“Blacktop Mistress” by Getaway Van

Blues-tinged throw-back rock from Vancouver’s Getaway Van.

Check out all the riffs, grooves and screams on their self-titled album, ‘Getaway Van’.

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David Alexander’s Magic Dungeon Land – JOYFULTALK @ Kazoo! HQ | Kazoo! Fest 2019 – 04/10/2019 (Guelph, Ontario)

NOTE: This concert review is part of a special review series that is spread across various online Canadian music blogs: Irregular Dreams, Ride The Tempo, and Splendid Industries.

Greetings music lovers! Welcome to my special Kazoo! Fest 2019 concert review series. Kazoo! Fest is a delightful positive accessible music and arts festival that takes place in Guelph, Ontario, in early spring, dedicated to highlighting the best and up-and-coming independent ventures of artists from Guelph, across Canada and beyond. Kazoo! Fest 2019 took place from April 10th to April 14th, in which I was able to attend and volunteer at. I attended at least one of many musical extravaganzas each day, taking sweet shots under my photography alias, Scope Overseer Photogenics. My concert reviews are posted according to day and across various online music blogs that I write for. Links to each day can be found below. Thank you for following along this journey with me!

Day 1 – Wednesday April 10th: David Alexander’s Magic Dungeon Land – JOYFULTALK @ Kazoo! HQ

The opening event of Kazoo! Fest 2019 was a grand spectacle at Kazoo! HQ, coursing with electronic pulses and multi-media integrations! Surrounded by unique indie arcade video games presented by Hand Eye Society and the mighty dispensary unit Trinketron Turbo 2000 presented by UniCorp Industries, the space was literally packed to witness and explore David Alexander’s Magic Dungeon Land, a project of animated 3D video environments with a live synth performance that made their live premiere as part of the annual Look Here micro-grant presented by Ed Video Media Arts Centre and Kazoo! Fest.

David Alexander is the electronic music persona of David Stein. He performed the musical component of the Magic Dungeon Land, with works threaded together from his 2015 album Crossbow, conducting sonic spells across his hardware analog synths to create perpetually wanderlust sequences and exploratory keyboard playing. David was a confident master over his apparatuses throughout the performance, including a large modular synth rig, sparking the skillful allusion of prog keyboardist Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer / The Nice).

David’s mesmerizing and captivating playing was skyrocketed and submerged through the visual component of the Magic Dungeon Land, administered and coordinated by his project partner, Alex Ricci. Inspired by video game worlds, Alex produced otherworldly gothic spacious worlds that the audience experienced through a projected first-person perspective, that presented a loose narrative plot to David’s music. Total immersion was achieved from David and Alex’s entanglement of AV mediums: We navigated through trippy moon-rock canyons, circled suspended cubic mazes, walked along psychedelic mist-covered light paths and experienced kaleidoscopic and geometric visions. The most fascinating aspect of the performance is that audience members had the chance to explore an underground dungeon themselves, taking turns with a wireless game controller to find magic treasures within.

For their debut performance, David Alexander’s Magic Dungeon Land was a flawless execution of integrating and controlling analog electronic music in tandem with digital video game visuals, and there is so much that can be further explored moving forward.

JOYFULTALK from Crousetown, Nova Scotia followed to continue the evening of electronic analog sound creation. Duo Jay Crocker and Shawn Dicey gave a display of experiential electronic trance music played on repurposed junked-analog sound hardware that they handmade themselves. Their performance presented a more audio-focused immersion, allowing the listener to close one’s eye and be channeled through cascades of repetitious rhythmic patterns and pitch sequences. Do not let the word “repetitious” put you off! JOYFULTALK amalgamated fire and ice: they placed prominent focal elements that were the core layers of each piece they played but executed slow shifts in beat and frequency textures across the sonic field. You would have almost missed these subtle well-attuned current changes. JOYFULTALK’s excellent coordination of their unique DIY analog electronic instruments is absolutely worthy of praise, creating distinctive glitching sonic spheres that teeter between mania and charm.

Photos by Nicholas Cooper – Scope Overseer Photogenics

Kazoo! Fest 2019 Concert Reviews:
Day 1 – Wednesday April 10th: David Alexander’s Magic Dungeon Land – JOYFULTALK @Kazoo! HQ (on Irregular Dreams)
Day 2 – Thursday April 11th: Baby Labour – nigel nigel – Motherhood @ eBar (on Ride The Tempo)
Day 3 – Friday April 12th: Kitzl – Property – Luna Li – Blood Monkeys @ eBar (on Splendid Industries)
Day 4 – Saturday April 13th: Bonnie Doon – Lo Siento – Bleu Nuit – Drunk at the Library @ ANAF (on TBD) = To Be Posted

West Coast 5 on the Fly (album reviews): Braintree/Crashing Into Things/redress/Peach Guevara/Jayda G

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan




‘Alive Inside’ by Braintree

(Vancouver)
braintree

Edge with class. That sums up Braintree, a low-key but powerful force from Vancouver.

