The Rummage

Tag: Canada

. issue XXIV : v .

. artist : galerie stratique .
. album : point d’orgue .
. year : 2006 .
. label : no type .
. grade : a plus .

Stratique

Galerie Stratique’s PR calls them “awkward” — and truth is stranger than fiction. This wonky, egregious album draws on all those teeter-tot-toddler memories of music boxes, serial themes and ice cream trucks. In chipper bright bleeps it screams lite brite and silly putty. But don’t hold back; it’s not below you; their PR also claims, slyly, that “repeated listening reveals not only some nuances and subtleties, but the possibility of a serious dependency.” I couldn’t agree more, and you can too — the record is free to download on No Type. Point d’Orgue, which means “climax” or “pause” in French — two concepts interestingly conflated — is one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever heard. It makes its emotions bigger, as one speaking to a child, and so it is that we have utterly out-of-proportion five-minute-mysteries-organ and the mincing music of spooky television funk. Though it’s a teeny blip of an EP, at 19-and-a-half minutes, Point d’Orgue cuts right to the kitsch, and more incisively than anything I’ve ever heard.

by Brittany Tracy

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. issue XXIV : iv .

. artist : camp .
. album : doubts .
. year : 2008 .
. label : no type .
. grade : b plus.

Doubts

The expansive, colorful whimsy of eclectic mastermind David Turgeon is evident on his second effort under the moniker Camp. It’s a pop-and-crackle breakbeat course of moguls of haptic sound that project and retract. There’s no slope here, just the straight lines of midi channels.

“Bom Bom” gets off to a strong start, bouncy braille stamping the listener’s auditory cortex with uniquely spatial beats perfect for headphones — crisp and crystal clear. Then the busier “Benchmarks,” with its electro current and door squeak and shellac speedbump samples, shows what Camp can do. “City Life” drags a curl of atmospherics in the wake of a clave and high-hat beat, with bisyllabic androgenous vocals repeat, cocktail stirrers and Salvation Army bells.

“Living in Sleep” is not as evocative as it is fun; well-played ethereal vocals fluctuate in time to each amended channel’s various rhythms, as though they’re melded to the sounds. It’s a great idea and it plays well in the whole process of dance music — like addendums, like knitting for beats — and here we have it between one sample and most every subsequent beat, just as identity is subject to and responsive within a dream. If the vocalist is doing any “Living in Sleep,” it’s too-pleasant, the sonic equivalent of shopping for potpourri and loofas. But the vocals aren’t the only dynamic sound — the spine of the piece is a motile swish paired with a snap-shut home-run-delivering-clack. It’s Doubt’s most texturally-nebulous track, and refreshing in its utter guilelessness.

“Flip Flop” quite explains Camp’s entire m.o., but now that we’ve seen the extent of Turgeon’s vision and skill, the song doesn’t begin to live up to its name until a tantalizing evolution one-third of the way through, convolving into something horrid from the 80’s, a synthy shallow glissando against an autistic piano solo of chopstick monotony, transmitter short-outs, bombastic electro-bongo stimulation, in short, a challenge to the listener’s comfort. But the sheer eclecticism of “Flip Flop,” and the fact that it’s so obviously posed as a ridiculous encounter on the listener’s obstacle course, makes welcome these absurd few minutes in this wonderfully inclusive, warm album you had begun to feel entitled to. Also, a mirrorball melodic line arrives to make the pieces mesh and save the day.

“Long Story Short,” besides having a great title that captures the colloquial charm of Camp, is a piece most typical for the genre but atypical for Camp, and so, after this journey, manages to feel completely novel. It’s more spacious and clappy, with a barely-there diminutive beep of a heart monitor or a 90’s wristwatch timer and a stutter — like insect’s wings in your face — that almost oblige you to a heart monitor. It’s a terrifically efficacious effect, causing the listener to reflexively pull back from the ‘insect’ of familiar association. If we needed proof that Camp’s stimuli were spot-on…. Drumkit blocks and a teeny splash cymbal tolls the listener out over beeps and fanning, panning stop-motion textures.

Oxymoronically, Doubt is an utterly redoubtable offering, both a challenge gentle in its listenability and obstreperous in its restless, refreshing squarewave trot. And there’s cowbell.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XIX : vii .

. artist : the souljazz orchestra .
. album : solidarity .
. year : 2012 .
. label : strut .
. grade : a plus .

