Sunday May 5, 2019

The Next Fix

Vancouver mixed-media collective Crack Cloud has a new video online showcasing the next phase in the group's eclectic sound. In shedding some of the wiry post-punk and Krautrock styles that flavoured their early material, "The Next Fix" finds the band joyfully infusing their art-punk with a loose and funky mix of hip-hop and world music influences. Speaking to The Fader the group commented that the song was written "to remember the people we’ve lost to suicide and drug overdose," representing the first entry in a series they're calling the Pain Olympics.

While we throw around "collective" at times to denote a band with fluid membership and less traditional modes of operation, Crack Cloud fits the bill better than most. The group reiterated its mission in that same statement:

"Modeled around harm reduction philosophy, we operate as a rehabilitative outlet for a revolving cast of artists based out of the West Coast and abroad. By providing asylum for the disenfranchised, we advocate for a culture of healing and greater intersectional connectivity."

The group shares a few members with N0V3L, the similarly high-concept Victoria post-punk group who recently released an EP on Flemish Eye. Last year Deranged Records collected the first few Crack Cloud EPs as a single 12" vinyl release. "The Next Fix" is the band's first major new media release since then.

Watch: Crack Cloud - "The Next Fix" @ YouTube

Last week Toronto's experimental prog-pop act Absolutely Free announced the Geneva Freeport EP, set for a June 20 release as a 12" on Idée Fixe. The lead single from the three-song set is "Currency," a track that features Meg Remy of U.S. Girls singing lead. If you were a fan of Remy's acclaimed LP In a Poem Unlimited, you'll find a similar vein of cosmic disco underscoring her words here. From the press release:

"'Currency' is a nervy post-punk shuffle that gradually blossoms into a dense cosmic house track featuring Meg Remy of U.S. Girls on lead vocals. The lyrics contemplate how social frameworks like gender performance are built, and finds Absolutely Free reckoning with privilege and how to best use their social capital."

The record will also feature a title track and the nine-minute closer "The Endless Scroll." That tune features instrumentation from Carl Didur of the prolific TO psych duo Zacht Automaat.

Absolutely Free primarily recorded this material with Steve Clarkson at Palace Sound, tracking additional parts with Chris Sandes at Palace and independently at Studio 5/4. Geneva Freeport was mixed by experimental music luminary Sandro Perri and marks the band's first release since their Polaris nominated debut.

A video for "Currency," directed by Rachelle Alana Walker, debuted alongside the announcement.

Watch: Absolutely Free (featuring U.S. Girls) - "Currency" (Extended Mix) @ YouTube

Toronto multi-instrumentalist Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull, formerly known as the psych artist Slim Twig, announced a new record under the Badge Époque Ensemble name. The self-titled effort will arrive on June 7 from Telephone Explosion.

The first track shared from the set's titled "Undressed in Solitude." It's an 11-minute epic that features guest vocals from the R&B artist James Baley. The press release amusingly (and accurately) calls it "an improbable collision between psych-era Stevie Wonder and the whimsically dark Fantastic Planet score." Turnbull commented:

"[the song] explores the notion of personhood as a daily application. What remains if misplaced or misapplied? How are we altered in sleep? Where is the singer if he is silent for most of a song? If an identity is misplaced, the only respite may be a rhythm to follow."

Twig's served as a songwriter and producer for both U.S. Girls and the related rock band Darlene Shrugg. He's a regular performer in the psych-jazz group The Cosmic Range.

Listen: Badge Époque Ensemble (featuring James Baley) - "Undressed In Solitude" @ SoundCloud

Last Friday I premiered a video for "Sex," the closing track from The Finch Flyer, the new LP from Toronto folk-rock outfit Chladny. It's a slack-rocker of a song that reminds me quite a bit of that excellent first Ladyhawk record. Evan Chladny's breathy vocals float over some comfortingly lazy opening licks, crafting this cool Sunday morning vibe that I really dig.

Evan broke down the video's narrative for me:

"Watch Tobias Lopez navigate two very different relationships - a new friend and an imaginary one. Just as he's getting comfortable, his new friend disappears mysteriously. His imaginary friend (Chladny, as a dancing spaceman) guides him on a quest to find her. The Finch Flyer is aiming to make you laugh and cry in equal parts. It's like having a new experience with a very old friend. You can probably find a couple feelings you forgot about in this one."

