Sunday March 17, 2019

New Values

The well of new music from which this newsletter draws felt somewhat dry this past week. You can likely blame the dual-headed industry distraction that was SXSW and the Junos, to say nothing of real-life tragedies taking the wind out of this silly entertainment beat. Still, while there wasn't a massive slate of new media to consume, there was one critical call to action from a musician and human being who sits near the top of my canon. We'll get to that in a moment.


Montreal post-punk group Bleu Nuit premiered a new single last week at Punknews, titled "Concentration." Principle songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Yan Skene spoke about the track, commenting:

"'Concentration' is the centrepiece of the record. All the major themes on the album can be found on the track; alterity, anxiety, losing control, fear of ageing, etc. It’s also one of the only major-key jams on the album, which is meant to counter-balance the dreary lyrical content. At first, we were really aiming for a 70’s post-punk vibe but we layered tons of synths and electronic percussions and slowly it really began to take shape as a weird 3 am dance-floor anthem. The end is still very Joy Division though."

Along with Skene, Bleu Nuit features the talents of guitarist Nicolas Gaudreault and percussionist Laurent Saint-Pierre. The band recorded at the Bottle Garden Studio in Montreal with engineer Peter Woodford and producer Julien Mineau (of Malajube and Fontarabie).

"Concentration" will appear on the band's upcoming full-length Le jardin des mémoires, due on April 12 from Michel Records. Bleu Nuit will launch the new record with an April 20 release show at Montreal's Casa del Popolo, with a supporting spring tour that includes appearances at both Guelph's Kazoo! Fest and Fredericton's Flourish Festival.

Listen: Bleu Nuit - "Concentration" @ YouTube

Toronto psych quartet Hot Garbage premiered the first single from their sophomore EP at Exclaim last week. The band's set to release Coco's Paradise, on April 12. This new track, dubbed "100," is an ethereal number showing the influence of krautrock and prog.

Guitarist/vocalist Alessandro Carlevaris commented on the track's cathartic vibe:

"We were all feeling a bit bogged down by the current political climate so we decided to eat an especially nutritious breakfast together. We got to thinking: wouldn't it be nice to have a little getaway? And so we wrote this song. 100% of it in one day."

Hot Garbage also features bassist Juliana Carlevaris, Dylan Gamble on keys, and drummer Mark Henein. The band will tour in April in support of the new EP, appropriately launching the trek at the Milwaukee Psych Fest and arriving in Toronto for a hometown release show at the Baby G on May 2 with support from ZONES, Vypers, and Mr. Joy.

Listen: Hot Garbage - "100" @ Bandcamp

Toronto low-fi rock group PAX released a new song this weekend titled "Sink." The track features the band's principle Madeline Link backed by bassist Noah O'Niel, and drummer by Shane Hooper. The trio recorded with Dexter Nash in the studio and Seamus Patterson mastering.

PAX was initially the bedroom recording project of Madeline Link (one-half of the wonderful jangle-pop duo Triples). With the recent cassette release of her full-length Ouch on Art of the Uncarved Block, PAX expanded into a full live band. Early PAX recordings primarily featured Link accompanied on a 12-string guitar and a Casio SK-1.

Listen: PAX - "Sink" @ Bandcamp

Earlier this month I missed a new track from the celebrated Montreal art-punk duo CRABE. The song "Festival" is the second new song unveiled from the band's upcoming full-length Notre-Dame de la vie intérieure (following "Livre compliqué" back in January). As with most CRABE recordings, the song starts off conventionally enough only to spiral out into noise and whimsy before too long.

Speaking to Pure Grain Audio, the band gave this fittingly bizarre description of the track:

"'Festival' is about the fact that there is not much crazy tubular noisish music in the popular festivals scene in Quebec which isn’t bad or good but just a fact. And comes the day when you see a Klo Pelgag show on psychadelix, sitting alone in mud, in a field under the rain, then you realize that in the end, it does not even matter (Linkin Park). It is a good time and we learn from our differences and we’re all there in the same boat, chilling and doing our best."

Notre-Dame de la vie intérieure arrives in the spring on Pantoum Records.

CRABE features Gabriel Lapierre and Mertin Höek. They came together first in the southwestern Quebec town of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield before relocating to Montreal. Guillaume Chiasson of the Quebec City garage rock duo Ponctuation produced the band's new material.

Listen: CRABE - "Festival" @ Bandcamp

Cassette label Reel to Reel Records recently put out a 17 song compilation titled Keepin' it Reel, it among the tracks it collects is a new demo recording from Robbie Brake, frontman of the London, Ontario power-pop group Isölation Party. It's one of several releases the artist has planned for the coming months, including a 7" single and a solo LP. You can check the song out at Bandcamp.

In addition, Brake today released a set of speedy low-fi surf-rock songs under the band-name Hook and the Creeps. While he's been sitting on these tracks for a while, they've been released now in tribute to surf guitar legend Dick Dale, who passed away this weekend.

If you haven't checked out Isölation Party's lovely new garage punk/power-pop LP Fiberoptic Holiday, I suggest you get on that.