Souljazz

Now in their tenth year together, Ottawa’s Souljazz Orchestra’s fifth full-length cements them as one of the finest Afro-Latin-Caribbean ensembles anywhere in the world. Their Rising Sun album was one of my favorites of 2010 – believe it or not, this one is even better. Souljazz’s earliest recordings emphasized their take on Afrobeat; since then, the band’s musical horizons have continuously expanded. On this album, not only do you get Afrobeat (“Bibinay” and “Serve & Protect”) – there’s roots reggae (“Jericho,” “Kingpin”), a Latin salsa-funk hybrid in the manner of Grupo Fantasma (“Ya Basta”), a swinging Carlinhos Brown-influenced Brazilian track (“Cartão Postal”), a fabulous Budos Band soundalike (“Conquering Lion”), and even some French Caribbean biguine (“Tanbou Lou”). Capping it all off are two covers of Senegal’s remarkable Orchestra Baobab: their salsa Senegalaise classic “Nijaay” and “Keten Ati Leen,” a unique Baobab take on Afro-funk that’s one of the most remarkable songs in that legendary band’s catalog. The vintage instruments and low-fi, pleasantly overdriven recording are an homage to the 1970’s, but make no mistake – this band is anchored in the present and is making some of 2012’s very finest music.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XIX : vi .

. artist : roberto lopez afro-colombian jazz orchestra .
. album : azul .
. year : 2012 .
. label : curura musique .
. grade : a .

Roberto Lopez

Crate-diggers like Will (Quantic) Holland (The Original Sound Of Cumbia) have introduced today’s listeners to porro, the glorious Colombian big-band cumbia sound of the 1940’s and beyond. Here’s a band that’s both inspired by that era and yet utterly contemporary. Colombian native Roberto Lopez leads this Montreal-based octet from the guitarists’ chair. They take on three compositions by the most famous porro bandleader, Lucho Bermudez (“Fiesta de Negritos” is my favorite of the three) along with two other covers and five Lopez originals. Each track here is a delight – the band locks into and swings the Colombian rhythms (try “En mi Corazón” and “San Pelayo,” Lopez’ porro and champeta originals), the arrangements are unique and really showcase the whole ensemble (“El Pescador” is a midtempo modern-jazz take on cumbia, “Tres Clarinetes” gives fandango an almost Dixieland/second-line feel), and the soloing is pithy and melodic throughout. This combo hearkens back to an era when jazz bands (in Colombia, America or wherever) played for dancers and listeners at the same time. You can file this one under jazz or world music, but just don’t miss it – it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XIX : iv .

. artist : ilkae .
. album : incidental guilt jazz .
. year : 2007 .
. label : eerik inpuj .
. grade : a .

Ilkae

Incidental Guilt Jazz presents seven-years’ worth of “orphaned tracks and strays released” by experimental electronic duo Ilkae, and it’s an adroit, even spiffy masterpiece of diverse stylings. It effervesces skittering squeegee beats, turntable levity, tape grumbles, many-stranded symphonic baths, lilting melodic sways, chiptune-metal fusion, lancing static, discordant wine glass plunks, card dealer beats splayed out fast and shallow, hackneyed soundtracks, bells and gongs, and electronic stutters that break to skid.

“Appelsap Packing Slip” has lasers and lightning in a shootout of gulping beats, a warbly, vacillating melody line, and fun little scratches that add texture. It’s the perfect introduction to this masterpiece of quirkiness.

“Machinedrum Tapejam” is a skanky kind of mess, dropping an assertive 90’s beat that sounds like an overactive music box, subverting to a spindly bridge, then rounding out again from a drawn out rolling pin through the dough of the song. It’s spacy and cybernetic, a sort of circuit board hip that becomes personalized with a “yo” sample: flavorful in a chill traipsing melody of bouncy beats. The tape seems to drip to titrated death at the end.

“Flaurent” is more discrete, bleepier, and melancholic, creating an interesting tension between morose and optimistic at once. There’s a tension, but the song might be too slow to make it productive.

“Pilve” is all tweets and beeps (beeps that sound like someone actually saying “beep”), the crunch of a single line of static thudding the ground, and a daffy duck beat from side-of-mouth.

“Intimidate Intimate Inmate” is both funny and sinister; my favorite part is that the ‘id’ is dropped first. Indeed it does sound like a late-80’s chip soundtrack to Prison Dilemma The Game, which is equal parts terrible and precocious.

“Brown (Lofi)” is a computer swank coffee shop hang out, conversant bleeps surrounded by streams of steaming vapor and a warm divan ambience.

