, but the music has a pretty good punch.

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Recording: Evelyn Mukwedeya & Memory Makuri

Artist: Evelyn Mukwedeya & Memory Makuri

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Sonic Boom Records ("The Toronto Music Moment" talk + event – Wavelength FOURTEEN), February 16, 2014.

Evelyn Mukwedeya & Memory Makuri - unknown

Full review to follow. The second in-store event of the Wavelength FOURTEEN festival took over Sonic Boom's stage for an afternoon, presenting a talk called "The Toronto Music Moment" that looked at problems and opportunities in conceiving of T.O. as a "music city". And, surrounding that were three entirely diverse sets of music.

Evelyn Mukwedeya & Memory Makuri filled the store with their contemporary Canadian take on traditional Zimbabwean music, the bounce of the mbira radiating a joyful energy. This set really brought home the point that our stages and our festivals need to reflect the real range of music that's out there in Toronto — not just to check off some "diversity" box, but so that we're not missing out on some of the best stuff that's out there.

* Evelyn calls out the title of this traditional number at the top, but I don't think I can render it correctly. Anyone know the proper title?

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview: The Somewhere There Collective

I was lucky enough to get a chance to write a little thinkpiece for Weird Canada about "Creative Informal Music, Space, and Community", which you can read here:

Everyone Knows This is Somewhere

The goal was to grab your attention to get you eager to head out to see Somewhere There's second annual music festival (which is on now!). But my long-latent propensity to turn essays into manifestos reared its head a bit, too. At part of the legwork for this, I sent some questions to the festival's organizers. I only scratched the surface of their savvy observations in the piece, so I figured I'd let them have their full say here.

Late one night in mid January, Paul Newman and Pete Johnston joined Joe Sorbara at his kitchen table to talk through some questions posed by Joe at Mechanical Forest Sound. The other members of the Somewhere There Collective — Michael Lynn, Heather Segger, Arnd Jurgensen, and David Sait — have all provided some feedback on these words and given their thumbs up. Of course, if any one of us were to sit down and answer these questions alone we would come up with very different documents. Keeping that in mind...

Mechanical Forest Sound: What was lost when Somewhere There lost its space?

Somewhere There: At this point it's been a year since we lost our venue. During this past year, between the summer series, Audiopollination, and the Somewhere There series that is currently running monthly, we've put on 32 shows at the Array Space. Comparing that to just over 2000 shows that happened between 2007 and the end of 2012… well, you do the math. Even adding the Somewhere There Creative Music Festival events, we're now putting on a fraction of the number of concerts we were at the venue. That said, the vast majority of these events have been very well attended, there is clearly ongoing support from a community of musicians who want to present their music this way, and it all feels very healthy.

MFS: How important were the residencies, where artists could “work out” musical ideas over time?

ST: The residencies helped to get a lot of different projects off the ground and generated a lot of energy in the creative music community. Many of the projects that started as a residency at Somewhere There or that used a residency as a way of rejuvenating an existing project are still thriving today, so that investment is continuing to pay off. In the later stages of the residency program, though, the energy was actually starting to wane a bit. Things tended to be a little more ad hoc and less focused than they had been. That's not true across the board, of course. Some of the very last residencies were very focused and very fruitful, but generally that was the feeling we had. So yes, the residencies have been a very important and incredibly rewarding aspect of Somewhere There, but much like the larger project, it was starting to fray at the edges a bit by the end.

MFS: In presenting fewer events that are a bit more like "shows", is there less of a chance to treat performances as being part of a "process"?

ST: You're correct that these recent presentations feel "more like shows". They're less informal than the events at the venue set out to be. The idea that fewer events offer less of a chance to treat performances as part of the process of getting some music together, as you say, is also true. Local creative music communities require space for informal music making. That hasn't changed and that's why we still have a search for a permanent home on the back burner. The problem is that that space was being supported by a very small group of volunteers who, let's be honest, were burning out. The model wasn't sustainable. For now, what we're doing works. This is a sustainable model. For now.