Listen: Robbie Brake - "Fast City" @ Bandcamp

I don't have any audio from these new next few stories, but you should take note of these upcoming releases.

Firstly Sewercide Records is preparing a limited cassette release from B.P.S., a new Halifax punk band that features members from the same DIY scene that birthed the Booji Boys, Fragment, Alienation, and Wax. The label hasn't shared a song yet, but they comment that it's "for fans of all things fast and chaotic" and warn "those hoping for some type of tuneful 'music' prepare to be disappointed."

I'm pretty excited about this, as the bands that frequently form out of this peer group have consistently churned out some of the best punk and hardcore in the country.

You could pay similar compliments to Corner Boys from the opposite coast. The `77 styled Vancouver punk trio recently announced that they've completed their debut LP. It'll be titled Waiting for 2020 and is set for release this summer on England's Drunken Sailor Records. The band recorded 10 songs with Jeffrey McCloy over the past Halloween weekend, with Daniel Husayn at North London Bomb Factory mixing and mastering. You can preview the artwork from Kenneth J. Maxx online now.

Corner Boys features Hosehead Records' Patrick Bertrand, Joel Butler of Nervous Talk, and Wade from Stress Eating. Butler and Bertrand also play as members of the explosive punk group Chain Whip with Fashionism's Josh Nickel and Stress Eating's Brett Thompson. That band was in the studio earlier this month tracking their first full LP. I can't wait for that one either.

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Say hello to the debut Corner Boys LP! Waiting For 2020 will be out summer 2019 on England’s @drunkensailorrecords. 10 songs recorded by Jeff McCloy over Halloween weekend, mixed and mastered by @danielhusayn at North London Bomb Factory. Art by @kjmaxxx.

A post shared by Corner Boys (@cornerboysband) on

See: Corner Boys - Waiting for 2020 art @ Instagram

I was out of the loop on Montreal's Blooming Season when the post-punk band released their four-song EP New Values last November. The group's music just drips attitude, and that's largely due to the deadpan Protomartyr/The Fall-styled vocal delivery. The band appears to share the exact lineup with the group A Death In Canada (they had an EP out in 2015).

The band appeared last week on Danny Payne's CJLO radio show The Pressure Drop, where they played a four-song in-studio session including a pair of new songs not on the EP. You can stream the episode at SoundCloud.

Listen: Blooming Season - New Values @ Bandcamp

Speaking of university radio, that story dovetails nicely into the final thing I wanted to share this week.

Bry Webb of the Constantines penned an open letter last week in opposition to the Ford government's Student Choice Initiative in Ontario. The policy reclassifies some university services as nonessential, allowing students to opt out of contributing fees. The funding changes threaten student unions, campus newspapers, student support centers, and campus radio, all under the cloak of a supposed tuition cut.

In his letter, reproduced below in its entirety, Webb touches on the impact Western's CHRW had on his life (something he's since tried to pay forward through his work with Guelph's CFRU). Here's what Webb had to say, with links added by me where I thought it'd be helpful:

Good People,

I am writing to you in the Winter of 2019 with love and desperation in equal measure. Please know that I have never and will never take the attention and support that anyone has given this band over the last twenty years for granted. And I hope you understand that the last thing I would want to do is to exploit your generosity, care and ongoing interest in what we're up to toward objectionable ends. That said, I hope you'll bear with me here. I have to ask your input on something that is incredibly important to me and I hope you'll stick with me a moment so I can make my case.

When I was twenty years old, I was suffering depression without knowing that I was suffering depression. I had not yet been diagnosed. I was in school — privileged to be in school studying language, poetry and sociology — but I was consumed by the belief that I had absolutely nothing to offer the world, and that I could do no good in the face of all of the evil I was seeing externally and identifying internally.

Unfortunately, when external and internal forces have combined to produce spells of depression in my mind and life, my first instinct has always been to close off, to shut down, and to isolate myself from other people. This, in psychiatric technical terms, is what's known as a bad move. But I didn't know that at the time. I was lost, without any sense of self, purpose or hope. I was suicidal, and nobody knew it because the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone.

This is not a lead up to me asking you to give money to mental health support services (but please give as much money as you possibly can to mental health support services). This is the story of what saved me at that moment in my life.

In 1997, I was invited to fill-in for a friend's radio show at CHRW, the Campus/Community Radio Station in London, Ontario. On a campus dominated by fraternity culture and the Ivey School of Business, CHRW was a pocket of odd, music-obsessed, community-minded folks, with a massive library of underground music I had never heard, and a broadcast schedule full of eclectic, knowledgeable, and dedicated DJs. It was a hidden space where people were encouraged to be creative, active and outspoken. It operated 24/7 on a shoestring budget, fueled by love and community engagement. I eventually held a job as CHRW's Music Director for two years. I was paid very little, but I spent almost every free moment there because it was the beginning of feeling like my life had some meaning again. I was helping people hear music and ideas that were wildly underrepresented in commercial media. I could do this.

