Sunday March 21, 2021

A Rather Strained Apologetic

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated weekly by Adam White. Each edition explores punk, garage, psych, and otherwise uncategorizable indie rock, drawing lines from proto to post and taking some weird diversions along the way.

Needles//Pins: "A Rather Strained Apologetic"

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Given the exhausting state of the past few years and the precipitous limbo where we're stuck today, it's become a cliche to joke that time's lost all meaning. For bands following up releases from 2017, which at any other time would be an utterly unnoteworthy span between records, this is an odd moment indeed. We may wistfully look to the winter of 2019 as our last moment of naive innocence, but 2017 feels downright unfathomable. It's an entirely different universe, and our prior notions of "recent memory" just don't apply anymore. So while Needles//Pins' Good Night Tomorrow may, objectively, only be a few years in the past, its 2021 successor lands like a goddamn life preserver.

"A Rather Strained Apologetic" shouldn't feel this vital. The Vancouver group's performing a well-worn style of anthemic, midtempo punk rock that would have fit well with the No Idea roster of the early 2000s. The song's wrapped in that agreeable stripe of gruff emo that even those of us who bristle at the genre readily admit a soft spot for (Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, Small Brown Bike, and the like). I hate to perpetuate the Orgcore label, lest I own up to my role in perpetuating it, but the denizens of Punknews in its heyday would be all over this. Familiar feels different, though, in the uncertain apex of this pandemic. "Apologetic" sounds like the before times - like shouting along with a massive chorus - one clearly assembled as a shameless crowd-pleaser - fists in the air in a decidedly unhygienic bar. I'd be critical of the whole affair if I wasn't so desperate for it.

The track's one of 10 slated for the band's self-titled effort, due May 28 through Portland's venerable Dirt Cult Records. It's the group's fourth proper full-length, following up on the above-mentioned Good Night Tomorrow and a 2018 split with the English punk group Epic Problem.

I can't wait to hear more. They should market this thing as a therapeutic.

Intersystems: "Revelation of the Birds" / "Sonny Abilene II"

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Yet, just as I opine about the metaphysical gulf between 2017 and today, here's a gap that's magnitudes larger...

Toronto's Intersystems, a psychedelic multimedia collective formed back in 1967, unexpectedly returns this April with a new record. Intersystems #IV arrives April 30 as a 6 track LP, with an additional three songs (the Unfinished World EP) included on the CD and digital editions. The set, arriving via Waveshaper Media, marks the group's first full platter of new material since 1968.

Intersystems came together in the late 60s, initially comprised of architect Dik Zander, light sculptor Michael Hayden, poet Blake Parker, and the classically trained musician John Mills-Cockell (who later went on to form Syrinx). The band's pioneering era, which found them on the vanguard of electronic music, is celebrated in the press release:

"Where more conventional purveyors of psychedelia seemed content to use fuzztone guitar and orientalist tropes to approximate altered states, Intersystems built psychedelic experiences of their own from the ground up that embraced all the euphoric wonder and terror. The sonic aspect alone offered a singularly unsettling vision. They initially wrangled homespun gadgetry, feverishly spliced-together tapes, and mutant beat poetry, but soon became among the very first to deploy a Moog Synthesizer. Their custom modular rig — purchased by Mills-Cockell directly from Robert Moog's Trumansburg Headquarters — was the first of its kind in Canada."

Intersystems' new work arrives nearly fifty years after Free Psychedelic Poster Inside, the final record of their original run. Michael Hayden and John Mills-Cockell convened at Hamilton's storied Grant Avenue Studio to record in 2015, but had to make a few bold choices given the absence of their original lineup. The release elaborates:

"The resultant music remains remarkably congruent with the project's original impulse, yet irrefutably of the present moment. Taking cues from its stark, aforementioned predecessor, a modular Moog synthesizer system is the primary instrument, but here the sonorities that Mills-Cockell conjures are dynamic and diverse, blending barbed wire bass-lines, Subotnickesque chirps, gestural plumes of colour, percussive fligree and more. The 2007 death of poet/lyricist/ vocalist Blake Parker also drastically impacts Intersystems sound, especially since the alternative the group devised is so audacious. Parker's words are rendered electronically and the computer-synthesized voices alternate between an eerily life-like delivery and slurred cybernetic faltering, bringing a glossy dystopian veneer to the group's anxious surrealism."

