Friday November 17, 2023

Menace Minimale

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated more-or-less 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.

Annie-Claude Deschênes: "Menace Minimale"

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Annie-Claude Deschênes, lead vocalist of now-dormant Montreal synth-punk act Duchess Says, has a solo single out. You can see "Menace Minimale" visualized on YouTube or pick the song up at Bandcamp. It's our first preview of the artist's upcoming work for Bonsound and Italians Do It Better, which so far sounds like a spiritual successor to Duchess Says' distinct electro stomp. As the title seems to reference, it falls on the poppier side of that equation - an evolution of the band's idiosyncratic sense of urgency but with frustration giving way to something less bristled. ACD co-produced the song with Jean-Michel Coutu (PYPY, Corridor, Paul Jacobs) and Italians-label head Johnny Jewel. Jewel mixed the tune, with Matt Feldman mastering. There's no word yet on what this is building towards.

Duchess Says last issued Sciences Nouvelles in 2016. In 2022, Deschênes contributed the solo track "Electric Light" to the fourth volume of Italians Do It Better's After Dark compilation series.

Red Mass: 111

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In the years Duchess Says was active, most of the band also played in the psych-punk act PYPY, joining forces with Roy Vucino, the prolific Montreal artist often billed as Choyce. In certain corners, Vucino's long musical history needs no introduction, as he appeared in several crucial early-2000s garage-punk groups, including CPC Gangbangs and Les Sexareenos. In recent years, he's issued a wealth of material through his self-described "free creative enterprise" Red Mass, often in partnership with Hannah Lewis.

The latest Red Mass project is daunting yet elusive - an ongoing series of eleven concept albums performed in various genres for various labels. Collectively titled 111 (a tally of every song in the project), several volumes from the set are circulating to date. Sweet Blasphemy was the first to surface, arriving last fall as an extremely limited tape through Italy's Goodbye Boozy (and later issued on vinyl through the French label Kizmiaz Records). It finds Choyce in a raucous garage mindset with a guest appearance from Montreal rockabilly hero Bloodshot Bill. Volume two is Black Light, Black Heat, a post-punk journey with industrial overtones and a heavy debt owed to the Wax Trax sound. It's out on tape through the Austin label Spacecase Records. Montreal's Cuchabata Records issued the psych-folk set Memento Mori in March, with garage styles resurfacing in Love & Magik on No Coast in April. While volume 5 remains conspicuously absent, the sixth, The Evil of our Collective Mind, goes fully metal for a cassette available through Vancouver's Bent Window. Goodbye Boozy took another shot with volume 8, the ominous psych set The Taste of Worlds.

That leaves five albums to be unveiled, by my count, with future releases expected via Wallride Records and a few others to be announced. I could have missed a few, as Vucino's mostly let the collections surface organically and with little centralized coordination (which feels delightfully anarchic compared to the dry discipline of most PR campaigns; I had to hunt for these details).

The material comprising 111 came together over the past 12 years, and despite the long shelf-life, most are unreleased. The effort's not strictly an archival dump, though, as Choyce organized each album to represent a distinct personality type. Vucino shared:

"In Red Mass' previous release A Hopeless Noise the main protagonist suffers from a multiple personality disorder. 111 explores the idea put forth by author Grant Morrison that instead of a single personality complex, we should adhere to a multiple personality complex, allowing us to relate more to others, adapt more easily and possibly even avoid a large-scale societal psychosis."

A Hopeless Noise came out in the winter of 2020 through Mothland.

TV Erased: If You Get, I Want

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Montreal post-punk supergroup TV Erased issued their first full-length this week. If You Get, I Want lands with eleven tracks, following up their self-titled April EP with a noisy slate of angular, harrowing tunes. The band unites vocalist/guitarist Joseph Yarmush of SUUNS, bassist Alex Ortiz of We Are Wolves, guitarist/vocalist Trevor Barnes of Turbo, and drummer Alex Hackett from Pang Attack. The album arrives via Yarmush's recently launched Stress Test Records.

Formed just as the pandemic arrived to fuck up their momentum, TV Erased recorded at various studios over the past three years, including Hotel2Tango (with Radwan Ghazi Moumneh), Mountain City (with Adrian Popovich), and Mixed Messages. The album channels those deep-cut moments when Fugazi or PIL would shrug off their pop instincts to indulge in seas of listener-challenging noise. A press release says as much:

"On If you get, I want, walls of tape noise and manipulated samples hiss and crash as strange, intertwining guitar lines vandalize repetitive, hypnotic drum and bass grooves; rhythmically-hooky vocals steeped in dreamy, modulating delays, punch holes through the clatter, grounding the jams within the 'song' paradigm, but always teetering on the edge of the precipice. This primitive, kinetic chaos is balanced by the band's ability to carve out obliquely exciting hooks. The album's sonic identity, crafted with co-producer Adrian Popovich, has a confounding cold looseness to it, like a robot learning to play rock and roll, or if the Stooges had recorded Funhouse with Martin Hannett instead of Don Gallucci."

