Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recording: Kathryn Calder

Artist: Kathryn Calder

Songs: If You Only Knew + Turn a Light On

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), June 8, 2011.

Kathryn Calder - If You Only Knew

Kathryn Calder - Turn a Light On

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Kathryn Calder

Kathryn Calder

The Tranzac Club (Southern Cross Lounge). Friday, June 10, 2011.

Though I had seen Kathryn Calder play with her "other" bands (the now-defunct Immaculate Machine, New Pornographers), it took rather a long time after the release of her solo effort Are You My Mother? for her to play Toronto on her own account. And when that first solo show came, it was mildly surprising that it was in the rather unassuming and cosy environs of the Tranzac's front room. It made a sort of sense, however, as that casual, homey space is not unlike the feel of her first album.

Speaking of casual, the clothes hangers in the bathroom I'd observed a few days before were still in place, which was comforting to me somehow. Most of the other patrons definitely didn't look like the "Tranzac crowd", showing signs they weren't entirely sure how the place worked, all the more so given that the show was, in true Southern Cross fashion, PWYC.

The band — a fairly unfussy trio (bass/drums/guit) behind Calder on guit and keyb — was running off "about seven hours of sleep in the past two days" in the midst of a concentrated fly-in visit to Ontario, having run to Ottawa and back the night before. The state of the hockey game, with their hometown Canucks in game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, seemed more top-of-mind than the show for some of the band, busily anticipating the victory celebrations that seemed imminent. The word "riot" hadn't crossed anyone's mind yet.

Basically plugging in and going (no soundcheck here), the set started with album closer "All It Is" and "Down the River", which features a la-la-la-la chorus that wouldn't have sounded out of place in, say, a New Pornographers song. Given that the band had been promoting the album for awhile, it was no surprise that there were some interesting tweaks of the album versions, such as a straight-up rockin' take of "A Day Long Past its Prime" and an upbeat campfire version of "If You Only Knew", with acoustic guitar and shaker and tambourine. On the quieter side, there was also a very beautiful version of "So Easily".

"Turn a Light On" would be the first of three new songs that would later make their way on to Calder's sophomore Bright and Vivid album. The versions here were, unsurprisingly, mostly free of the extra textures that would came more to the fore on that release. The band were still a little shaky in delivering "City of Sounds" and on "One Two Three", there was still an unsettled sense of how to start it, with Calder almost calling it off. But with a very Destroyer-esque sustain-y guitar line, it was a very intriguing look ahead to new sonic possibilities.

The set closed with a rocked-up "Castor and Pollux", with Evan Tyler recreating his robotic dancing from the song's heartwarming video, almost knocking over a mic stand and chair in the process. That felt like just the right way to finish a wonderfully casual night. A superior show to have been able to take in.

I have already posted one song from this show here, and now you can check out a stripped-down reinvention and an embryonic preview here.

Do also please excuse the quality of the photos here. For some unfathomable reason, I had forgotten my camera at home, and these were the best my phone could muster.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Recording: Marker Starling

Artist: Marker Starling

Song: Sweet Bird [Joni Mitchell cover]

Recorded at Cecil Street Community Centre (Sheroes: Virtual Season Art and Music Festival), July 29, 2012.

Marker Starling - Sweet Bird

Full review to follow. As the artist formerly known as Mantler begins to transition to a new nom de guerre, he started off the evening segment of Sheroes' day-long celebration with an all-covers set honouring some members of the "League of Legendary Ladies".

Recording: The BB Guns

Artist: The BB Guns

Song: Creep

Recorded at The Garrison - Front Room (Swap + Rock Fundraiser for Girls Rock Camp), July 29, 2012.

The BB Guns - Creep

Full review to follow. A pleasant afternoon of rock'n'role models playing to raise funds for Girls Rock Camp. There was also a clothing swap meet running in the back room, but I was sticking up front where the music and tacos were. Meanwhile, through just general bad timing, I'd not yet seen The BB Guns, and now I feel like I'll have to make up for lost time — their girl-group garage rock is just the sort of thing I dig

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Recording: Calvin Johnson

Artist: Calvin Johnson

Songs: Somebody's Phone is Ringing + Love Will Come Back Again

Recorded at Soybomb HQ, July 28, 2012.

Calvin Johnson - Somebody's Phone is Ringing

Calvin Johnson - Love Will Come Back Again

Full review to follow. Given the billing, I was expecting that Johnson would be presenting some of the material from his brand-new Hive Dwellers album in a solo setting. What I wasn't expecting was that the show was going to be completely unplugged, with no mic or amplification of any kind — there were even a couple songs performed a capella. I did what I could to capture the set with the gear on hand — at any rate, it's hard to imagine something more intimate than this. A fairly wonderful experience.

Recording: Katie and the Lichen

Artist: Katie and the Lichen

Song: Misbehaving

Recorded at Soybomb HQ, July 28, 2012.

Katie and the Lichen - Misbehaving

Full review to follow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recording: DAS RAD

Artist: DAS RAD

Song: The Seed*

Recorded upstairs at The Monarch Tavern (Wavelength 547), July 27, 2012.