Everything changed for me over the course of those two years. The perspectives I was introduced to shaped my worldview far more than anything I had been paying to study in school. The music I found out about in that space directly inspired me to start writing new music, and to try and get a band together. It was from my desk at CHRW that I reached out to my old high-school bandmate Doug MacGregor about getting together to start playing again. It was from there that I first wrote to Dallas Wehrle and Steve Lambke, and coordinated the first Constantines rehearsals, the recording of our first demo tape, and making our first album, all through connections I had made through involvement with this Campus/Community Radio Station. I can tell you with absolute certainty that The Constantines would not exist had I not gotten involved with this strange, counter-cultural community outlet. The plain truth is that had I not found this space at that particular moment of intense vulnerability, I would not currently exist.

The media scape has changed a lot over the last twenty years, but Campus/Community Radio has remained vital through adaptability, tireless community engagement, and a philosophical refusal to be corrupted by partisan sensationalism, rejection of the corporate exploitation of independent art and creative content, and support of voices and perspectives that mainstream, centralized media have actively buried. I returned to Campus/Community Radio nine years ago, and I have worked as the Programming Coordinator and Operations Coordinator at CFRU-FM in Guelph, ON, teaching people (from kindergarteners to senior citizens) how to bring their voices and perspectives to their community. It is one of the most socially, culturally, personally and politically meaningful things I have ever been a part of, and I love my job more than I ever thought possible.

Campuses and Communities NEED spaces like this. I'm not speaking only of the volunteer programmed radio stations that keep many regions from becoming local media deserts. I'm also talking about the social clubs and cultural organizations, LGBTQ advocacy and education centres, free legal counselling that protects students against crooked and abusive landlords, student unions that coordinate events to connect students and fight for lower tuition and institutional divestment from unethical business, activist groups like PIRGs, safe spaces for racialized people, Student Union facilitated food banks, and so much more. These are the spaces that support and connect individuals who are, in many cases, on their own for the first time in their lives, feeling isolated, disconnected and alone, and wondering if they have anything of value to contribute to their communities and world. The existence of all of these organizations and groups directly helps improve the mental (and often physical) health of students and community members. To lose any of them would be taking away the potential to save any student the way my life was saved by finding community radio.

For decades, College and University Student Unions have thankfully maintained democratic student referendums to ensure funding is available on an ongoing basis for organizations like this — and to empower students to decide collectively how funding that comes from their fees should be distributed. But...

RIGHT NOW, IN ONTARIO, DOUG FORD'S CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT HAS CREATED A POLICY WHICH WILL BYPASS EVERY STUDENT REFERENDUM, DECIMATE THE FUNDING OF MOST OF THESE ORGANIZATIONS, AND LIKELY DESTROY STUDENT UNIONS IN AN ASTOUNDINGLY UNDEMOCRATIC WAY. THEY'RE ALSO ELIMINATING FREE TUITION FOR LOW INCOME PEOPLE, AMONG OTHER CUTS.

Unsurprisingly, the Ford Conservatives have attempted to spin this policy as a way to save students money and give them more agency in the way their fees are distributed. This is misinformation. The option to opt-out of fees for specific clubs and organizations has always been available, as determined by referendums, but students have been required to do a little more research or engaging before pulling their $7 contribution from the radio station, for example. The Student Choice Initiative, as it has been dubitably named, is a targeted attack on services that speak out against unethical government action and benefit the most vulnerable people in these school communities. This is made clear in the following fundraising email that went out from the Ontario Conservatives shortly after these cuts were announced.

I have come back to social media after almost a year off, to ask you to not be swayed by the misinformation being dumped on us by the current Ontario government, and to help fight against their violent irresponsibility towards our communities. This is just one in a series of amoral actions by the Provincial Conservatives of late, including attacks on Midwives, millions of dollars cut from specialized school programs, a freeze on the hiring of new public school teachers, reduction of planned social assistance increases, millions in cuts to the Ontario Arts Council (most notably the Indigenous Culture Fund) and the dissolution of six health agencies and fourteen Local Health Integration Networks.

I am writing to you to ask you to sign any and all petitions against the Provincial Conservatives' attacks, go to the rallies where people are uniting against this administration, talk to everyone you know about what is going on here, WRITE DIRECTLY TO YOUR MPPs IMMEDIATELY, and please fight like hell against this provincial government until they're gone. We are surrounded by power without accountability, everywhere. The only hope is for us to be accountable to one another.

I will post about specific days of action and other initiatives in the coming weeks and months. There are petitions circulating through campuses and communities all over Ontario that need actual physical signatures, so keep an eye out and please sign. Email your local community radio station, -PIRG or Student Union to find out what you can do to help. For now, please take a moment to write your MPP a clear message expressing your concerns about these actions.

You can find out who your MPP is here: http://voterinformationservice.elections.on.ca

Up-to-date links and further information: http://cfsontario.ca/action/

If you want to talk to me directly about this, email bw (at) cfru.ca

In Solidarity,

Bry Webb
Constantines
March 12, 2019

CFRU was the station of my alma mater, and I grew up local to Brock's CFBU. Both stations had very tangible impacts on my life and the outside-the-mainstream sounds I was exposed to. Some Party fully supports Bry's call to action here. If you're in Ontario, please contact your MPP.

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