The omnipresent Mikey Young mastered the record. Black Mountain's Amber Webber makes a guest appearance on the track "Hello Sunshine." You can check out videos for "It's Halloween" and "Violent Strains" on YouTube.

Joseph noted that at a recent POP Montreal show supporting Death From Above 1979, someone in the crowd exclaimed, "these guys are great; I'd sign them if they were twenty years younger!"

The Royal Family: "Metamorphosis"/"When I Was A Butterfly"

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Psych heavyweights from Possum, ROY, Hieronymus Harry, and The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, along with personnel from garage rockers Wine Lips, recently unveiled recordings as The Royal Family. The seven-piece collective is issuing a self-titled set of Baroque psych tunes on December 1 through the labels We, Here & Now Recordings, Echodelick Records, and Cardinal Fuzz.

You can preview the collection through a pair of tracks. "Metamorphosis" is a concise yet ponderous tune closely tied to the album's narrative. It arrived alongside an appropriately vintage video. The communal spirit of the project truly shines in "When I Was A Butterfly," a whimsically compelling march that leverages several distinct vocal styles. It's a song that feels entirely aware of its anachronistic nature, not to the point of parody but certainly smiling at the spectacle of it all. In a short statement, the Toronto band spoke to the album's concept:

"The genesis of the LP revolves around the metamorphosis of a butterfly; and the becoming, and the realizing of the self."

The press release further cites a host of eclectic influences, listing 60s personalities like Francois Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, and Zouzou alongside psych-rock acts like Soft Machine, Fairport Convention, London's Kaleidoscope, and the proto-King Crimson act Giles, Giles and Fripp. This uncultured punk will have to take their word for it, but I'm game for anything. The band recorded straight to analog tape in 2021 and 2022, with ROY's Patrick Lefler engineering and Jeff McMurrich (U.S. Girls, Jennifer Castle) mastering.

ForX: ForX

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Ottawa bruisers ForX recently shared their first recordings, a self-titled four-track EP of gritty, no-frills punk rock. The group brings together members of The Lindbergh Babies, Destroyer Scene, and Slim and Popular. They recorded at Gatineau's NOMANSLAND studio with the Pils Records crew of engineer Chany Pilote and documentarian Dizz Hupé.

ForX features Leftwalker on vocals, Eyeball playing guitar, drummer Rampant Ryan, and bassist Bobby Lawless. The group played their first show in March, having since shared the stage with noisemakers like Ciggy & the Darts, The Brains, Black Dog, and Calgary vets Motherfuckers.

Ain't Right: Pils Session

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On a related note, Montreal street punk act Ain't Right recently emerged from the wreckage of Oi! growlers King Cans. The four-piece convened at NOMANSLAND for two days in August to record their first studio material, an eight-song run. Among their originals, you'll find a cover of The Victims' 1977 classic "Television Addict." As usual with Pils Sessions, Chany Pilote recorded and mixed the set while Dizz Hupé spread the word. You can find the session at Bandcamp and pick it up as a limited edition cassette.

The band planned their on-stage debut for December, supporting local Oi! powerhouse Force Majeure - a celebration of that band's new full-length. Given the public implosion of the headliner, it looks like they'll have to find another gig.

Ain't Right features Mat on vocals, Dan86 on guitar, Frank on bass, and Sam on drums. Their session follows recent Pils appearances from Ottawa acts Good Sick and Crisis Party, along with an appearance from the Arabic-language Montreal group UZU.

Physical Congas: Oh No!

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If that TV Erased record grabbed your attention, Stress Test has even more in store. The label also recently issued the debut EP from Physical Congas, a quirky duo featuring Alexander Ortiz and Adrian Popovich. The group's three-song Oh No! set is available as an ultra-limited lathe cut 7" and can be found digitally (with a bonus track) at Bandcamp. The group dissected their origins and influences in the liner notes:

"Alexander Ortiz and Adrian Popovich: pop fantasists, children of Colombian and Romanian immigrants, respectively, members of We Are Wolves, American Lips, individuals who shared similar formative musical journeys coming up in a pre-internet Montreal. Molded by Musiqueplus, hard-to-obtain punk and indie rock cassettes, illegal 90's all-ages loft-space shows, art school, DIY ethics and a guilt-complex love-affair with pop music, Physical Congas materialized via a spontaneous jam during a Rip Pop Mutant recording session: Eastern European austerity meets South American biodiversity on a usually-frozen island.

Combining effervescent pop melodies, disjointed guitars, beats from semi-functional digital keyboards, and the occasional John Christ-having-a-stroke guitar solo (on Action/Reaction), Physical Congas channel a broad swath of influences like The Clean, German minimalists TRIO, K Records, The Raincoats, and not really any Danzig (although naturally they are fans). Oh No! is a brief collection of songs about the constant emotional whiplash of our times."