“Equate With Oxen (Slow)” is a bouncy, twinkly, funky combination of all sorts of moods; it’s also not particularly slow, har. Both idealized and sentimental, “Oxen” deploys lifelike elements (synth runs) against cold mechanisms (a sharp and buzzing beat, scintillating impacts).

“Elve_” begins with symphonic washes of many timbres, both ambient and ostentatious (as with the trill at the one-minute mark). Incidental Guilt Jazz begins to feel like incidental music here, finally. After the sheer rambunctiousness of everything that’s come before, it’s a relief. Pattery sounds, a Carl Sagan’s Cosmos shimmer and ocarina become sound track tacky — hurrah!

“Pro Lease Crease” is not kidding. It begins concretely with a tape unraveling; then “go,” “go,” “go” samples lead to a staggering sway against A Tribe Called Quest-esque beats: lots of light, agile, sharp stutters. A bumbling pseudo melody dawdles throughout the elegant drum break. Characterized by slick, big statements and lithe turntabalism, both Ilkae’s small and big movements shine.

“Piano Curse (By Proswell)” is a sly spiral staircase after a party gone awry: with a twizzled harpsichord, fanned out feedback, and wine glass cries (spoons, breaths) over a crushing shuffle beat. “Piano” turns abruptly into a fusion wormhole journey of late-70’s phew, great drum kit moments locking the piece down for its infestation with static.

“100600” evokes fountains at night, glass and marble in an open courtyard cloister. Combining the precious resonance of bells (all shapes and sizes) with creepy chittering of the night, this piece obliquely manages delicate but glacial psychological siftings.

“Farine Five Roses” is the only piece on Incidental that is ‘ambient-as-usual,’ but it’s refreshing after the creative onslaught. The listener’s experience concludes in a baptismal space, a verdant valley mere stretches from the sky where timpani underneath elevate the plateau, and underwater, in cauldron lakes, mermaids call.

Incidental Guilt Jazz is an excellently personable and creatively profound experience so meticulous that I can’t imagine anything less incidental. It’s a remarkable showing of quodlibet — and these are just the orphans! I don’t know yet if Ilkae form more consistent statements in a monolithic full-length, but it might be hard to top Incidental for coherency. Though the collection is dispersed across genres both within- and between-songs, but the personality behind them remains exuberant in that whiz-kid way, and there’s no truer expression of total rapport between creator and listener. Highly recommended.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XVIII : i .

. artist : timber timbre .
. album : creep on creepin’ on .
. year : 2011 .
. label : arts & crafts .
. grade : a .

CreepOn

Have you ever wondered what kind of music Elvis would play if his corpse appeared in some kind of loose nightmare café where everyone lounged around naked, drinking tea, possibly dead? The folks in Timber Timbre nailed whatever you’d call this genre when they put Creep On Creepin’ On together. ‘Nightmare Doo-Wop’ or ‘Horror Lounge’ would not be unfitting names, nor would ‘Funeral Waltz,’ or maybe, ‘Lurker Jazz.’ The combination of low, haunting music and tortured, surreal lyrical themes allude to something shrouded and sinister, like some drifter sitting alone under the fool moon, throwing rocks into a lake at three in the morning, smiling in the dark. As you might guess by the title, the album’s overall effect one of the creeps, but it’s also undeniably beautiful, tragic and sexy. Halfway through the title track, you’ll be surprised to find yourself thinking, “Maybe that freak by the lake has the right idea.” And he does. The album keeps getting better from there.

If you were put off by the band’s earlier folky, droning sound, you can rest assured that this album is a departure of an entirely new direction, a different beast altogether from their earlier work. If not for lead singer Taylor Kirk’s distinctive throaty croon, one might not be able to make a connection at all. If you’re a big fan of their previous stuff, you might be thrown off a little by the polish on this one (the polish of bones, I tell you!), but you’ll probably dig the disharmonic transition tracks, which are the kind of thing you might imagine Edgar Allen Poe listening to at night while he attempted to fall asleep, if only it weren’t for “those voices, by God, those accursed voices, which vex me to within an inch of my sanity each night for I know not how long!”

I personally have been waiting for this album for years without realizing it, something that says “Strange is Beautiful” in the saucy coo of Bing Crosby. All you musicians out there — check this album out and get on the Lurker Jazz scene!

by Dave Rockman

. issue XVII : viii .

. artist : godspeed you! black emperor .
. album : allelujah! don’t bend! ascend! .
. year : 2012 .
. label : constellation .
. grade : a minus .

