Sunday May 17, 2020

Ouster Stew

Last week the Vancouver mixed-media collective Crack Cloud finally detailed their long-awaited debut full-length. Pain Olympics will feature eight songs and is due July 17. That set includes "The Next Fix," the nebulous unit's striking single from May of last year, along with the newly available "Ouster Stew." The group wrote and recorded these tracks over a lengthy period from July of 2017 through December of 2019, self-producing the set.

While "The Next Fix" saw the band expand their sound with soaring world music and hip-hop influences, "Ouster Stew" delivers a tightly-wound counterpoint. The comparatively succinct track feels firmly rooted in the post-punk and Krautrock notes of Crack Cloud's earlier work, taking a route that's decidedly confrontational.

It's impossible to separate Crack Cloud from the elaborate visuals supporting their singles, and "Ouster Stew" is no exception. The video features a pastiche of armed resistance tropes, building a gleefully choreographed dance number around scenes of mock-violence and depravity that (perhaps uncomfortably, but surely purposefully) reflect the iconography of the War On Terror. The video walks a fine line, at times revelling in the dirt-strewn playground of a Hollywood post-apocalypse but also recalling images of death and depravity that became media flashpoints in the post-9/11 period.

Crack Cloud shares a few members with N0V3L, the similarly high-concept, collectivist Victoria group who recently material on Flemish Eye. In 2018 Deranged Records combined the first two Crack Cloud EPs (2016's Crack Cloud and 2017's Anchoring Point) on a single 12" vinyl release.

Watch: Crack Cloud - "Ouster Stew" @ YouTube

King Khan recently unveiled another quirky split release, with the garage impresario again pairing up with an old collaborator: Montreal's rockabilly institution Bloodshot Bill. "I'm Rich Bitch" and "Bee Atch" are two takes on the same track, with Bill's distinctively nasal vocals appearing on the latter. The set, available digitally on Bandcamp, follows a recent split 7" that paired Khan with Toronto alt-country legends The Sadies on a similarly self-referential set of songs.

While based in Berlin these days, King Khan has roots in the Montreal garage-punk scene, notably as part of The Spaceshits and through his lengthy series of projects with Mark Sultan/BBQ. Khan and Bloodshot Bill last played together as the tongue-in-cheek band Tandoori Knights. That project, not coincidently, just resurfaced as a vintage-styled animated web series from Lluis Fuzzhound. You can check the first three-minute episode, titled The Tandoori Knights vs. The Desaturators now on YouTube. It's really something else.

Listen: King Khan / Bloodshot Bill - I'm Rich Bitch/Bee Atch @ Bandcamp

Watch: The Tandoori Knights vs. The Desaturators @ YouTube

Toronto folk-rockers Little Kid recently announced Transfiguration Highway, the band's sixth full-length but their first with the backing of a label. It arrives as an 11-song set on July 3 from Solitaire Recordings. The news came alongside the new single "Losing," the second preview to arrive for the record after April's "Thief on the Cross."

In a press release, vocalist Kenny Boothby unpacks the song's lyrical structure and reflects on its classic Canadian roots:

"This song tells two fictional stories about characters experiencing some kind of loss. In the first verse, the narrator's friend loses their savings on a drunken bet on a dog race. In the second, the narrator expresses regret for choosing to leave a person they still find themselves in love with.

Musically, the song is inspired by 60s and 70s Canadiana like Neil Young and The Band, and there's a certain peppiness to the piano that hasn't really been present in a Little Kid song before. It's become a fun one to play live, even without access to a piano — moving things over to guitar really brings out the Neil Young flavour of the song."

Little Kid features Boothby backed by Megan Lunn on banjo, Paul Vroom on bass, drummer Liam Cole, and guitarist Brodie Germain.

Listen: Little Kid - "Losing" @ Bandcamp

Shoulder Season is a four-piece garage-rock band featuring former members of Halifax groups The Stolen Minks and The Maynards, as well as Ottawa group The Johnnies. The Dartmouth-based group's released a handful of songs since last fall, with plans to tour and record this spring. I'll let you guess what curbed those ambitions.