DAS RAD - The Seed

Full review to follow. This was my second time seeing DAS RAD, and I can confirm that they're on to something exciting — tuneful enough to nod your head to, but also like a bit of a cattle prod zapping at docility. Check 'em out and feel the jolt!

* This is what I could figure from a look at the band's setlist, but I could stand to be corrected here.

Recording: This Mess

Artist: This Mess

Song: No Sleep

Recorded upstairs at The Monarch Tavern (Wavelength 547), July 27, 2012.

This Mess - No Sleep

Full review to follow. A fine evening for a louder sort of Wavelength upstairs in the cozy and neighbourly Monarch. Many props to the busily-multitasking Adham Ghanem, whose fingerprints were all over this show, and who could be seen keeping things running on time and doing sound on top of drumming with This Mess and handing out flyers for their next gig (catch 'em next Saturday, August 18th at Polyhaus). This is what DIY is.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Recording: Khôra

Artist: Khôra

Song: unknown [edit]*

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), June 8, 2011.

Khôra - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Or if it's an improvisation? Please leave a comment!

Recording: Silent Land Time Machine

Artist: Silent Land Time Machine

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), June 8, 2011.

Silent Land Time Machine - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

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

Recording: I Have Eaten the City

Artist: I Have Eaten the City

Song: [excerpt from an improvisation]

Recorded at The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge), June 8, 2011.

I Have Eaten the City - [excerpt]

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Nick Kuepfer

Nick Kuepfer (I Have Eaten The City / Silent Land Time Machine / Khôra)

The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge). Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

Nick Kuepfer must have angered the weather gods. The previous time he was due in town, a massive snowstorm made passage down the 401 from Montréal impossible. And out of nowhere, this day brought a sudden, violent thunderstorm in the hours before the show. As I left work to head down for this gig, lightning was flickering across a sky that looked like a fluorescent tube on its last legs.

Though I was wondering if that was going to affect the gig, once I made it down, the Tranzac felt like more like its usual sanctuary of genteel chaos. In the bathroom, a couple empty coathangers dangled from the outside wall of the toilet stall, as if some a folkie or castmember in a community theatre troupe had made a quick-change getaway from the venue. And back in the Southern Cross, cello player Nick Storring was fighting against some computer problems as his bandmates were ready to start playing.

I Have Eaten The City had not played as a trio for a while, but they still had an easy familiarity. Part of that would arise from the double set of inter-relationships between the players: Colin Fisher (guit) and Brandon Valdivia (percussion) play together often as Not the Wind, Not the Flag (and in a whole host of other projects); Valdivia and Storring are both members of Picastro. So it's not impossible to think that gear trouble, and the sense of fighting against it, are just another parameter to improvise within.

Once things got going, against a backdrop of some knob-twiddling guitar effects, Storring slowly worked up to some creaky pulls with his bow across the cello's strings, a loose rhythm from Valdivia behind them slowly rising, inspiring some reverse loop work on the guitar. Then, as Fisher changed to some different textures, Storring switched to a miniature sampling keyboard, adding some sub-syllabic aaaaahs. A few minutes later, he'd add some more substantial wordless vocals.

Meanwhile, Valdivia added some flute before he and Fisher traded spots. As Fisher took over the rhythm, Valdivia played mbira, fed into Fisher's pedal train. This would be a familiar dynamic from their Not the Wind sets, and here, Storring watched for a couple minutes before catching onto Valdivia's repeating pattern and playing a theme on his cello to accompany it, a satisfying moment that gave it a different cast than the usual duo resolution. After that, the set ended with Fisher grabbing some shakers and making his way to the back of the room.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

There were also some sound problems to start things off for Silent Land Time Machine, the bandonym of an unnamed protagonist from Houston, who was on this occasion playing solo, with a violin, loop pedal and a table of electronics. This was the first night of a tour with Khôra and Nick Kuepfer, and clearly all the road-kinks weren't worked out yet, especially regarding how to interface with the Tranzac's sound system. As he started, he was basically playing through one channel only, a buzzing hum the only noise in the other speaker. That undercut the impact of his elegiac looped strings which incorporated some keening wordless vocals toward the end. Under better circumstances, it would have been quite lovely; here the audience had to extrapolate a bit to guess at what was intended.

A pause for some technical adjustments after that got the house system in better shape, but it still looked like not everything was coming out as intended. The second number was a bit busier, with a squelchy percussion track and guitar over top, adding a nimble trebly loop and then more vocalisations. That segued (and the well-handled segues might have been the best thing in the set) into the next phase — there were three further pieces, I think, in a continuous twelve-minute stretch, the first of which was mildly glitchy before returning to a more meditative piece with guitar to finish.

The artist seemed a little frustrated, and cut the set short after that. But there was enough to intrigue here, and I would see him again, ideally when technology was firing on all cylinders. But really, as is often the case with unfamiliar, improvised music, whatever shortcomings there were was probably far more apparent to the artist than an audience with no preconceived notion of how the music is "supposed" to sound.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

Making up for that Musique Fragile-launching gig1 he'd missed, Nick Kuepfer played a surprisingly short set, starting out with unadorned guitar. After that short clearing-the-throat sort of piece, the next selection started with just guitar as well, but now it was a bit more haunting and atonal, with detuned plucks offsetting intricate runs before some subtle live looping came via a reel-to-reel tape machine.