Lead singer Dan (no last names given) has an affected singing voice, giving the affair a grandiose post-punk feel. However, contrast the vocals with the grunge/punk musical output and you get something quite unique. Despite being creative and somewhat navel-gazing, the band never wanders far from their raw roots. “Sharper Relief”, for example, rolls out almost like a chant, but the guitars get a little dirty and Selina’s drum beat is unpredictable.

The Vancouver slacker/punk sound comes through with the trio of Dan, Mike and Selina, but they masterfully twist it to make it their own.

Prime cut: “Treasures of the Blind”




‘Smaller Than Death’ by Crashing Into Things

(Victoria)
crashing

Lead singer Mike Isacson’s sonorous baritone will have you quaking in your boots, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Victoria’s Crashing Into Things. Featuring some of the capital’s finest musician’s, the EP ‘Smaller Than Death’ is a delight from anyone who likes intelligent garage rock with a psych edge. On “Cosmic Joke”, for example, we are treated to the singer’s ironic take on life while the band goes nuts on guitar and keys, creating a swirling haze of dark psychedelia. Arguably even more impressive is “The World”, with its crazy stops and starts, and Isacson going from singing to virtual street poetry.

Prime cut: “Cosmic Joke”




‘Above All Else’ by redress

(Victoria)
redress

Attempting to categorize redress’s music is futile. The Victoria artist makes musical statements that are simply her own. “Ascension” features a simple, throbbing beat with lyrics that are mostly spoken as a conversation. Elsewhere, there are no lyrics at, such as on “Pale Green”, which goes from burbling arps to techno house beats and back. The music is perhaps most effective when she brings it all together, as on “Shrouded”, with its insistent dance beat, oddball rhythm, and the spoken words, “I know I’ll get/Just what I deserve.”

Prime cut: “Shrouded”




‘Nude’ by Peach Guevara

(Victoria)
nude

As the title suggests, ‘Nude’ is unadorned with nothing hidden. Listening to it is like being invited into Peach Guevara’s living room to hear her play guitar and fiddle with words that just came to her mind. Her delivery is honest and unpolished, pulling you into her world with all its blemishes left lovingly intact. Generally, the mood is mournful (“Message”) but occasionally things get a tad livelier, such as with “Wild Womxn” and its almost rollicking blues/americana strumming.

Raw singer-songwriter material doesn’t come any better. ‘Nude’ is a veritable diamond in the rough.

Prime cut: “Wild Womxn”





‘Significant Changes’ by Jayda G

(Vancouver/Berlin)
jayda g
Jayda G is from Vancouver but currently records in Berlin. Make no mistake, this record is slick but don’t let the cover art fool you. Far from being commercial radio ready, ‘Significant Changes’ uses the platform of modern r&b merely as a jumping-off point. The artistry and experimental creativity is high as Jayda G explores many avenues throughout the course of the album. “Missy Knows What’s Up” may have sampled spoken word but the tune takes wild excursions into beats and rhythms, and “Stanley’s Get Down” is undoubtedly fun, even while things get atmospheric and kinda weird. Tracks like “Unifying the Centre (Abstract)” get quite experimental and out-there, however Jayda G’s sense of musicality keeps it grounded and relatable.

Prime cut: “Unifying the Centre (Abstract)”



Review: “Murder Weather” by The Smile Case

Review by Jackie Stanley

smile cas

Crickets and intimate acoustic guitar ease you into the polarizing sonic world of Ben Andress and company before giving way to way to “Kim Mitchell’s Patio Lanterns.” The radio ready second track covers all the Canadian alt-rock bases: that 80’s Kim Mitchell reference (dude, that song was nominated for a Juno award) and a distinctive vocal style in a singalong-ready ditty with a solid rhythm section. The band’s sturdiness balances and augments Andress’ demented Gordon Gano vocal style and elevates his solo acoustic lamentations to a sonic no man’s land. Weed-induced paranoia saturates the first third of the album, culminating in the refrain, “could you tell a lie? Could you tell I lied? There was a time in my life I would lay awake and wonder if there were hidden cameras in my smoke detectors watching my moves, detecting my lies.”