MFS: A show at ST was a bit like watching a show in someone's living room. But also different from that. Even if the audiences were small it was, to some degree, a nominally “public” space. How does the idea of having an audience (even a handful of friends) change things?

ST: We didn't set out to create a “nominally” public space. It was a fully public space and we always wanted more people filling it up. This was never an exclusive club or some kind of secret society. This community makes great music and the purpose of Somewhere There remains to support and nurture that music, give it a place to grow, and absolutely to provide a place for people to hear it. Playing music to an empty room isn't horrible, we've all done it, and we'll all do it again. But we're interested in sharing the music with a room full of listeners, with an audience who focus the occasion of performance. The first Somewhere There Creative Music Festival was originally conceived as a way of bringing new people out to the venue and building our audience so that the space would be filled with more people more often. We lost the Sterling venue right around the time we were putting the festival together and the TRANZAC stepped in and helped us out immensely. But that was the original idea.

MFS: What does it mean to do shows where there are more performers than audience members? Does the "public" element encourage people outside the circle to come in? Do you think the non-anonymity of being in a small audience scares people away? Viewed from the outside, do you think there are social “barriers to entry” to a small, maybe cliquish community? Is this good/bad/neutral?

ST: Would something about Somewhere There be ruined if there were large crowds consistently? Let's find out! It's always going to be an intimate space and of course "large" is a relative term. How large would a large audience really be in a room that is the size of a small restaurant? The main point here is that we've always done what we could do — albeit within our limited means — to create a space that would welcome people. The one thing we have no interest in doing, of course, is pandering to an imaginary idea of musics that would somehow be more "accessible" so that more people would come out to hear it. “Within our limited means” is really a key point here, though. When we lost the Sterling venue we began a search for a new space. One of the main aspects of that search was that a more inviting, more accessible room with a warmer vibe would hopefully be more encouraging of greater turn-outs for shows. And frankly, this is what we've found at the Array Space. It's not ours, and we aren't presenting there seven nights a week... and there is definitely something foreboding about a handful of Ice trucks blocking the way to the door, but once you re inside the space it's really quite beautiful. And we'll take this opportunity to point out that the Array Space will have a new, completely accessible, entry way very soon as well as an elevator to the second floor. That kind of accessibility is going to be fantastic. The most important things for us at this point are that we are presenting great music and there is a sense of community around it. Our long-time listeners are coming out regularly to listen and we are gaining new audience members at almost every show.

MFS: Moving forward, could ST thrive without a space? Given the cost of rent and other practical difficulties, is there something liberating in not having to worry about all of that? With a space, how much attention is shifted to putting “bums in seats” to get dough to cover expenses, and how can things be set up so that isn't a concern?

ST: There is absolutely something liberating about not worrying about paying the rent for the venue every month. We're all just a little bit healthier one year on. Based on our experience, the only way we're going to have space for informal creative music-making in Toronto is to get some funding in place, either from an arts council or two or from a private benefactor or through some combination of these things. At this point, that's our long-term goal. In the meantime, we're committed to presenting a few shows per month at the Array Space through the Somewhere There and Audiopollination series and to making the Somewhere There Creative Music Festival happen once per year. We're working on ways to bring the Leftover Daylight Series back in some way, too. This activity all seems to be happening in the context of a scene that is really thriving right now. Looking at the Soundlist a year and a half ago, one saw a large number of listings for shows at Somewhere There and, maybe, a few at the TRANZAC and a smattering of other venues. The bulk of it was ST listings, though. Then, in the first few months after we closed our doors, the Soundlist was a very short e-mail to read. Now, a year later, it's back up to being a strong, healthy bulletin of creative music events at quite a diverse list of venues around the city. That's something to celebrate and be excited about. And to support by going out to hear the music; which you know and do more than most.