The soundtrack-y feel was enhanced in the next piece with some wordless vocals — it sounded like something from an abstracted avant-Western, giving images of someone going crazy while walking down a dusty street under a scorching sun. Meanwhile, closer "A River" was the most intriguingly eerie, a haunting journey produced on a strange instrument: a wooden box with some bass strings across the top, which Kuepfer proceeded to bow, with loops adding eerie background layers. Subsequent investigation would imply the the box was a customized spring reverb unit, and it generated a quite amazing tone. That all satisfied, even if the barely-past twenty minutes set length left a thirst for more.2

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

The night was closed out by Matthew Ramolo, who records under the bandonym Khôra. I've been fascinated by (and more expansive in describing) his sounds on seeing him before. This time out, with the hour growing late, Ramolo also played a slightly-shorter set than usual, compressing things a bit to under twenty minutes. But that's not to imply that he was suddenly trafficking in quickness of any variety — the set was basically two large cresting waves, each about ten minutes long.

The first started with his guitar treated with a screwdriver, the nibbles ascending for a few minutes before layers and layers of loops — some of guitar, some of Ramolo's analog synth — built up the drifting sound until there were several lines playing off each other. The second crest came a little closer to, say, "rocking out" than Ramolo usually engages in, using small hammers (possibly from a piano?) to strike the strings. Ramolo's stuff usually employs duration as one element in inducing a sort of focused semi-trance state, so there is a bit of a loss when things move along too quickly to really pull you in. Still, a good capper to the evening.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.


1 This triple-album set from Constellation has some highly interesting stuff. I would note that Volume 02 is also now available, although sadly there's no CD issue for this one.

2 Oh, and speaking of intriguing sonic exlorations, you should check out this crowdsourced funding proposal from Kuepfer, wherein as part of a scientific Arctic exploration trip, he proposes "... to work with the sounds of the environment at various locations, including sounds of underwater with the use of a hydrophone microphone. These sounds will be processed through 2 1/4" tape machines with an extended tape loop strung between creating a call and response with the sounds of the environment relative to the length of the loop." This sounds like fascinating stuff and worthy of support.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Recording: Sports

Artist: Sports

Song: Warn Me

Recorded at The Horseshoe Tavern, June 7, 2011.

Sports - Warn Me

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Pow Wows

Artist: Pow Wows

Song: Seeing Black

Recorded at The Horseshoe Tavern, June 7, 2011.

Pow Wows - Seeing Black

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Sports

Sports (Pow Wows)

The Horseshoe Tavern. Tuesday, June 7, 2011.

Out for the Tuesday night free show at the 'Shoe to catch a band that I hadn't seen in a good while. The decision to head down was helped by the fact that they were preceded by Pow Wows, who I knew to be a raucous fun live band. Not necessarily a sonically precise one, mind you, as hinted at with this revealing soundcheck banter to the sound tech: "Can we just get destroyed with reverb? Let's get wet!"

Playing a fairly similar setlist to the previous time I had seen 'em, the band were mostly tackling songs that would soon emerge on their Nightmare Soda album. Alongside all that reverb, the band brought a rangy and at times wilfully sloppy attack to their garage rock howlers. The lyrics were not especially clear by design but the underlying intent was not at all obscure, with numerous odes to the sort of impulses best invoked in the anthemic set-closer "Seeing Black".

They managed to efficiently crank out ten joltin' songs in their half hour, despite — or because of? — the fact that they looked a little wobbly on their feet. "They were not at all drunk," a friend commented afterward with a I-mean-the-opposite shake of the head. That doesn't mean they weren't pretty good — just good in a way that implies slurred speech rather than clear elocution.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

At one level, it's hard to believe that Sports was the same band that I'd seen a couple years previously. It's well befitting that they had, in fact, since then stripped away "The Band" from the end of their name, a symbolic act that pointed to how they were now a leaner, more rock-oriented machine under vocalist/guitarist Nathan Rekker's leadership.

There's still some points of intersect with the before-times, like "Warn Me", which was presented on the previous incarnation's EP. But live, it now sounded like it had several layers stripped off, and gave the impression it was based on hazy memories of Them's "Gloria" instead of, say, a New Pornographers song as the 2009 recording hints at. Some of the additional guitar presence came from a woodshedding Pete Carmichael (ex-Diableros, at this point beginning to assemble his Whirly Birds), who had taken on sideman duties.

With some likeable guitar textures, there was a good sound here as the band presented mostly material from their then-new album. Even with the more rock-forward positioning, there was still a balancing-off between the more aggressive and nimble material, with, say, "Castlots" (another holdover from the EP) leaning more toward the latter. For me, I liked it best more when they eased back on the subtlety and just rocked, even in a more restrained way, like in a new, then-untitled song (it had a refrain of "you and me and the devil make three"). And best of all was closer "Slacking Scholar", where it all came into focus, with crunch and hooks in equal measure — this is one that can really get stuck in your head.2

I'd previously posted something from the band's new album here, and now you can also check out the new sound of an older song here.