Like many a jaded, aging pothead musician, though, Andress enters the next phase in life with the acceptance of just how goddamn unimportant he is. Not worth surveilling, perhaps, but The Smile Case has something vital to offer. Its relevance creeps up quickly, shaking you by the shoulders and ensuring you haven’t lost interest on the lovely track “The Going Is Good.” The choice to include a traditionally attractive guest harmony conveys the song’s more subtle emotional intent more gently than Andress’ aggressive lead vocal could have done alone. A smattering of Canadian rock musicians keep the record from feeling too introspective or self-serving – most storytellers’ worst fear.

The record works equally well as background bar rock and a deeply personal encapsulation of a life spent in the dingiest of bars, bolstering the hardest working bands in town with a sneering, Scotchguard-snorting, early-Ween sense of humour. It is like eavesdropping on the band in the next room of your rehearsal space. You get it despite having no clue who these dudes are, or what their backstory is. They’re telling an important part of underground Canadian rock history through their very specific lens. “I take a drag and realize that you’re a drag and I just want to go home”, could have been penned by every bartender, show promoter, touring band, or barstool regular who ever hocked a loogie on a sidewalk at 1:00 am while having their ear talked off by an energy vampire. Five steps from their own door, staring at it like there’s a moat between them, yet glued to the pavement. Committed. Nose to the grindstone. Determined to make it to the end of the night, pay others or get paid, then pass out on the couch upstairs mid-morning, ready to do it all over again. “Pill Sick’s” death metal roar, punk gang vocals and blunt lyrics conjure a post-surgery, unapologetically doped up Terry and Deaner giggling their way into a Shoppers Drug Mart.

The Smile Case has CULT FOLLOWING written all over it, and the album is short and blunt, leaving it impossible to overstay its welcome.

Review: “X marks the Swirl” by Kimmortal

Review by Adam Cantor

kim

In the bubble that I live in, which is filled with underground music, college and community radio, secret shows, and people who make music for love as opposed to money, there is always a balancing act between art and politics. I realize that commercial radio isn’t like this at all. One might say that commercial has neither art nor politics, but I suppose that’s a story for another time.

Anyhow, back to what I was saying. There’s lots of people who have a political agenda and they want to put it to music. The result is often that the music is crap because it is only intended as a vehicle for the message. This isn’t the case with Kimmortal. There are clearly messages and agendas in play. Everything is coming from a very specific angle, but their flow is on point, and the beats are infectious, so this is what makes the message easy to hear.

I’m not saying this like I’m surprised about Kimmortal or anything. I’ve recorded them at CFUV and also split some gigs with them at some venues over the last few years. I already had a positive opinion even before I sat down to type this review. It’s more that I want to point out that it isn’t easy to have a message, and to deliver it in a real way without sounding preachy and heavy-handed.

A lot of people try and fail, because their politics overshadows their art. Even if Kimmortal made an album full of love songs and Versace swag, it would still be worth hearing. This is because they can rap competently with a variety of different flows. The fact that they are trying to say something on top of that is just cake.

There are a lot of different topics covered, but the main thing is the music is making the case that you don’t have to be a certain way, or be on about a particular topic to be a rapper. I met this kid a couple of months ago who was trying to break in as a trap star. He had all these raps he had written about Xanax and getting “cheddar and bitches” and stuff. Except this thing was that he lived with his mother at home, didn’t do drugs, and seemed like he was probably a virgin, as well. He was just writing those words because he thought that those were the subjects that kids would want to hear, and those were the subjects that he thought would get him paid.

I feel like it doesn’t matter what you are in life, as long as you can make it interesting and true. I’d probably listen to a whole album about people riding around on yachts and trading equities, or an album about playing online poker, or macramé classes even …if the songs were bangers. It’s the same as it always had been. It doesn’t matter what the story is, what matter’s is that you are good at telling the story.

If you want to rap about being a non-binary entity who is out to smash the patriarchy, as Kimmortal does, and you are really spitting, people are going to fuck with it. Maybe they will even discover something new in the process. Lead with the art and believers in the message will follow. Honestly, it is refreshing. There has been a bad spell for the last while (especially with mumble rap) of not having fuck all to say. Kimmortal, despite have a different message, is taking it back to the origins by having a message and being lyrical about it. That’s all I have to say about it for now.

Review: “West Arm” by Elura

 

review by Adam Cantor

 

 

 

I spent last weekend on Lasquiti Island, which is an interesting place.  There is no electricity grid there, and there is no plumbing system. The people there drive around in derelict trucks and feel mightily proud of their independence from the vices and troubles of Babylon.  It’s all a bunch of hokum, of course. It takes a vast infrastructure, surrounding such an isolated place, to keep it so free from the taint of civilization. The gas alone needed to ship all the food and parts required for life on Lasquiti leaves a deep carbon footprint in the side of the planet.