MFS: In the current socio-political environment, is trying to find a space for resolutely non-commercial music an act of defiance? Do people at ST think they're challenging a model of capitalism and looking for new forms of organization/community, or is it just a practical matter of trying to find someplace (er, somewhere) to play music?

ST: Your final question opens up a massive area of discussion. First of all, defying capitalism is a practical matter at this point. It's not a sustainable system. Period. Really, though, by any and all understandings of a society centered around the building of capital, what we do wouldn't and shouldn't exist. If we were interested only in money, we wouldn't be making the music we make and we wouldn’t be presenting the music we present. Nobody is getting rich off of creative music. As we mentioned above, the music that we listen to, make, present, nurture, celebrate, works in direct opposition to any musics designed to be accessible to as many consumers as possible. We're interesting in listening ears and open minds. We're interested in challenging music, critical music, impossible music. We are music-ists, not capitalists. But we do live and work in a capitalist society. It wouldn't be helpful to anyone to pretend that that's not true. So, as we've said, for now, what we're doing works and this is a sustainable model. For now.

Thanks to the Somewhere There collective for their time and thoughtful answers.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Recording: Colin Stetson

Artist: Colin Stetson

Song: Part Of Me Apart From You

Recorded at SPK Polish Combatants Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 3), February 15, 2014.

Colin Stetson - Part Of Me Apart From You

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: U.S. Girls

Artist: U.S. Girls

Song: unknown*

Recorded at SPK Polish Combatants Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 3), February 15, 2014.

U.S. Girls - unknown

You can read my notes for this show here.

* Admittedly, I couldn't track down the name of this cover. Please leave a comment if you know it!

Recording: Biblical

Artist: Biblical

Song: Monsoon Season

Recorded at SPK Polish Combatants Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 3), February 15, 2014.

Biblical - Monsoon Season

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Petra Glynt

Artist: Petra Glynt

Song: Of This Land

Recorded at SPK Polish Combatants Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 3), February 15, 2014.

Petra Glynt - Of This Land

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Gambletron

Artist: Gambletron

Song: [excerpt]

Recorded at SPK Polish Combatants Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 3), February 15, 2014.

Gambletron - [excerpt]

You can read my notes for this show here.

Currente calamo: Wavelength FOURTEEN Festival (Night 3)

FOURTEEN: The Wavelength 14th Anniversary Festival

While it's all fresh in my mind, a few notes from this year's WL Fest. Longer, more comprehensive reviews will follow down the road a piece in some far, theoretical future.

Wavelength's annual February festival was a window to the change and continuity from the evolving institution, whose adolescent years are seeing it shift from volunteer collective to professional non-profit organization. The months following last summer's final ALL CAPS! festival saw some long-time organizers stepping back from the group while co-founder Jonny Dovercourt (thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation) remains to steer the ship in a full-time capacity.

The extra resources mean that the festival was a smooth-running affair, though at a few points I missed the rough-around-the edges scrappy spirit of the series' DIY days. (Where have you gone, Doc Pickles? Wavelength nation turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh-woo-woo.) But this was still an essential weekend of presenting some of the city's best emerging talent to a larger audience.

Night 3 — Saturday, February 15, 2014

SPK Polish Combatants Hall — feat. Colin Stetson / US Girls / Biblical / Petra Glynt / Gambletron

The Venue & the vibe: After the vague discomfort I'd felt throughout the night before down in the club district, the concrete bunker at Beverley Street felt like a sweet homecoming. There's just something comforting about a place where you can tell old men gather together to drink. And though there was a full house, it never felt crowded, with little nooks and crannies that people could retreat to to hang out if they didn't want to be near the stage. Without a PA system of its own (though Wavelength set up an excellent one for the night), this is probably fated to remain an underused venue, which is just too damn bad — this was my favourite night of the festival.