While stuck inside like the rest of us, Shoulder Season's assembled a home-shot video for "Rules," a buzzing pop-rock tune they first shared last October. You can check it out now on YouTube.

Shoulder Season only has a smattering of music online, so now's the time to get in on the ground floor. You can check out "Blink" and "Clean Lines" on Bandcamp now.

Watch: Shoulder Season - "Rules" @ YouTube

Last week I shared a pair of new videos from Vanity Phase, the synth-focused solo-project Andrew Payne. "Self Control" and "Walking Around" were the first new songs from the ex-Century Palm vocalist since his debut early last year. The tracks, paired with two others, are now available as part of Out Of My Hands, the sophomore EP release from Vanity Phase. You can find them at Bandcamp now.

These songs were produced amid a period of medical uncertainty for Payne, challenged with an unexpected and sudden bout of hearing loss. The musician recounted his ailment and where it left him:

"Shortly after recording my latest EP I permanently lost all hearing in my left ear. Out of nowhere the world suddenly got more and more muffled. Over the next hour I was shown the variety of sounds that tinnitus is capable of: the most memorable being complete silence, except for two distant, rhythmic bells – what turned out to be a goodbye chime from my left ear.

Later that day, Oct. 5, 2019, I was diagnosed with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, caused by a random viral attack on my hearing nerve. It's unrelated to sound exposure, and in a way, I was relieved to know I didn't do it to myself. In an attempt to recover hearing I tried hyperbaric oxygen therapy, laying inside a pressurized oxygen chamber 90 minutes a day for 15 days, watching DVDs inside a space travel-style tube.

Still, all I can hear in my left ear is constant static, as though I'm always on a plane. Sometimes the static is mixed with random sounds: the wet squeak of cheese curds, the dry squeak of a hamster wheel, or blips and bleeps of morse code. Listening to music makes the static louder. Same with live shows, restaurants and house parties.

Don't get me wrong – I'm in good spirits – but even then, things happen that we can't control, making us feel helpless. Eerily, I'd already chosen this theme for my new EP, Out of My Hands. Made under my solo project name, Vanity Phase, these four songs and two videos were influenced by dark, melodic tones of the early '80s. An ode to Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Suicide, No More, and the good old days when I could hear the world in stereo."

Adrian Popovich (Solids, PRIORS) produced and mixed the new EP at Mountain City Studio in Montreal, with Mikey Young mastering. The four-song set follows 2019's Pleasence Records release, Unnatural Habits. Before his time in the new-wave fueled Century Palm, Payne put in time in several quirky garage-punk outfits, including Zebrassieres, the Ketamines, and the Fun Funs.

Listen: Vanity Phase - Out of my Hands @ Bandcamp

Amiable Fucked Up offshoot Jade Hairpins recently shared "Dolly Dream," the third single from the fast-approaching Harmony Avenue. The group commented on the accompanying video, which features some enviably uncomplicated pre-pandemic street scenes in Paris and elsewhere:

"Take a trip round the world before the planes were grounded and the buses emptied and then enjoy a bit of spring sunshine on this balmy lil song. Laced with strings and keys, stacks of interlocked guitar precision, and my best Patrick Cowley/David Byrne/Daytime TV crooning."

Jade Hairpins is a synth-pop group featuring Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk as a quartet with the English musicians Tamsin M Leach and Jack Goldstein. The band's 10-song full-length Harmony Avenue arrives on Merge Records on May 29.

Watch: Jade Hairpins - "Dolly Dream" @ YouTube

Last week Montreal quintet Pottery unveiled "Hot Heather," the latest preview of their upcoming LP Welcome To Bobby's Motel. In a press release the group commented:

"While there are hints of environmental themes on this one, we mainly wanted to make a disco song with a robotic feeling, something that could be easily chanted. Austin was originally really interested in heat as a musical concept/feeling - some of the early album titles we threw around were 'Hot Hot Hot' and 'Sun Fever' - and there are a bunch of other heat references on the album. In the studio he'd be joking around and yelling stuff at us like 'let's make it hot!' right before a take. A lot of that didn't end up totally sinking in, but some did... like on this song."