In addition to everything referenced above, you can hear Ortiz and Popovich together in the space-punk act FRVITS. That band issued a tight-wound set on Slovenly back in 2021.

Class of 91: "Broken Window"

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Ottawa rockers Class of 91 have a stomping new single out dubbed "Broken Window," the first follow-up to their 2022 EP Lost Stories. As their name proudly declares, the group's never shy about flexing their love of early 90s alt-rock and the breakout punk of the era. "Broken Window" does little to dispel that, nor does it shy from their particular love affair with the work of Bob Mould.

Class of 91 features vocalist/guitarist Ian Ferguson, guitarist Brock Sarault, bassist Fred Pantalone Jr, and drummer Steve Clifford. The quartet recorded DIY in Ottawa, with Kristian Montano (Kali Horse, Daniel Romano) mastering.

Look for the band on stage this Saturday at Club SAW, alongside Neon Ghosthouse, Stoby, and Hannah Vig. They'll be in Toronto on December 2 at Sneaky Dee's with Out Of Reach.

Gulfer: "Clean"

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Montreal emo-revivalists Gulfer have a new stand-alone single out through Topshelf Records. "Clean" feels like a triumph, a barnburner of an indie-rock tune that wraps some dark lyricism in its immense hooks. The track follows an individual on the run from the law after killing their boss, not that you'd know it from the feel-good party vibe of a video that accompanied the track, shot by Jordano Aguzzi. On that disconnect, guitarist/vocalist Joe Therriault commented:

"The choice for us to set the video by the pool was a way for us to twist some of the song's darker lyrics (There were two ports in the storm / fish him out in his uniform) into something bright and upbeat – that tension between the lyrics and the instrumentation is part of the song itself."

Gulfer's released a string of singles in the years since their 2020 self-titled full-length for Topshelf and Royal Mountain, including a split EP with Marquette, MI's Charmer. The quartet features guitarist/vocalists Vincent Ford and Joe Therriault, bassist David Mitchell, and drummer Julien Daoust.

NYSSA: "Blessèd Touch" / "No More Bodies"

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Toronto vocal powerhouse NYSSA is working with Six Shooter Records on her new full-length. Shake Me Where I'm Foolish arrives February 1 with eleven new songs. Of those, you can now preview the slow-burning anthem "Blessèd Touch" and the soaring "No More Bodies," both streaming now at Bandcamp. A few songs shared earlier this year also appear on the album, including September's "Werewolf" and June's "Breakup Party."

NYSSA recorded with Nyles Spencer at The Tragically Hip's Bathouse Recording Studio, with Shout Out Out Out's Nik Kozub mastering. Among the guests on the record you'll hear Mother Tongues' Lukas Cheung on guitar, Jay Anderson of Badge Époque Ensemble and Lammping on drums, and Scooter Jay's Brandon Lim on bass.

I'm always uncertain how to classify NYSSA's music, and it was certainly easier in her early electro-glam-pop days. The artist offered up "pagan gospel" and "music-for-ancestral-wounds" recently, which are better than anything I could come up with. NYSSA is an otherworldly force, however you describe her.

The Halluci Nation: The Path of the Heel

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The ties between electric pow-wow duo The Halluci Nation and Toronto hardcore luminaries Fucked Up are growing tighter. Earlier this month, the former dropped a surprise EP dubbed The Path of the Heel, which finds the latter's Damian Abraham on lead vocals for the propulsive "Tree of Woe." In a curious interlude, Abraham leans into his well-documented wrestling obsession to throw some ring-side threats in the guise of The Alie Nation, setting the stage for a forthcoming spectacle teased as Halluci Mania. Your guess is as good as mine, but it sounds like a blast.

Maskwacis, AB pow wow / round dance group Northern Cree take to the mic for the second half of the EP, furthering their longstanding creative partnership with the group.

To coincide with their cross-country co-headlining tour this past summer, Fucked Up issued a pair of covers recorded in collaboration with The Halluci Nation. The groups united to tackle the Dangerous Rhythm song "Electroshock" and Millions of Dead Cops' landmark "John Wayne Was a Nazi."

After three albums as A Tribe Called Red, Tim "2oolman" Hill and Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas relaunched their acclaimed project as The Halluci Nation. They most recently issued One More Saturday Night in 2021. Their 2016 single "Stadium Pow Wow," featuring Manawan, Quebec's Black Bear, recently appeared in the new Scorsese flick Killers Of the Flower Moon

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Some Party is Adam White's misguided quest to share the latest in Canadian garage rock, punk, psych, and more. Subscribe and get it in your inbox more-or-less weekly. Your information's always kept private, and unsubscribing is easy.

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