You can experience two idiosyncratic new songs streaming at Bandcamp now: "Revelation of the Birds" and "Sonny Abilene II."

The new material arrives in the wake of 2015's reissue of Intersystems' full discography on the Italian archival label Alga Marghen (and the subsequent revival of the Syrinx discography in the years since).

N0V3L: "Group Disease"

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BC post-punk unit N0V3L returns this spring with their debut full-length. Non-Fiction is slated for a May 28 release from Calgary's Flemish Eye and the UK-based Tin Angel imprint Meat Machine Records. You can preview the sombre new wave vibes of "Group Disease," the record's first single, at Bandcamp now.

The high-concept album's described in a press release as a "treatise on modern existence and the perverse parameters within which it's experienced." It elaborates:

"It's a collection of agile, carefully-constructed post-punk, new wave, funk, and garage rock that's been zapped and warped by an opioid overdose crisis, mental illness, populism, and the merciless onward march of time. Intimate sadnesses and structural violences are blurred to the jagged quirk of sharp guitars, commanding bass, acrid saxophone, and mournful keys, all propelled ever forward by nimble drumming. It's dark and occasionally danceable, a macabre late-capitalist disco under a pall of confusion."

The band crafted the 11-song set between 2017 and 2020, recording to an 8-track Tascam-388 with Bryce Cloghesy (Military Genius, Crack Cloud) producing and mixing. The press release sorrowfully notes that the rental home where these songs came together no longer exists, the property since digested by Vancouver's insatiable housing market. The collectively-minded five-piece, fronted by vocalist Jon Varley, has since scattered across the province and left without a shared headquarters.

The new record follows the band's debut 2019 EP NOVEL and a 2020 split release with the Australian dub/krautrock hybrid Exek.

Jyraph: "30th Century Man"

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The enigmatic Montreal songwriting project Jyraph has a new cover online, tackling Scott Walker's 1969 classic "30th Century Man." Jyraph's version takes on the irresistible quality of a campfire sing-along, a notion aided by the loose and playful backing vocals. The post-punk artist commented on the track in an update to Facebook:

"Music is a tough thing sometimes, so sometimes I like to record a cover of a song I like as quickly as possible. Preferably recorded and mixed within an hour. Do everything as quickly as possible and not think about it. Then subject other people to it. Play it cool, and saran wrap all you can."

The cover follows last fall's single "La Brume" and lands a year out from the expansive "Jaibo (a crab's tail)" (with an isolation-era dump of archival material arriving in between the two). Jyraph's the solo project of Pablo Garcia-Rejon Gaubeca of Montreal's Palmetto. Under this name, he last released the full-length El Fuego in 2018.

JONCRO: "Sakura"

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Mississauga trio JONCRO has another preview of their forthcoming Richmond Station online, sharing the alternately grungy and forlorn "Sakura." It's a buzzsaw stomp that surfaces as a wistful love song in the chorus. Like last week's "Passa Passa" the track goes for a bit of a walk once the vocals wrap, content to let the band hang around and jam instrumentally, with no particular rush to the finish line. JONCRO performs this trick incredibly well, without it ever feeling like an indulgence.

The band commented on the song in an Instagram post:

"It is a tragic love song about dealing with the emotions that come from the end of a relationship and the nostalgic pain that comes with remembering the good times you had with someone and the love you once shared with them that is now gone from your life. Love, whether platonic or romantic, is one of the most important emotions humans can feel and the loss of it can be truly devastating. thematically it is framed against the backdrop of cherry blossoms falling at twilight."

JONCRO features Daniel G. Wilson on guitar and vocals, drummer Matthew Mikuljan, and bassist Kieran Christie. Wilson recorded the song at the band's home studio, The Lions Den, with Austin Nops of The Effens mixing and mastering at Lootbag Studios.

The group last released the live Lions Den Session set in December of 2020, having issued The Joncro Mountains EP just a few months prior. The Richmond Station LP is due later this year.