 

That said, this grand illusion of living in an environmental utopia, as it is shared by the island’s inhabitants, can be intoxicating.  Since the cities and all their amenities do exist, and since they do surround the island, it would be simple to buy cheap land there and spend the duration of one’s life shitting in a compost toilet, and drunk driving the curves of Lasquiti’s one road, until the seas finally rise and swallow us all.  It could be wonderful.

 

I see this little life on Lasquiti as a microcosm for the way everyone in British Colombia feels and lives; at least along the coast and Islands.  The notion that this is the best place on Earth, and the virtuous culture signalling that goes along with it, is predicated on a certain ignorance about the rest of the planet.  The feeling goes both ways, though. If we are ignorant about them, it is because they regard us in kind.

 

Outside musical influences clearly seep into the music scene here in Victoria (for example), but how these influences manifest themselves in other parts of the country doesn’t move people much.  We put on the sweaters we like without caring what season ago they were on the runways in Paris.

 

An institution like the Junos is irrelevant to Victorian musicians.  The music here, great as it may be, would never be acknowledged by the critics in Toronto.  The music they champion back East, meanwhile, might bump here on the commercial stations, and it might play in dorms and so on, but to the people actually making music; to the underground scene, there aren’t any shits given for whatever is hot in the rest of the country.

 

Such a phenomenon gives art here its particular vibe.  I knew right away that Elura was talking about our thing the moment the first track began with the waves and the gulls sounding, then, after that, the wet vocals and distant guitar rocking us into a lullaby.  This album is all about the celebration of our mythology of place. I don’t think it is this as a contentious political statement, but I do think it is indicative of the way that people feel here about living here.

 

Just to be clear, I don’t mean this as an insult.  Every place on earth, and all the people living in that place, use certain mythological tropes about who they are to produce the culture that is unique to their space and time.  I’m calling out the mythology of where I live, but I’m also recognizing that living inside such a mythology creates great art. A certain balance between obviously imaginary Ur-myths about who we are and why, and the reality of who we actually are, forms the compelling tension in the work.  I lived in Montreal for quite a long time and, believe me, the myths that people believe about themselves there are complete horseshit…but the music that comes from that is spectacular.

 

‘West Arm’ is laid back and soothing.  It embodies the mildness of the coast, and life here on the island where the sun shines through most of the year.  Even the most aggressive track, “Mourning Sun”, comes in with grinding guitars and horns set back by a comforting blanket of reverb.  The vocal harmonies and musical influences blend into each other with softened edges. I’ve played this album through a few times and enjoyed it more every time.  I don’t think you should take my philosophizing about why music is created as an expression of culture and place too seriously. You can listen to it anywhere and enjoy it.  I just think it is a very Victoria, BC, sort of vibe.

 

 

Review: “Juice Girls” by Juice Girls

Review by Adam Cantor

juice girls

Juice Girls is an apt name for this band. Their songs are full of sweet hooks, almost always the the vocals doubled up. Everything is set back with a warm, hallway like reverb. During the first couple of songs I felt somewhat poetically transported back to things like being at school dances, in the passages outside the gymnasium, listening to the music echoing from afar. The voices are there, but they are also not quite there. The hardness around the words and their meaning is softened so that it is not so much about content as it is about feeling.

A lot of different sorts of pop innocence are conjured up here. Many of the songs evoke girlish pop of the late fifties and early sixties. The thickness of the sound sometimes reminding me a little of Phil Spector in the innocent days, before he started running with pistols and growing his hair out like one of those sheep you read about in the new now and then that has been evading the shears and hiding out in the highlands.

Other songs have more of an edge. “Ghoul Gal”, which I liked a lot, comes in a bit heavier on the synth. “Milk Me Tall” starts with a crunchy bit of guitar chord. We drift from Phil Spector into the Ramones, or Shonen Knife, or something. I don’t want to just spend the review comparing shit to other shit. On the one hand, yes it is good to place things into their music context, on the other hand it’s good to see things as their own entities. A new plant is a new plant, regardless of whatever old plant you grew its clippings from.

“When she comes” has a fun bit of harmonica in it. It reminded me of listening to harmonica in the Montreal subway—those mournful blown notes bouncing this way and that along the warren like complex of tiled walls before reaching my ears. “Castor Soap” was charming, too. It was a mix of the aforementioned sugar pop sound mixed with a bit of the beguiling samba opening of “Girl from Ipanima. I don’t know if that was deliberate or not, but it is there. My review in short is: this is a delight of an album, and it will be great on your summer playlist!