1 The band has more recently undergone some lineup changes, but they're still keeping busy. They'll be co-headlining a show at the Silver Dollar with Meanwood on Thursday, August 3, 2012.

2 Sports also has an upcoming gig at the Silver Dollar, playing with Persian Rugs on August 25, 2012, which sounds like a promising Saturday night.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Recording: Diblo Dibala

Artist: Diblo Dibala

Song: Tika Muana*

Recorded at Lula Lounge, July 22, 2012.

Diblo Dibala - Tika Muana

Full review to follow. Soukous master Dibala put on a fantastic dance party, his effervescent guitar skipping nimbly over the always-driving momentum of the skittering drums. Wonderful stuff — ça bouge.

* Big thanks to Gabrielle for passing along the title to this one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recording: Doug Paisley

Artist: Doug Paisley

Songs: I Stand Alone + It's a Dream [Neil Young cover]

Recorded at Rivoli, June 4, 2011.

Doug Paisley - I Stand Alone

Doug Paisley - It's a Dream

Gig: Doug Paisley

Doug Paisley

Rivoli. Saturday, June 4, 2011.

Unusually for me, I totally missed opener Lindi Ortega, partially because, equally unusual, this gig was actually running on time. That would be one of several signs that there was more of a grown-up vibe at hand for this show. Also noteworthy: this one was put on by Massey Hall's ticketing arm, and not one of the usual rock'n'roll promoters.1

This was another part of the PR effort concomitant with the domestic reissue of his second album, and it brought out an older sort of crowd than the one that filled up Soundscapes a few days earlier. Now, we're not supposed to let the audience (or perceived audience) affect how we feel about an artist, but let's face it — we do. It naturally comes to mind: if an artist is chasing an older, more middle-of-the-road audience, what does that imply for their work and how they present themselves? I'm not one to criticize if a musician wants to play to forty-year-olds instead of twenty-year-olds — the "old" cadre are willing to pay a higher ticket price and are way more likely to buy an album. But at the same time, there's always the lingering worry that the outcome will be the musician attempting to "write down" to the broader audience, diluting their talent to appeal to the lowest common denominator.2

Pointing to the empty zone in front of the stage, Paisley commented, "in case anyone's not standing where they want to be standing, there's the invariable V.I.P. space up here that you can come and fill." Several people howled "no", not wanting their comfortably-seated views interfered with, another subtle sign of the different sort of audience at hand. Looking all this over, I was thinking about the fine, fine line between "rootsy singer-songwriter" and "adult contemporary". And as Paisley began to play, I was admittedly wishing his band still had a honky-tonkin' pedal steel. But at least the solid backing trio had room for a bit more gear, including a Rhodes electric piano which filled out the sound some more.

Although celebrating Constant Companion, Paisley wasn't reluctant to dip back to '08's self-titled album, playing "Broken in Two" and "Digging In The Ground" early on. But he did have access to some of the voices that graced the new one, with Julie Faught joining the group to add harmonies to "Always Say Goodbye" and "I Stand Alone".

As always, Paisley was an engaging banterer, telling the story behind the then-unreleased "Bats"3, played in a stripped-down solo version. That led off a mid-set solo stretch, and Paisley commented how the songs he picked for this part of the show were the saddest ones he had, even asking the audience to choose the next song: "one's about certain death, and the other's about the apocalypse."

The solo spotlight ended with a guest appearance from Justin Rutledge, Paisley's friend and neighbour, who did a solo acoustic version of one of his own new songs. It's probably that perception thing again, but I'd always thought of Rutledge as the sort of competently bland AAA artist that I was hoping Paisley wasn't getting melded into.4

In the last segment of the show, Jennifer Castle reprised her role on the album by adding her voice for a trio of tunes, including the appropriately set-ending "End of the Day". The encore brought a beautiful rendition of Neil Young's "It's a Dream", and, all told, it was enough to (mostly) remember that it's the singer that matters, not the crowd. With his pure voice and honest songs, Paisley certainly deserves an audience.5


1 Paisley would later confess, "I grew up in Toronto, and I probably snuck into Massey Hall over fifty or sixty times since I was a kid. So I consider this as the first step towards payback. [beat, then sotto voce] That's gonna be a lotta shows, though."

2 I think we can label this "Ron Sexsmith syndrome".

3 This song is now out on the new Golden Embers EP.

4 At this point, I can't not mention the fascinating/distracting trainwreck of the presumably-drunk woman, who started the show sitting on the floor underneath a table against the stage. As the music picked up, she got increasingly emotionally involved, wiping away tears during "Bluebird" and eventually shouting "you're all good!" at Rutledge. During "O Heart", she went from power-pumping her balled-up fists to full-on interpretive dancing, and would break into a solo slow-clap to the lyrics "everyone is wounded/ everyone is scarred" during "Come Here My Love".

5 Paisley will be opening for Bry Webb as part of the SummerWorks Music Series on Saturday, August 18, 2012. This show in particular (and the entirety of the well-curated concert series) is well-recommended.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recording: Taylor Knox

Artist: Taylor Knox

Song: That's What You Do

Recorded at The Piston, July 18, 2012.