The Finch Flyer draws together members from some of the city's weirdest and wildest groups. On the record you'll find contributors who've played with the no-wave chameleons Luge, the low-fi roots rockers of Hobby, and the buzzing dream-pop act Tallies, not to mention taking part in some thrilling hyphen-punk records from Westelaken and WLMRT. "Scheduling practices can be rough," Evan Chladny admitted when summing up his collaborators' number of active side-gigs, "but they're making it work."

Watch: Chladny - "Sex" @ Some Party

Restless Hamilton-based "existential disco" weirdo Man Made Hill has a new 19-song record out, his 21st release by my count. Titled Relaxed Fit, the largely instrumental new LP follows last year's Pleasence-released cassette Fingertip. It largely lives up to the promise of its title (there's little of Hill's usual howling mania to be found here). You can, however, witness a truly bizarre video for the single "Find a Freak," complete with "VHS sludge enhancement," in a clip below. It's credited to Danny Nickel and Randy Gagne.

This record collects material recorded at several studios between 2014 and 2019. It was mixed and mastered from tape by Jackson Darby at Personal Touch earlier this year.

Watch: Man Made Hill - "Find a Freak" @ YouTube

Toronto art-punk group Deliluh reached maximum media saturation last week. They accompanied the release of their new EP Oath Of Intent with a video for the title track by Johnny de Courcy. Band lead Kyle Knapp commented that it was shot along the Humber River and the shores of Lake Ontario to "document the spring thaw, and capture the movement of nature in its dramatic state of transition." The song was improvised by the band live and recorded from the floor of the Toronto legion hall The Owls Club.

Oath of Intent was released last week on Telephone Explosion in North America (with Tin Angel handling the worldwide release). It's a 5-track set — an EP's worth of new music pressed as a 12" LP.

Watch: Deliluh - "Oath of Intent" @ YouTube

Deliluh also took a central role in a new documentary short by directors Colin Medley and Maria Todorov-Topouzov titled Somewhere Else. The feature presents an optimistic view of the changing Toronto live music landscape, with small bands embracing the challenge of booking shows in the wake of the decline of traditional music venues in the city. The community that's formed around the above-mentioned Owls Club gets the spotlight, and you'll find quite a few Some Party-regular artists peppered among the footage.

Watch: Somewhere Else @ Vimeo

Last week Mint Records shared the second single from the upcoming Dumb full-length Club Nites. "Beef Hits" will appear on the slacker-punk outfit's 14-song record when it arrives on June 7, it features a sax solo from Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Ridley Bishop.

Dumb self-produced Club Nites, recording in their Vancouver studio over the first few months of the year. Mikey Young of the Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control mastered the album.

Listen: Dumb - "Beef Hits" @ Bandcamp

Newfoundland-by-way-of-Montreal indie-pop act BBQT returned with a short and sweet new single titled "Flinch" last week. The track follows their recent 6-song 2018 EP All For Show.

BBQT features guitarist/vocalist Amery Sandford, guitarist Jack Bielli, bassist Mikey Melikey, and drummer Allison Graves. They recorded this song with Micah Brown.

Listen: BBQT - "Flinch" @ Bandcamp

Toronto's low-fi rock duo Low Sun may be off touring Europe, but they're still trickling out previews of their upcoming full-length New/Shiny. The band premiered the song "Don't Look" at Post-Trash last week. It's the second single shared from the new set, due this June from Art of the Uncarved Block.

New/Shiny follows up 2017's Reservoir of Impermanent Light. Low Sun features the brothers Peter and Robert Johnson.

Listen; Low Sun - "Don't Look" @ Post-Trash

Toronto punk quartet Pkew Pkew Pkew have a new video online for the song "I Don't Matter at All." Shawn Kosmerly directed the clip. The band implores you to watch this one all the way through to the end ("cause it's a masterpiece"). The song appears on the group's latest LP, Optimal Lifestyles, released this past March on Dine Alone Records.

Pkew Pkew Pkew recently confirmed that they'll soon make their U.S. network TV debut. The group's scheduled to appear on Late Night with Seth Meyers on May 15.