Beams: Ego Death

Livestream Friday, March 26 at 8:00 EST at Bandcamp

Toronto's psych-flavoured folk-rock group Beams have a new 10-song full-length due this week, and they're launching it with a filmographic love letter to the beleaguered physical performance spaces of their hometown.

The group will stream Ego Death, a ticketed full-length concert film, on the album's release day (this Friday, March 26). Shot in a documentary-style, the Samuel Scott directed film features the band performing at several notable venues throughout the city, with appearances at the The Dakota Tavern, The Horseshoe Tavern, The Boat, the Matt Durrant Studio, the Union Sound Company, and the band's rehearsal room at B-space. You can sneak a preview of the performance over at YouTube.

Beams features singer/songwriter Mernieks-Duffield backed by Heather Mazhar, Mike Duffield, Keith Hamilton, Craig Moffatt, and Martin Crawford. The group recorded the Ego Death full-length at the Union Sound Company in Toronto by Alex Gamble (Fucked Up, Alvvays). The new record follows 2018's Teach Me to Love.

Kristian North: "Genius of Song"

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Montreal alt-pop crooner Kristian North recently issued a second single from the forthcoming Passion Play. You can stream "Genius of Song" now through a lyric video by Jordan 'Dr. Cool' Minkoff (you've seen his work before with Teenanger, Lungbutter, and Freak Heat Waves).

The track features Faith Healer's Renny Wilson on bass, backing vocals from Abigail Galwey, and Félix-Antoine Hamel appearing on sax. Passion Play arrives on April 30 from Mothland.

North released his solo debut, The Last Rock N Roll Record, in 2018. Back in the early 2010s, he fronted the ramshackle garage-punk group Babysitter.

Paul Jacobs: "Day to Day"

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Montreal's psych artist Paul Jacobs recently shared the blissfully relaxed third single from Pink Dogs on the Green Grass. You can preview "Day to Day" through a new video, hand-animated by the prolific solo artist and Pottery drummer. It's the third such visual accompaniment to arrive from Jacobs, following similar pieces showcasing "Underneath the Roses" and "Half Rich Loner." You can check it out now at YouTube.

The new 13-song LP, mastered by Oliver Ackermann of A Place to Bury Strangers, arrives April 30 from Blow The Fuse. It follows the odds-and-sods collection Portrait Of George, and 2018's full-length Easy. As a member of Pottery, Jacobs released the Welcome To Bobby's Motel LP early last year.

Chad VanGaalen: "Starlight"

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Chad VanGaalen ushered World's Most Stressed Out Gardener into the world alongside a kaleidoscopic video for the song "Starlight," an animated composition built atop repurposed family movies from the 50s and 60s. The Calgarian artist commented on the piece:

"I started by re-filming some old footage of my fam in places like Banff and Sylvan Lake. I combined that with photos of anything circular in my studio. After that, I started to panic, and sat down and drew whatever came to my burned out mind hole overtop of those backgrounds. A lot of fruit. A lot of Lamborghini Countach. I have a button on my computer that morphs the drawings together. It's very satisfying and trippy. Go out into nature instead of watching the video."

The beloved surrealist songwriter launched Gardener last week on Flemish Eye in Canada and Sub Pop elsewhere. Chad recorded the new album, the proper follow-up to 2017's Light Information, at his Yoko Eno Studio in Calgary. Ryan Morey (Wares, Daniel Romano, Yves Jarvis) mastered the set in Montreal.

Rude City Riot: "Molotov Dreams"

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Vancouver ska-punk unit Rude City Riot returns in just a few weeks with a new record. Shady Schemes & Molotov Dreams marks the band's first release since way back in 2011 (and while that's nothing compared to the Intersystems gulf, it's certainly still a stretch). The 11-song full-length includes the anti-racist anthem "Molotov Dreams," taking up the subculture's longstanding tradition of confronting discrimination in song. You can preview it at Bandcamp, or through a new video that just arrived today.

The band's sophomore full-length arrives as the follow up to Nothin' But Time, a record praised a decade ago as a faithful continuation of the 3rd wave ska sound that exploded in the late 90s. Of course, your mileage will vary based on your tolerance for the much-maligned genre, but as a certified porkpie-owning teenager of the era, this feels pretty damn authentic.