Taylor Knox - That's What You Do

Full review to follow. Perhaps having conquered his white whale, Knox has exchanged literary jangle for bell-bottomed power pop, providing a bit more a rock'n'roll kick than the last time I saw him. He'll be playing The Piston again as part of his July residency next week (July 35), so head down and check him out.

Recording: The Hylozoists

Artist: The Hylozoists

Song: The Island of Seven Cities

Recorded at The Piston, July 18, 2012.

The Hylozoists - The Island of Seven Cities

Full review to follow. It's been a bit of a stretch since '09's L'Île de Sept Villes, and even actually longer since I'd seen 'em, but I was glad to get reacquainted with instru-vibe merchants The Hylozoists. Getting warmed up before a festival appearance out east, there wasn't any new material, but frontman Paul Aucoin made reference to some new stuff that wasn't ready to be presented yet — which I'm hoping indicates that we'll be hearing from them again in shorter order.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recording: Rival Boys

Artist: Rival Boys

Song: Mutual Feelings

Recorded at The Garrison, June 3, 2011.

Rival Boys - Mutual Feelings

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: The Guest Bedroom

Artist: The Guest Bedroom

Song: Magical Thinking

Recorded at The Garrison, June 3, 2011.

The Guest Bedroom - Magical Thinking

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Wax Mannequin

Artist: Wax Mannequin

Song: Thing Game

Recorded at The Garrison, June 3, 2011.

Wax Mannequin - Thing Game

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Rival Boys

Rival Boys (The Guest Bedroom / Wax Mannequin)

The Garrison. Friday, June 3, 2011.

Heading up from an early show, I was sad to have missed an opening set by Planet Creature, but I've had my chances otherwise.1 As it was, I arrived with Chris Adeney, who operates under the bandonym Wax Mannequin, just finishing his setup.

I didn't really get it the first time I saw him play, but given the technical troubles he was fighting through then, I figured it'd be sporting to see him again. Just like that last time, Adeney presented himself musically with a stripped-down, vaguely old-timey presentation — though technologically, he'd mix old with new: dressed like a Depression-era troubadour, but with a laptop concealed in a beat up old suitcase, which'd add basic rhythm tracks under his songs. And his giant cocoon.

"I've got a very large crystal," he said, referring to the chrysalis-like thing on stage to his right. "Would you like some crystals?" With that, he tossed what turned out to be, on closer inspection, decorative glass beads into the crowd.

There's an entirely subjective line between "entertainer" and "guy with gimmicks", and in the early going, I was admittedly assigning Adeney to the latter camp. Especially when some of his songs also seemed a bit gimmicky as well. That said, the songcraft of "Volcano God" and "Everything and Everyone" did reach me somewhat. And it's hard not to be at least somewhat entertained by a guy who is maniacally working himself up to some sort of weird ceremony.

"Once things get really randy, I'm going to invite the most excellent person in the room — I don't know who it is yet, but I'm gonna figure it out — the most excellent person in the room is going to come up and open the chrysalis. They're gonna extract the contents and get it all over everybody in here. So I hope you're ready for that — we're really gonna get this party started." He tried to start a dance competition during "Tell the Doctor" to find that most excellent person, and once she was selected, during "The Log Driver's Waltz" (which turned into a spontaneous singalong), she tore open the chrysalis — which was, in fact, a repurposed blanket filled of balloons — and unleashed them upon the crowd.

So, there was definitely a bit of a spectacle afoot. Which was a welcome diversion, as the set, running past forty-five minutes, was a bit on the long side. Still, I did like some of the songs — like closer "Thing Game", filled with absurd bee/bird imagery. I guess the persona is just part of the package, but there is some element in Adeney's presentation that rubs me the wrong way a bit. It doesn't put me off so much that I think I would become counted among the "enemies" that he sings several songs about, but I wouldn't consider myself a fellow-traveller.

Listen to a track from this set here.

I was more eager to get another chance to hear The Guest Bedroom, who led off with "Magical Thinking"2, one of the new songs the band had played the last time I'd seen 'em. That the next song was "Curses" might imply something supernatural in vocalist/guitarist Sandi Falconer's worldview but on the whole, her concerns seem more grounded. Or at least the music is, the steady pulsations of the rhythm section providing a framework for snaky guitar work and Rob Castle's keybs. The playing is taut and well-paced, and the quartet play with telepathic, no-look pass certainty.

Even at this point, the band was certainly stocked with new songs on a par with the tasty Year's Supply Of Rabbit's Feet, including "Fine Lines"3 So hopefully we will be hearing more soon about getting a chance to engage with the new material.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Bringing a cake and everything, Rival Boys were celebrating the release of their debut full-length Mutual Feelings of Love. Leading with "Recovery" (with its "we're calling out" refrain), they managed to elicit some call-and-response action from the crowd — an early sign that this was a fully-engaged audience. And a good-sized one, to boot, very enthusiastic for the material, clapping along and, um, reacting to "React To It". Over the course of the set, the band would play the whole of their new album, moving quickly and efficiently from song to song. (They did shuffle up the order, though, for better stage dynamics.)