The show:

I came in without having done any research on Montréal's Gambletron, so I pleased to get something a bit weirder than I was expecting. Taking over a semi-circle on the floor in front of the stage was a table full of electronic gear, plus radios, antennas extended to the sky. More radios littered the floor, and as the set started, Gamble walked around, turning them on and unleashing a humming drone as she chatted through a mic hooked to a portable radio slung over her shoulder. The set would consist of noise from motion-activated sensors (one concealed in a crocheted statue near the audience), something that sounded like a colecovision in its death throes, those radios on the table converted to homemade theremins, and occasional distorted beats. All of which was joined by Johnny Fever's video installation, with images (a shimmying woman; the full moon; twisting yarn) that hinted at themes without needing to connect the dots too explicitly. All told, it was experimental, arty and abrasive — maybe not entirely user-friendly to those uninitiated to this sort of stuff, but I'm glad that there's room for noise at Wavelength.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Alexandra MacKenzie, who performs as Petra Glynt also brought a strong visual element to her set, thanks to Steve Reaume's generative visuals. Beaming up on her from below, they not only created intricate features on her face and dress, but created striking giant silhouettes on the screen behind her. MacKenzie, meanwhile, sounded as good as I've ever heard her, presenting the tunes from her Of This Land tape with casual ease. There was even the début of an ace new song that augurs well for her forthcoming album.

Listen to a song from this set here.

House visualist General Chaos finally took centre stage behind Biblical, and his abstract swirling light painting projections fit right in with the quartet's hard rock psych choogles. It's fairly amusing to note that at Wavelength a band channelling classic rock is the outsiders — but even if the band (whose forthcoming Monsoon Season album seems destined for big things) is keeping different company lately (they've been playing with Death From Above 1979 and Monster Truck, for example), these guys are all Wavelength vets many times over.

Listen to a track from this set here.

I was expecting that it would be a ninety-degree musical turn from Biblical to U.S. Girls, but Meg Remy defied expectations by bringing a new incarnation of her live unit and a sound laced with unexpected heaviousity. (Simone TB's drums and Tim Westberg's driving bass were the main ingredients there.) Organized around the theme of "love songs", Remy performed an all-new set of covers, but pretty much none of it was obvious selections. (Wings' album track "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" was maybe the least obscure thing here.) The set might have lacked the "hits" from Remy's own catalogue, but the set certainly showed off the creative restlessness that's going to keep pushing her forward.

Listen to a song from this set here.

When Colin Stetson took the stage and picked up his bass saxophone, there were a few audible gasps in the crowd. That thing is so massive, it really does take one by surprise the first time around. The sheer physical fact of his live presentation, with its marathons of circular breathing driving the continuous wall of sound, generates a sense of spectacle that almost distracts from the actual music. But close your eyes and feel it pulse over you and it remains powerful stuff. Stetson occupies a place similar to the night's opener (and, it turns out him and Gamble have played together) in that he's perceived as far too weird for the pop crowd while experimental musicians look at his stuff like some sort of lowest common denominator party trick, too reliant on conventional melodic song structures to be truly interesting. But this stuff has the capability to expand people's perceptions of what music can be — and if one person out a hundred who is hearing Stetson becomes curious enough to explore music at the further fringes, then that's a net victory, and the exact sort of thing that Wavelength is all about.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recording: Carl Didur

Artist: Carl Didur

Song: unknown*

Recorded at June Records ("Wavelength FOURTEEN"/Weird Canada's "Wyrd Distro" Launch), February 15, 2014.

Carl Didur - unknown

As part of the Wavelength FOURTEEN celebrations, the first of two afternoon in-store events found the festival teamed up with Weird Canada, who were having a big celebration of their own. Wyrd Distro is billed as "Canada's first non-profit distribution service", giving musicians a centralized depot to get their wares into the hands of fans across Canada and beyond. Marie Claire Flanagan and Aaron Levin were using June's backroom as their base to do video hangouts with a series of similar parties in every province and territory — and having been up for who knows how long gettings things ready to launch they looked triumphantly exhausted. They stared the event off with a brief talk (triumphantly "rambling towards coherence", as one friend commented) not focusing so much on the distro as the community spirit that animates everything that WC does. And then there was a set from Carl Didur, his tape loop/echo/keyboard compositions as wonderful as ever.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recording: DIANA

Artist: DIANA

Song: Born Again

Recorded at Adelaide Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 2), February 14, 2014.