Pushed back from its original release date, Welcome To Bobby's Motel now arrives on June 26 from Royal Mountain and Partisan Records. Brooklyn's Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Snail Mail) produced the album, which the band recorded at Montreal's Breakglass Studio. Pottery features vocalist Austin Boylan, guitarist Jacob Shepansky, keyboardist Peter Baylis, bassist Tom Gould, and drummer Paul Jacobs.

Speaking of Paul Jacobs, the prolific garage-psych artist recently contributed a cover of The Kinks' "Animal Farm" to a compilation from the Sepsis Record Club. His take on the Village Green song appears on Sepsis Mixtape no. 1, the first release from the young label.

Listen: Pottery - "Hot Heather" @ Bandcamp

The latest in Daniel Romano's (seemingly weekly) series of quarantine LPs is so high-concept it's going to require a full paragraph to explain. The title doesn't do much to unpack things either. Daniel Romano's Outfit do (what could have been) Infidels by Bob Dylan & The Plugz is a front-to-back cover of Bob Dylan's 1983 LP Infidels (the first secular record after the legendary folk artist's divisive evangelical period). There's a twist, though. The Outfit plays these songs, not in the style they were recorded, but in a manner they've extrapolated from Dylan's March 1984 performance on Late Night with David Letterman. Fans widely consider that appearance, which found Dylan inexplicably backed by members of the LA punk group The Plugz, as one of the legend's most entertaining. In this set, The Outfit is therefore covering some speculative, alternative universe version of the Infidels record (what could have been), played in the same spirit of that Plugz-backed Letterman appearance.

Got it?

This is so esoterically nerdy that it could only have been born from the touring boredom of some long drive between shows. I suppose we can thank COVID-19 for providing enough frustrating idle time to actually see it put to tape.

If you're keeping score at home, this diversion follows last week's 23-minute prog epic "Forever Love's Fool" (which featured Tool drummer Danny Carey). In the weeks prior, Romano released the country-styled LP Content To Point The Way, the slightly less country-styled LP "Visions Of The Higher Dream", and the not-at-all-country-styled power-pop EP Super Pollen (which featured the Jade Hairpins brain trust). Before going into lockdown, Danny was on the road with The Outfit supporting that band's first live album, the You've Changed released "Okay Wow". That feels like a thousand years ago.

Listen: Daniel Romano's Outfit do (what could have been) Infidels by Bob Dylan & The Plugz @ Bandcamp

Ottawa psych outfit The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol and the similarly experimental Nanaimo group Anunnaki have a new split out, with each band contributing nearly 30 minutes of heavy cosmic noise to the project. The set's available as an extremely limited cassette from NoiseAgonyMahem or on CD from Cardinal Fuzz.

The cumbersomely-named Capital band recorded live off the floor at Birdman Sound. The group features Bill Guerrero, Dave Reford, Jason Vaughan, John Westhaver, Nathaniel Hurlow, and Scott Thompson. Anunnaki's comparatively slim roster features Arlen Thompson and Dave Read. They recorded in Naniamo's White Room, with both bands wrapping up their contributions in early March just before the shutdown. The press release exclaims:

"2 of Canada's top ambassadors of all things Kosmische team up for 60 minutes of primitive skull crushing modern psychedelic music. The mutual admiration between Ottawa, Ontario's THE BAND WHOSE NAME IS A SYMBOL and Nanaimo, British Columbia's ANUNNAKI was previously realized when both bands appeared on 2017's Return of the Son of Gutbucket compilation LP featuring 8 contemporary Canadian psych bands, released on Cardinal Fuzz/NoiseAgonyMayhem Records, as well as both bands having shared the stage at Ottawa Psych Fest II in 2019."

Listen: The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol/Anunnaki - Split @ Bandcamp

Eric Liao's bedroom indie rock project Empty Nesters recently released Homebody, an EP of lush, moody, isolation-recorded tunes. A month back, we previewed the evocative title track, which appears here in two parts, bookending Empty Nesters' new material. You'll recall that "Homebody" features the Ottawa-area poet Nicolas Tirakis reciting his "Birds of Quarantine" piece as a spoken-word performance layered atop Liao's instrumentals.