GYBE

Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s first studio album in ten years. Its pieces were honed as live repertoire, and indeed the real-time explorative sense — of lulling, consummate transportation and transcendence — endures in these sublime recordings. With warm, poundingly resolute semantics (strings plucked and bowed, glorious waves of feedback, agitated percussion) its emotional presentation is rich, intimate, tender and nostalgic. Although Allelujah’s tone can veer to vigilance, disquietude and urgency, Allelujah is indeed a work of uplifting ascension. Most notably, it perfectly captures, if a studio recording can, the vital core of Godspeed’s work: their A/V approach to the synchresis of peak experience, of nostalgia, of compassion, of unrest. Case in point: the forthright finesse of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! in submerging and occupying the listener internally, then overflowing like a mandorla of the human condition, widening the mind for 20 minutes at a time. Godspeed You! through this fresh and elemental construction of strength and humility.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue XV : vii .

. artist : cellos .
. album : bomb shelter .
. year : 2012 .
. label : dead beat .
. grade : b .

Cellos

Cellos’ Bomb Shelter cover depicts a living room bomb shelter den from ‘mid-century,’ replete with coffee table, a loveseat of tawdry puce, chair-railed offwhite walls, a vintage telly bearing the shame of innocuous graffiti, and an adult beagle reposing on a yellowing WWII-era wool shag rug. Bomb Shelter is, like its use of this photograph, a derisive time warp, a scrapbook of the timbres and various incarnations of noise and post-hardcore. The small (David Allan, d; Kyle Marchand, vox and g; Joe Rabie, b-g) but heavy-hitting Cellos draw with extreme eloquence on the musical bedrock of ‘85 to ‘95: The Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Nation of Ulysses, Big Black, and Jawbox.

Bomb Shelter’s lyrical versatility is underwhelming, but their accrued musical leverage is so extraordinary that it might not matter. Production and mastering, by Brett Humber of Sound Foundry Studios, render the vox treatment superficial (anyway) in order to place focus on the tonal construction of each song’s core. Though typically bass- and drum- heavy, these recordings also capture a not-so-rosy pinched-cheek-pink midtone from the guitar. However, that’s as much as can be said on a general basis, as Cellos’ songs address disparate visions of the post-hardcore aesthetic, from the buck-and-roll swagger of Jesus Lizard, to the wilted, post-punk planarity of Mission of Burma, to the articulate dissonance of Iceburn. Their intemperate naming choices certainly recall Jesus Lizard, Big Black or Jawbox. With “Sea Legs,” a rude innuendo, think “Low Rider,” “South Mouth,” “Ballast” or “Bloody Mary.” For the not-self-effacing-I-know-you-know “Hit Song,” think “Pop Song” and “Big Money.” And for the cultural affront and concerned repulsion of “Bomb Shelter,” think “L Dopa,” “Bullet Park,” and “Wheelchair Epidemic.”

“Sea Legs” lurches in a slinky pace where bass-then-guitar fills contribute mid-intro to an oblique, awkward sound, post-Jawbox but pre-alternative proper. “Legs” does pull nice lyrical tricks, though the scenario must have come after the apt song title: “Hey pretty, we got a lot of water coming / He got enough, he got enough [of] looking(,) pretty.” This terrific opener ropes the listener in with its frenzied pace, mathy frills, and piquant bridge, even pulling a David Yow ending. Marchland is still screaming when the lights shut off: “Man over blood!”

“Mailroom Blues” sounds like Fugazi and has a distasteful proletariat sensibility (see Big Black’s “Kerosene”): “Well, I’m rad at rat race today! / What about you? / I should cop out, there’s not much that I can do.” Otherwise, a Mac McNeilly drum break is minimal but dire, and antiphonal strategies also benefit “Blues,” as with “Wake! Work!” and “I gotta get out! Wake! / I gotta get out! Work!”

“The Greys” is an off-color song about zombies with, indeed, a forthright punky aura that’s a stunning exception to Cello’s Jesus Lizard-esque decadence. As with the production on Hephaestus, metal quality paramount, and a clean approach to rankling, dissonant percussion blocks at “Greys”’ inception feels similarly pristine and askew. A fierce, full-bodied guitar solo with a surfy tinge contrasts with the otherwise grim horror-punky fatalism. Marchland nicely dotes on a word itself for a repeated action, eventually spewing out his frustration: “they kept on coming around around around A-ROUND!” There’s also a belted scream, a la Yow’s terrific performance in “Monkey Trick,” and thought-provokingly avoidant lyricism: “Now you got suspicion, your favorite sound / A little suspicious, your favorite sound.”