The trio is led by siblings Lee and Graeme Rose (bass and guit respectively), backed by Sam Sholdice on drums. Lee handles the lead vocals, showing quite a range from the yearning "Bow and Arrow" (showing off an affecting pop sensibility) to a bit more of a yalp as required. Graeme, meanwhile, acted as the rougher contrasting sandpaper with his backing vox. The trio format gives them a stripped-down lean edge, but the music often leans to "pop" more than "power". It also makes for an engaging tension between a scrappy tendency and the more restrained dynamics they seem to be growing into. One upshot of that is that while they do a good job at the slower stuff like "Dream of Stones", it's harder to hold a crowd who are going ape for the upbeat stuff.

That was especially evident as they closed things out with "Construction Work", a song from their earlier EP. With Graeme leading the crowd in a raggedy singalong, at first I thought it was a cover, the band playing a song that everyone on hand except me seemed to know. And while that went over very well with their friends up front, it didn't have anywhere the impact on me of the newer, more sophisticated stuff. It will be interesting to see how the band navigates this as they go on. But even at this point, there was no doubt they could put a charge into a room — as they wound up, they left the crowd chanting for more.4

Listen to a track from this set here.


1 The connections between Planet Creature and the headliners would subsequently get even closer with Rival Boys' Lee Rose becoming Planet Creature's bass player.

2 Their mix of groundedness and, um, magical thinking and is evident in the song's rather nifty video (directed by Ryan Mounsey), which contains both mythical wizards and all-too-real transit woes. This song is due for inclusion on a forthcoming EP now due "sometime in 2012".

3 This one also has a video, and, in fact, there has been talk about all the songs on the new EP getting clips, so stay tuned for more.

4 Rival Boys are playing Hillside at the end of this month, and they'll be getting ready for that with a warmup gig at Clinton's on Thursday, July 26, 2012.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recording: Absolutely Free

Artist: Absolutely Free

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Polyhaus (Feast in the East 15), July 15, 2012.

Absolutely Free - unknown

Full review to follow. After the tasty vegetarian curry — the event's titular feast is not merely metaphorical — the bands took the stage backed by some cool lo-tech projected visuals — all a part of the art/music/community experience at Feast in the East. Having outgrown its old digs at the Dickens Street Theatre, Polyhaus is a fine step up for the series and well-suited to this kind of show.

Given how long these guys have been working together, it shouldn't have surprised at how quickly they've gelled as a unit in Absolutely Free. Word is that the band's first release will be coming out in September, so you should definitely have a chance to check 'em out then.

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

Recording: Zacht Automaat

Artist: Zacht Automaat

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Polyhaus (Feast in the East 15), July 15, 2012.

Zacht Automaat - unknown

Full review to follow. I've long been saying that Carl Didur is one of the most fascinating musicians in the city by virtue of his solo work. I've also been a big fan of the steady series of releases from Zacht Automaat, his partnership with Michael McLean, his former mate in The Battleship, Ethel. I finally got to see the band in action at tonight's instalment of the excellent Feast in the East series, and except for being too brief (about the equivalent of one of the band's cassette sides) it lived up to expectations, especially when the trio was joined by Colin Fisher on sax. This song is probably drawn from the just-released Bags Inside Bags, but the music never comes with titles attached.

ZA's albums are available on Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis and they are essential Toronto listening.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recording: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet

Artist: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet

Song: a whole bunch of songs*

Recorded at Lee's Palace, July 14, 2012.

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Algoma Reflections / Bennett Cerf

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Zombie Compromise / Musical Interlude / (Relax) You Will Think You Are A Chicken / Hot Box Car

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Hunter S. Thompson's Younger Brother

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Having An Average Weekend

Full review to follow. Well, first off, there was so much goodness here — and such a flurry of songs tackled — that I'm sticking up more stuff than usual. And (see below) I'm posting first and figuring out titles later, so leave a comment if you know any of these off the top of your head. The songs mostly came in bunches of three or four played with no pause in between, so besides picking some individual highlights, there's also a representative burst.

I last saw Shadowy men play back when Dim the Lights, Chill the Ham came out — I think it was '93, which makes this an unusually long time between seeing a band twice. I never would have thought this was going to happen, but Dallas Good filled in for deceased bassist Reid Diamond with aplomb, and on the whole, it was a joyful occasion.

* I know all these songs, but the titles are well-elusive to me at the moment. Hopefully a photo of the setlist will show up online — feel free to forward it my way if you see one. Otherwise, I'll have to dig out the old cassettes to try and nail down these song titles. If you can fill any of these in, please leave a comment! Big thanks to Owen Gwilliam for nailing the song titles!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Recording: Dog Day

Artist: Dog Day

Song: In the Woods

Recorded at The Shop under Parts & Labour, July 13, 2012.

Dog Day - In the Woods

Full review to follow. The last time I saw Dog Day, they were just settling into their downsized two-piece configuration. Now, even at the end of a long tour, they seem more comfortable in their skins, and more willing, say, to stretch out, like on this expanded version of Deformer's closer. There were also some new songs in the mix as well, giving a hint of where the pair intend to take their sound — not to somewhere radically different, but they're more in command as they head there.

Recording: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

Artist: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Harbourfront Centre, July 13, 2012.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - unknown

Full review to follow. A pretty satisfying night from this legendary group of musicians from Benin making their belated Toronto debut.