DIANA - Born Again

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Odonis Odonis

Artist: Odonis Odonis

Song: Muscle*

Recorded at Adelaide Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 2), February 14, 2014.

Odonis Odonis - Muscle

You can read my notes for this show here.

* Thanks to Dean for passing along the title to this one!

Recording: Weaves

Artist: Weaves

Song: Know About It

Recorded at Adelaide Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 2), February 14, 2014.

Weaves - Know About It

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Most People

Artist: Most People

Song: Release*

Recorded at Adelaide Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 2), February 14, 2014.

Most People - Release

You can read my notes for this show here.

* Thanks to Brandon for passing the title to this one along.

Recording: MATROX

Artist: MATROX

Song: Thank You*

Recorded at Adelaide Hall ("Wavelength FOURTEEN" – Night 2), February 14, 2014.

MATROX - Thank You

You can read my notes for this show here.

* This seems like an obvious guess for the title — please leave a comment if you can confirm it!

Currente calamo: Wavelength FOURTEEN Festival (Night 2)

FOURTEEN: The Wavelength 14th Anniversary Festival

While it's all fresh in my mind, a few notes from this year's WL Fest. Longer, more comprehensive reviews will follow down the road a piece in some far, theoretical future.

Wavelength's annual February festival was a window to the change and continuity from the evolving institution, whose adolescent years are seeing it shift from volunteer collective to professional non-profit organization. The months following last summer's final ALL CAPS! festival saw some long-time organizers stepping back from the group while co-founder Jonny Dovercourt (thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation) remains to steer the ship in a full-time capacity.

The extra resources mean that the festival was a smooth-running affair, though at a few points I mised the rough-around-the edges scrappy spirit of the series' DIY days. (Where have you gone, Doc Pickles? Wavelength nation turns its lonely eyes to you, ooh-woo-woo.) But this was still an essential weekend of presenting some of the city's best emerging talent to a larger audience.

Night 2 — Friday, February 14, 2014

Adelaide Hall — feat. DIANA / Odonis Odonis / Weaves / Most People / MATROX

The Venue & the vibe: With The Great Hall still in a bit of a holding pattern, Wavelength followed the exodus of shows down to the club district to the new-ish Adelaide Hall. I'd been here once before and didn't love the space, but was trying to reserve judgment. But, all things told, it's just not for me. While the sound was good, there was something about the space that just made me feel uncomfortable. Set on two levels, a balcony overlooks the stage, giving a choice of viewing areas. But if you don't get a spot on the railing, the upper level is mostly wasted space. The lower level feels a bit claustrophobic and while there's good views from in front of the stage, it's less ideal to the sides — leading to a big crush of bodies in the central area.

I also got the sense that this space was out to serve someone else's culture. I suspected I was going to get gouged at the bar, but I figured I'd splurge on a glass of wine. When the bartender handed me a plastic cup filled about a third of the way and asked for nine bucks, I was a bit agog:

Me: Wow! That's quite expensive!

Bartender: [bragging rather than regretful] It's a concert venue! Everything's expensive!

Also putting a bit of a damper on the night was the fact that headliner Marnie Stern was caught in a storm and couldn't fly into town. But with Most People quickly added to the bill and the other bands bumped up, it was still a solid show — Wavelength shall prevail over adversity.