“Toronto” is encumbered with too-much slide guitar melodies which ends up being painfully, productively dissonant. A really classic — nearly Sabbathesque — guitar solo stuns the listener with the purity of its high notes, but otherwise, the song’s tone is reminiscent of Big Black’s “Bad Penny,” and, lyrically, “Toronto” makes Albini-style prompts through the end (“What wires? / Big city? / It’s now/ Black hole”) and also includes reprisals and screams (“Black Hole!”), dragging the motif along until the bitter end: “It’s a big city, a black hole!” (again, see the final straw of “Bad Penny”: “Slap my hand”).

“Mass Production Scheme” lifts the drum introduction from The Jesus Lizard’s “Then Comes Dudley” but changes the levels — even more than Yow, whose growling salivation can get lost in the strata of wheeling guitar, Marchland sounds like he’s singing from a compressor in a pinhole at the bottom of a pit, and this yields a unique contrast with the bombastic tonal depth of the drums. The chord progression that builds to the close of the pre-chorus is brilliantly upbeat. Sneakily, the bridge should be the sort that builds to a duel-of-the-antennae racket, but instead it’s played smooth — only dissolving to noise just after the listener thinks they were fooled. “Scheme” seems to be about an industrious (har) serial killer: “Well I pick it up every night / Sweet teen maladies for the masses / No danger, no home.” If that’s the case, how sick that Marchland adds, “I’m so glad / I’m so glad we made it / WE MADE IT!!!” (… which is, by the way, a very Jesus Lizard-esque lyrical evolution!). Cellos also involve ambiguous context with, “Hats off for a mass production scheme,” (which seems to refer to a gleeful lineup both) and, “Wait when I’m away,” which makes Marchland’s character either think women are pining to be confronted by their killer … or that he’s, in this “Mass Production Scheme,” the foreman. Narrowly compressed vox toward the end recall Big Black, and so does the reprise: “Hats off for a mass production scheme.“

The wryly-named “Hit Song” is the noisiest, with vitriolic static spittle, rashing guitars, and a typhoon of blustery feedback cavorting and caterwauling, more like Drive Like Jehu than anything else. The production manages to be spotless in all this noise, giving the disorienting impression that such raw sound is crystalline. Intriguingly, Marchland’s cries are superimposed with a dub-esque intrusion: “I thought it mattered / I thought of you but I was wrong” — what an interesting choice! Then the dissociation and fragmentation lands all out with a Daydream Nation-esque squealing squall.

“Bomb Shelter,” the standout, has the energy of Iceburn and the sly beauty of A Minor Forest. It’s creeping and elegant, crunchy metal paired with math rock, and, as the title track, is lyrically essential as well. Marchland’s speaking for a woman, saying, “That’s a man with us / He’s got us right in the crosshairs / We’re not safe from anyone.” “Shelter” becomes protective, indeed, and very spacious as extended by mood-shifting guitar fills (see Big Black’s “He’s A Whore” and A Minor Forest’s “Wussy” for the total capacity to manifest a changed, charged tone). These fills are interrupted by the mixed-message alarms in haunting falsetto, “Don’t stay / Run away” and “Get away / Come down.” “Shelter” has the most deeply-rooted cynicism of any song here, and maturely creates a sense of prolonged annexation, hideaway unexposed thanks to the fills and the slow (un?)alarmist sounding out of the falsetto. The closing evolution seems to involve a man returning to the “Shelter,” and drums evoke the pounding on doors. Enticingly, he cries, “Where / Get away / Come back,” and, “And when, when there’s more!” “Shelter” explores apparent protection and the ways in which it may or may not be valid, here presenting a scenario where women are (or find themselves to be?_ self-aware and self-concerned resources for the locking-down … rations (to whom?). “Shelter” ends with the man asking, senselessly, “Where / Where’s more / Where / Where’s more.”

Bomb Shelter is an acrid channel for the rude impetuosity of post-hardcore’s heritage — and even better, it seems to posit a post-post-hardcore. Cellos are instantly refreshing in that they’ve looked back so intently that they’re looking forward, and Bomb Shelter is an exceptional and immensely enjoyable rehash for anyone who enjoys the genre. What’s more, it’s an experiment in jaggedly patching together the many guises of noise. Highly recommended!

by Brittany Tracy