Huron Lines: "Older Now"

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Windsor's Huron Lines recently emerged with "Older Now," their debut single. The gravelly vocals and loud/quiet dynamics should instantly throw you back to the grunge era, with some underlying post-punk instrumentals giving the track a decidedly modern spin. The quartet recorded with Psychic Void's Josh Kaiser engineering. Bill Skibbe (whose massive list of credits includes Fucked Up, Jack White, and The Kills) mastered at Third Man Mastering across the river in Detroit.

Guitarist/vocalist David Mueller commented on the track:

"This song is inspired by the idea of reconnecting with what you love and just starting over no matter what it is - sometimes you gotta go thru a lot of mud and be totally lost before you truly find your way back to yourself and what inspires you but once you do you learn that you gotta hold onto it for dear life and start again. Hopefully people can relate to it and find some inspiration. We thought it was a good way to introduce this set of songs and the new band to the world."

Huron Lines features Mueller with guitarist Grainger Harris, bassist/vocalist RJ Brando, and drummer Nick Mitchell.

The Peelers: "Glad to See the Back of You"

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Montreal-based Celtic punk outfit The Peelers made the best of an understandably low-key St. Patrick's Day with the release of a video showcasing "Glad to See the Back of You." The track comes from the group's recent Stomp Records full-length Down & Out In The City Of Saints. You can raise a glass with it on YouTube now.

The group recorded Down and Out in Montreal, Vancouver, and Dundee, Scotland between December 2019 and June of 2020. It's the band's second full-length since their 2017 reunion record Palace of the Fiend (an album that marked their return from a 13-year hiatus). The Peelers originally surfaced in the eastern Ontario township of North Glengarry in 1999.

Yves Jarvis: "Body Of Work"

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The brilliant Montreal song scientist Yves Jarvis has another playful new standalone single online, following up on last month's "Projection." You can check the mile-a-minute wordplay of "Body of Work" visualized in a new quirky new lyric video on YouTube.

The new material follows last year's Sundry Rock Song Stock. That LP arrived in September from Flemish Eye in Canada and the Epitaph imprint ANTI- everywhere else.

Yves Jarvis is the latest stage name for the acclaimed home-recording savant Jean-Sebastian Audet. He previously played as Un Blonde.

Zero Zero UFO: "In Disguise"

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Moncton, New Brunswick's Zero Zero UFO charge out the gate with "In Disguise," demonstrating a hard-rocking sci-fi shtick that completely nails the Misfits' b-movie vibe. The aggressive song's the first preview of Conspiracy, a new full-length due to arrive this Friday, with a cassette edition due from Tarantula Tapes out of Barrie, Ontario.

Rules: "Victims"

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Hamilton psych-punk supergroup Rules has a new video online featuring the track "Victims," a fuzzy scorcher from their recent debut full-length The Bummer Circus Comes To Truth City. It's the album's second single following "Burning Bridges." The aforementioned Stomp (who are all over this week's newsletter) issued the record earlier this month.

Rules worked with producer Roman Marcone on the 14-song record. The band features Chuck Coles (The Creepshow, Organ Thieves), Ben Rispin (Saint Alvia, The Video Dead), Adam Michael (Say Yes, Walk Off The Earth) and Alex Standen (The Penske File).

D.O.A.: "It Was D.O.A."

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BC punk legends D.O.A. have a delightful new animated video online featuring "It Was D.O.A.", a track from 2020's Treason that both pokes fun at the band's history and pays homage to Stompin' Tom's immortal "Tillsonburg." Vancouver cartoonist Reid Blakley (who plays in The Plodes) animated the piece.

Treason came out last year on the veteran band's Sudden Death Records, part of a slate of 40th-anniversary programming that included a recent vinyl reissue of their 1980 debut Something Better Change.

I should note that the Kickstarter campaign raising funds for Scott Crawford's upcoming film of the same name recently blew past its goal. The Something Better Change documentary will follow the unlikely political success of D.O.A. frontman Joey "Shithead" Keithley, cumulating in his election as a city councillor in Burnaby, BC. Guests slated to appear in the film include Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Jello Biafra, Krist Novoselic, Duff McKagan, and past U.S. presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke. The fundraiser pulled in over $60,000 (CAD) in support of the project.

React to it at your leisure

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