The show:

After some technical difficulties, visiting robots MATROX got the night started. There's something about Robo-Gamma (or is that Robo-Beta?)'s bulging froglike eyes that always brings a smile to my face, and as they continue to try and establish communication with Earth's populace (through the media both of saxophone solos and TTC announcements) I sometimes think that maybe it was all for the best that the conquering killbots of the Destructica Overlord Committee sent them to refuge amongst us.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Electro/bedroom pop duo Most People have a sunny vibe that's perfect under summer skies, but even if they were pressed into service at the last moment, they still had some tricks up their sleeve to make them appropriate for winter listening. The clincher in that department was one of the new songs that they closed their set with, its chilly sound reportedly inspired by the opening theme to The Terminator. It may be the best thing that the band has yet done. Sterling work on short notice.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Returning to the night's scheduled programming, the word that Weaves would be performing without drummer Spencer Cole gave some cause for concern, but armed with a drum machine, the band made the most of it, turning in a wholly unique set. Several of the songs were slowed down quite considerably — "Hulahoop" was a lurching zombie skank, for example — but that gave vocalist Jasmyn Burke more space to stretch out her voice. With the quirks and masks she's been employing lately, Burke has made giant steps forward in her stage deportment since her RatTail days, but here she didn't need any props to totally captivate the crowd. The more confined rhythmic structures kept guitarist Morgan Waters a bit more reined-in than he's been lately, but these re-versions were still quite intriguing.

Listen to a track from this set here.

The crowd was now feeling rather packed-in, giving me a slightly claustrophobic, paranoid feeling that wasn't entirely inappropriate to go along with Odonis Odonis. Though we've been hearing some of the songs for quite awhile, the release of the long-awaited Hard Boiled,Soft Boiled is finally upon us, and the trio ripped into the songs in a cold frenzy even though drummer Jarod Gibson explained that every song was going to be a love song (well, there are many kinds of love, I guess). The first thing I had thought upon arriving at Adelaide Hall was that it looks like it's served some time as an underground pit-fighting club, and as the crowd started roiling to OO's tunes, I looked up at the balcony to see if grim dystopian overlords were placing bets on who would be the last audience member standing after some sort of death-disco/deathmatch mêlée. But so far as I know, there were no casualties.

Listen to a song from this set here.

After that, it was as if a switch had flipped somewhere, and suddenly the room was filled with a swaying love-in for DIANA. And, rather than priming the crowd for a new album as Odonis' set had done, this felt much more like a victory lap for the huge success the band had found with last year's Born Again. Like old friends coming back from a trip abroad, the band was sorta just hanging out and sorta showing off a bit — but that just made some little slips (like, oh, a missed bridge that brought a song to a momentary halt) feel like casual laughs. Vocalist Carmen Elle tested the crowd's tolerance for Valentine's Day vibes, and despite a lot of jokingly jeering sentiment against it, she still made the set feel like a big ol' Valentine to Wavelength.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Bonus! Check out some more photos from the festival over at the MFS Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recording: Phèdre

Artist: Phèdre

Songs: Sunday Someday + Ode To The Swinger

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room (Wavelength FOURTEEN – Night 1), February 13, 2014.

Phèdre - Sunday Someday

Phèdre - Ode To The Swinger

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: TOPS

Artist: TOPS

Song: Turn Your Love Around

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room (Wavelength FOURTEEN – Night 1), February 13, 2014.

TOPS - Turn Your Love Around

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Zoo Owl

Artist: Zoo Owl

Song: Nemesis

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room (Wavelength FOURTEEN – Night 1), February 13, 2014.

Zoo Owl - Nemesis

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: Alden Penner

Artist: Alden Penner

Song: Losing My Head

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room (Wavelength FOURTEEN – Night 1), February 13, 2014.

Alden Penner - Losing My Head

You can read my notes for this show here.

Recording: You'll Never Get to Heaven

Artist: You'll Never Get to Heaven

Song: By This River [Brian Eno cover]*

Recorded at The Silver Dollar Room (Wavelength FOURTEEN – Night 1), February 13, 2014.

You'll Never Get to Heaven - By This River

You can read my notes for this show here.

* Thanks to Jonny for identifying this one!