* This might very well be called "Afrique mon amour", but I can't find anything to confirm that. Please leave a comment if you know the title for sure!

Recording: Maylee Todd

Artist: Maylee Todd

Song: Pinball Number Count [Sesame Street/The Pointer Sisters cover]

Recorded at Harbourfront Centre, July 13, 2012.

Maylee Todd - Pinball Number Count

Full review to follow. There was a lot of new material from Maylee Todd and her band. They also threw in a couple covers, including — rather awesomely — this funkiest-ever moment from Sesame Street. Your next chance to catch her 'round these parts will be on Saturday, August 11 at the ALL CAPS! festival.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Recording: Revolvers

Artist: Revolvers

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Piston, July 12, 2012.

Revolvers - unknown

Full review to follow. Though billed as a "triple headliner" night, there was no doubt that the biggest crowd came out to see Revolvers play. Taking the stage in a new (at least to me) trio configuration, the band played a lot of new material, including this "brand new" track. Always noted for their restraint, I like the spaciousness they allow here. Keep an eye out for their new album to drop — there should be more chances to see 'em in action forthcoming.

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Recording: OG Melody

Artist: OG Melody (feat. Peet Moss)

Song: We Can Do It

Recorded at Ward's Island Ferry Docks (Poor Pilgrim 5), July 8, 2012.

OG Melody (feat. Peet Moss) - We Can Do It

Full review to follow. A beautiful day on the island for Matt Cully's fifth Poor Pilgrim show, a peripatetic day of music spread out through various (mostly outdoor) locations. The night ended under the sodium-yellow glare of the lights at the Ward's Island ferry docks, as Thom Gill and Isla Craig mentally prepared the crowd to return to the city with their "urban" summer jamz. (Check out an album of some more pictures from the day here.)

Recording: Kith and Kin

Artist: Kith and Kin

Songs: I Love to See the Wheels in Motion + Mourning Tears

Recorded at St. Andrew by the Lake Church (Poor Pilgrim 5), July 8, 2012.

Kith and Kin - I Love to See the Wheels in Motion

Kith and Kin - Mourning Tears

Full review to follow. A beautiful day on the island for Matt Cully's fifth Poor Pilgrim show, a peripatetic day of music spread out through various (mostly outdoor) locations. I'm about the least xmas-y person you can find, so the fact that I went out of my way last year to see Kith and Kin's annual seasonal wassail shows how much I'm overpowered by what they do, which taps into some sort of deep-seated need for communion. The intermingling of unamplified voices is something that my gear can't quite capture, so I can only say that you must go and hear them for yourself. (Check out an album of some more pictures from the day here.)

Recording: Doug Tielli

Artist: Doug Tielli

Song: A Dream That I Am>

Recorded at Snake Island (Poor Pilgrim 5), July 8, 2012.

Doug Tielli - A Dream That I Am

Full review to follow. A beautiful day on the island for Matt Cully's fifth Poor Pilgrim show, a peripatetic day of music spread out through various (mostly outdoor) locations. Another set of mostly brand new songs, Tielli's lyrics about "going down to the water by the setting sun" was about perfect as the sun sank toward the horizon beside Snake Island's postcard-perfect view of the city. "It's a dream to be here at all," the song most accurately concludes. (Check out an album of some more pictures from the day here.)

Recording: The Weather Station

Artist: The Weather Station

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Ward's Island Spirit Circle (Poor Pilgrim 5), July 8, 2012.

The Weather Station - unknown

Full review to follow. A beautiful day on the island for Matt Cully's fifth Poor Pilgrim show, a peripatetic day of music spread out through various (mostly outdoor) locations. Tamara Lindeman led off the day in a little wooded glade in the far corner of Ward's Island. Even though it hasn't been all that long since the release of All of It Was Mine, it was fantastic to hear a set filled with new songs. The whisper of rustling treetops far overhead was as mush an "instrument" for this as Lindeman's guitar, and you can definitely hear them in this somewhat lo-fi field recording. (Check out an album of some more pictures from the day here.)

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recording: African Guitar Summit

Artist: African Guitar Summit

Song: Sadebake

Recorded at Woodbine Park (Afrofest 2012), July 7, 2012.

African Guitar Summit - Sadebake

Full review to follow. AGS closed out their set with an extended run through this Donné Roberts number, featuring fiery back-to-back-to-back solos — the musical equivalent to having fireworks to finish up the night.

N.B. This recording is a capture of CIUT's live broadcast.

Recording: Adib Abdosh

Artist: Adib Abdosh

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Woodbine Park (Afrofest 2012), July 7, 2012.

Adib Abdosh - unknown

Full review to follow. Abdosh brought a bit of a darker undertow to his Ethio-jams, making him stand out a bit against the day's other acts. This set-opener has a pretty fabulous groove going on. I was pleased to note that his band included Waleed Abdulhamid, who, with all of his sideman work, might be the running for some sort of record for most consecutive Afrofests played.

N.B. This recording is a capture of CIUT's live broadcast.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Abdosh calls out the title, and it sounds like "Iyan Anahnahnahnah", but I'd love to have someone confirm the spelling — please leave a comment if you know it!