Watch: Pkew Pkew Pkew - "I Don't Matter at All" @ YouTube

Montreal-via-Fredericton prog-pop act LAPS recently premiered a new single over at Dominionated (Canada's finest and most dedicated music blog). The song's titled "Brunch" and will appear on the group's upcoming full-length Soon Not Often In It. It arrives on May 24. The mathy, dynamic track is one of 12 due for the new record.

Listen: LAPS - "Brunch" @ Dominionated

I've been sharing clips from The Holy Gasp's recent release show for The Love Songs of Oedipus Rex for a few months now, and at long last here's the whole thing! Last October the theatric Toronto indie-rock group, lead by Benjamin Hackman, performed the emotionally-fraught (and often weirdly funny) record with a 27-person orchestra. The performance was staged as a wedding, with the crowd suitably dressed for a formal affair.

The documentary also notably includes some of the last footage shot at the now-shuttered Coffin Factory. The extended Holy Gasp ensemble used the former industrial building for rehearsals before this show. The Coffin Factory was closed on April 1 to make way for a condo development. It had hosted live-work artist studios in the city for nearly 30 years.

Watch: The Holy Gasp - The Love Songs Of Oedipus Rex in Concert

Welland, Ontario straight-edge hardcore act Pedestrian-X released a new 3-song demo at the start of the month. The four-piece features members of the heavy Niagara acts Wild Side, Windoc, and Easy Way Out. Davis Maxwell recorded, mixed and mastered the new material at Bell Tower Studios in Fort Erie.

Listen: Pedestrial X - Demo II @ Bandcamp

Toronto's surfy pop-punk act Knifey has a new single online titled "Shallow." It arrives alongside a lighthearted Shawn Kosmerly-directed video. You can find it below. The song is our first preview if an upcoming record titled Sleepwalker (a b-side, titled "Drugged" can be found on streaming services as well). The band commented:

"'Shallow' is a story about living in a city that constantly feels the need to follow a trend rather than walk its own path. It examines a decision that we all face at some point – to bet on ourselves or to take the easy road and fit in. We wanted the video to not take itself too seriously. Playing in front of a blank green screen represents the heart of the song; the fear of becoming a blank canvas, overwriting your personality just to fit in instead of staying true to yourself."

Knifey was formed in 2016 by Phil Linton and Max Trinz.

Watch: Knifey - "Shallow" @ YouTube

Montreal ska-punk institution The Planet Smashers have a video online for the title track to their upcoming record Too Much Information. The long-running third-wave ska band will release the 14-song collection, their ninth, on Friday through Stomp Records.

Watch: The Planet Smashers - "Too Much Information" @ YouTube

Summer festival announcements have been arriving so quickly I've lost track of which I've made mention of here. To add to that incomplete list, Toronto promoters Transmit Presents have launched the inaugural Transmit Festival. That event will take place from June 6 to 8, with performances scheduled from Dilly Dally, Suuns, Teenanger, Sauna, and Kiwi Jr. among others. Transmit will feature nightly shows at The Garrison and The Baby G, along with free outdoor performances as part of the annual Dundas West Fest.

Sudbury's urban art and music festival Up Here is coming into its fifth year, falling on August 16, 17 and 18 this year. The first wave of artists includes the veteran Bronx no wave/dance-punk act ESG, Haisla Nation hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Montreal synth duo Milk & Bone, Quebec's glam rock upstart Hubert Lenoir, and Constantine Steven Lambke among an international group spanning an array of genres. Up Here always involves several large-scale art installations and some astonishing urban mural work, so look forward to more of that this time out.

On a less high-art track, my hometown's getting it's own little shindig in July, with the Punk-a-Doodle-Doo Festival set to take over downtown Niagara Falls on July 27. I don't name these things, folks. Centred around the Taps Brewhouse, this inaugural event will feature veteran headliners The Forgotten Rebels alongside some loud beer-soaked sets from The Mahones, The Creepshow, The Lucky Ones, Dboy, and Heart Attack Kids.

Apologies if I've missed any of these announcements, they come in a deluge. I know I neglected to mention Hillside a few weeks ago, and I feel bad because it looks quite cool this year (with the Rez Kids, Orville Peck, and Fucked Up camping out at Guelph Lake this July).

On that note, keep an eye out for news from Strangewaves and Sappy coming up this week.

Watch: Hubert Lenoir - "Fille de Personne II" @ YouTube

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