A video for the EP's "Sit Still" recently debuted on YouTube. You can check it out below. The new set follows Empty Nesters' 2019 EPs Fun Harder and Tired and Bored.

Watch: Empty Nesters - "Sit Still" @ YouTube

The Toronto post-punk group Laurie has a new single online, part of a monthly roll-out of new music that's been ongoing since February. You can check the raucous garage rocker "2 Die in LA" now at Bandcamp, along with its predecessors.

Laurie features Trent Bristow on guitar and synth, bassist Fabian Kearns, and drummer Jessica Maxwell. The trio last released a 5-song EP titled Group Dynamics in 2019.

Listen: Laurie - "2 Die in L.A." @ Bandcamp

The Toronto psych-dance trio DOOMSQUAD recently shared a set of remixes, with a pair of prominent Toronto producers reimagining tracks from the band's 2019 record Let Your Self Be Seen. The release features a reworking of "General Hum" by the electronic musician Emissive along with a disco dub take on "Aimless" by the psych-pop act ZONES. The "General Hum" remix first surfaced last summer before the group's tours of the US and Europe.

In May, DOOMSQUAD released Spandrels, the second collection in their "sketchbook series" of musical experiments and stream-of-consciousness studio improvisations. Royal Mountain Records and Bella Union released Let Your Self Be Seen in the spring of 2019.

DOOMSQUAD features the siblings Allie, Jaclyn, and Trevor Blumas.

Listen: DOOMSQUAD - Let Yourself Be Remixed @ Bandcamp

Iqaluit alt-rock group The Jerry Cans have a new record in the wild, titled Echoes. With it, they unveiled a video featuring the single "Swell (My Brother)," a track that tackles Nunavut's suicide epidemic. As they reveal in a press release, it's one that directly impacted the creation of this record. They comment:

"'Swell (My Brother)' is a song that breaks my heart to sing, and broke my heart to write. Over the course of creating this album, two of my childhood friends died by suicide. Losing family and friends this way is not new for the band - or anyone who has spent any substantial amount of time in Nunavut. But this song came out of the anger, sorrow, and frustration of this experience. Even as we grow up we don't seem to outgrow these feelings."

The 14-song Echoes is the JUNO-nominated band's fourth full-length, recorded with Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes producing at Breakglass Studio in Montreal. The Jerry Cans features guitarist/vocalist Andrew Morrison, vocalists/throat singer/accordionist Avery Keenainak, violinist Gina Burgess, bassist Brendan Doherty, and drummer Steve Rigby.

Watch: The Jerry Cans - "Swell (My Brother)" @ YouTube

The Ottawa music community recently released the second volume in their Itty Bitty Little Ditty series. Like the first outing in April, this set features sub-two-minute songs recorded during our collective isolation. This album features contributions from Chris Page, the Flying Hellfish members Cory Levesque and Anthony Cardozo, Christopher Cook (finderskeepers, No Fuss), and garage rocker Patrick Shanks among others. You'll find thirteen new tunes here, each recorded to the theme of "forest for the trees." You can find it on Bandcamp now.

Listen: Itty Bitty Little Ditty Volume 2 @ Bandcamp

Ontario post-hardcore superstars Alexisonfire recently shared a fan-shot video for "Season of the Flood." The piece features footage from the reunited band's early 2020 shows in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. You can check it out below.

"Season of the Flood" is the band's third single since their reunion, following 2019's "Familiar Drugs" and "Complicit." These songs mark the group's first studio material since 2010's Dog's Blood EP and the 2009 album Old Crows / Young Cardinals.

Watch: Alexisonfire - "Season of the Flood" @ YouTube

Toronto pop-punk trio Talk Show Host may have just blown the quarantine content game wide open. Acoustic streams and low-fi bedroom pop is one thing, but slickly produced mini-exposés on a musician's favourite means of coffee conveyance? That's something else.

While I'm certain the group's anxiously sitting on the follow-up to 2017's catchy Not Here to Make Friends, they may have found a new calling here.

Watch: Talk Show Host - "Mug Chat (Episode 1)" @ YouTube

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