Recording: Lorraine Klaasen

Artist: Lorraine Klaasen

Song: Mina Nawe

Recorded at Woodbine Park (Afrofest 2012), July 7, 2012.

Lorraine Klaasen - Mina Nawe

Full review to follow. South Africa-via-Montréal Klaasen relied on some local groove merchants to back her up for this set. Some would later be back on stage with African Guitar Summit, but the more accurate observation would be that this was essentially Afrafranto.

N.B. This recording is a capture of CIUT's live broadcast.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Recording: Mansa Sissoko

Artist: Mansa Sissoko

Songs: Khaira (Good Luck) + unknown*

Recorded at The Gladstone Hotel (Melody Bar), June 3, 2011.

Mansa Sissoko feat. Cheka Dioubate - Khaira (Good Luck)

Mansa Sissoko feat. Pasi Gunguwo & Mutamba Rainos - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

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

Recording: Pasi Gunguwo & Mutamba Rainos

Artist: Pasi Gunguwo & Mutamba Rainos

Song: unknown*

Recorded at The Gladstone Hotel (Melody Bar), June 3, 2011.

Pasi Gunguwo & Mutamba Rainos - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

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

Gig: Mansa Sissoko

Mansa Sissoko (Pasi Gunguwo + Mutamba Rainos)

Gladstone Hotel (Melody Bar). Friday, June 3, 2011.

Out to The Gladstone for another instalment of Batuki's then-monthly residency.1 Programmer Nadine McNulty always loves to encourage creative cross-currents, so it's no surprise that a night of Malian kora music was preceded by a brief set of Zimbabwean mbira tunes, courtesy of Pasi Gunguwo and Mutamba Rainos. I'd previously caught them playing as a part of the larger, now-defunct Masaisai, and as a duo, the pair are still exploring the Zezuru folk music tradition. Their first piece was introduced as a prayer: "when we play this music we are connecting, just like a telephone, to connect with the ancestors." And while all that might make it sound like a sober exercise, the execution is always joyful: celebrating and dancing are also perfectly reasonable ways to connect with the ancestors. Although there's a hypnotizingly trace-y undertone to their gorgeous interlocking mbira rhythms and vocal accompaniments, the pair really are happiest when they motivate folks to get up and move some.

Listen to a song from Pasi + Mutamba here.

That quick set got the crowd in a receptive frame of mind for Mansa Sissoko. Based in Montréal, Sissoko comes from a Malian griot family, but his work isn't strictly limited to that tradition. A master of the tricky 21-stringed kora, he was joined for this set by bala player Kassoum Diamoutene. The set began with some quieter stuff, the kora and balafon sort of rubbing up against each other a bit and establishing the space they were working together in. Generally, the kora danced around melodically, while the balafon took more deliberate rhythmic steps. Musically, this took a few minutes to "click" for me, to get into the headspace of that mix of the easily musical and slightly dissonant that comes with listening to something in an unusual tuning system.

After a spell, they were joined by fellow griot Katenen 'Cheka' Dioubate on vocals, and the structure fell into place a bit more regularly around her vocal lines. Her smiling presence also provided a bit more of a focus as she wished good luck upon the women in the crowd in "Khaira".

Listen to a couple songs from this show — one with Pasi & Mutamba and one with Cheka Dioubate — here.

Following a break, there were second sets with both combos, Gunguwo and Rainos now joined by former Masaisai bandmate Tich Maredza on percussion. "It's so nice to see happy people," was the comment as they provided a bouncy rhythm to encourage more people to get up and dance.

Sissoko returned to the stage and played one long, slightly drifting, song — in one sense, this was almost wilfully "background" music, loosely unfolding, and potentially grooving along forever, rather than being focused on the "song".

Then there was an attempt to sew all the night's elements together with the mbiras joining in for a jam session. They set up while Sissoko was singing, and then, when they were ready, Sissoko turned the song with a "ha!", ramped up the tempo and let everyone play together. It took a couple minutes for everything to fall into sync, and there was an interesting spark for a couple minutes before Gunguwo and Rainos eased off. After regrouping, they found a groove in a longer song.

To close, Cheka Dioubate returned to sing again. Closing out the night's impromptu vibe, Ruth Mathiang also stepped up onto the stage to add her voice as well as everything came to a close. All told, an interesting night — all of these musicians are so skilled that it's interesting to let them mix it up in different combinations and watch the creative sparks fly. Eventually, though, the breeze coming through the front door starting growing cooler, and the room was getting crowded as the karaoke crowd began to filter in. And as the set finished, it was still early enough that I could head up he street for another show.


1 Shifting gears and venues, Batuki's Friday programme at Gladstone has now transformed into Africa Up Close, taking over the NOW Lounge on Church Street on the first Friday of every month. That means there's a show tonight (Friday, July 6, 2012), and it features the "South Sudanese soul" of Ruth Mathiang. The room sounds a little nicer, and the trade-off for the cover charge ($10) is that you'll be among an audience who is on hand to listen to the music, and not just treat it as a background distraction while looking fashionable at The Gladstone and waiting for the karaoke to begin.