REVIEW: Else­things Festival with Raleigh, PrOphecy Sun and We Are Phantoms Again

While East Vancouver celebrated the demise of a beloved venue with abandon, a smaller gathering in the West End launched an unexpected new haven for fun-having. Though it certainly wasn’t the first show hosted by Googly Eyes Collective, Elsethings Arts Festival—a collage of performance, film, art, and cozy hangouts—was charged with expectation, light, and new beginnings.

VIDEO: A takeaway jam

For many of the musicians I know, band practice is an intimate weekly ritual. One member taps out a rhythm overheard on the bus, while another articulates some severely internet-centric lyric. Sometimes it’s all lighbulbs and fireworks. Other times ideas are ridiculed and abandoned as quickly as they’re expressed.

The Adulthood graciously shared a jam session with me, and even let me point a camera at their faces. When I stopped by, they were jamming out a new song called ‘Til Death do us Part. This is the resulting video/jam/document/thing.

REVIEW: Oneohtrix Point Never live at W2

Trippiness is a strange musical currency; value is so often predicated on the mind-altering substances consumed by its listeners. Having arrived stone sober at W2 to see Oneohtrix Point Never (Brooklyn-based Daniel Lopatin), this reviewer admits she was only adequately captivated by the synaptic soundscapes on offer Wednesday night. But as someone’s grandma might say: better to be challenged than bored.

Artist prOphecy sun keeps a recording studio in her pocket

You might think it takes a lot of equipment to record and edit vocals, instrumental tracks, field recordings and music videos for half a dozen different bands. But for one Vancouver performance artist with a penchant for singing on her bike, all it takes is an iPhone.

Prophecy Sun is a singer, dancer and creator whose curiosity keeps her moving. “For me it comes down to accessibility,” she says of her pocket-sized piece of gear. “First and foremost, it’s so immediate. I don’t have to worry about getting someone else involved, I can just press record and start doing it.”

Grimes: “It’s kinda psychedelic…”

It wasn’t so long ago that Claire Boucher—a.k.a. Grimes—released a miniscule run of 30 cassettes for her breezy electro-goth debut Geidi Primes. Just over a year ago, the Vancouver-born, but then Montreal-based artist played to a modest crowd at the Astoria with the help of local jack-of-most-trades, Cameron Reed.

“Cam set up my first show in Vancouver, which was really nice of him,” Boucher recalls of the de facto show promoter, who also crafts glitchy atmospherics under the banner Babe Rainbow. On the line from her parents’ place in town, Boucher reflects on how far she’s come.

Vancouver’s newest record label skips CD format

Vancouver has a tradition of local forward-thinking record labels, from Nettwerk to Mint to Scratch Records. But the latest imprint to launch in this city has a new, untested idea: Sizzle Teen Records will forgo the CD format and focus on vinyl and digital sales exclusively.

“If you look at the big guys in the music industry, from Warner Brothers to HMV, they’re all pretty much failing,” says label founder Richie Fudalewski. “From our experience, CDs are not worth it.”

Best records of 2011

Nguzunguzu – The Perfect Lullaby. A labyrinth of stripped-down loops and beats referencing ’90s R&B chart-toppers and Angolan kizomba & zouk in equal measures. Truly the only possible way to enjoy eight hours trapped in a Mozambican airport.

MYTHS – MYTHS. Supercharged electro-noise with a semi-psychotic swagger. First caught them opening for HEALTH and they’ve been terrifying me ever since. “Deadlights” is basically Alice Glass squared.

PODCAST: Vacant State

It’s an unlikely home for a hardcore band. La Casa del Artista first opened in 2006 for the purpose of showcasing live mariachi music. A towering mustard-coloured building on the corner of Main and 3rd Ave, it’s on the back steps that I first meet three members of Vacant State: Terry Wilk (vocals), Adam Mitchell (guitar) and Chris “Gustav” Gustafson (bass). Relocating to their ground-floor jam space, we sat down (on the floor) to discuss Vancouver’s punk scene, all-ages venues and their debut long player Fill the Void.

REVIEW: Lightning Dust / Hard Drugs split 7″

Crafted by a pair of local boy/girl two-pieces, this split seven-inch pressed on white vinyl has a dark side and a goofy side—both of which may cause you to unwittingly sing in public.

First up is Lightning Dust, one of the many successful side projects spawned by hometown stoner-rockers Black Mountain. Amber Webber and Joshua Wells explore their ‘80s goth-pop side in the moody, half-whispered affirmation “Never Again.” With quiet beginnings, the track swells into several timpani and thunderclap-accompanied moments fit for a particularly tragic scene of a John Hughes flick.

red gate 'order to vacate' stands

Red Alert

Just over a month after the New Pornographers headlined a free concert in Stanley Park celebrating Vancouver’s 125th birthday, the band’s recording studio and rehearsal space—located on the third floor of the Red Gate—has packed up permanently.

“We’re almost entirely moved out, sadly, but we’ve been there over six years,” says John Collins, bassist and multi-instrumentalist for the New Pornographers. “When Jim [Carrico] found the place we were the first people to get in there—before there was any electricity or water.”

PODCAST: South African indie makes waves

South African indie music has rarely crossed the ocean to North America’s mass markets—but the genre is developing, and the sound is big, bright and bold.

Gazelle frontman, Xander Ferreira, says South African indie music is in a renaissance period: “We believe this is the future for African music, for people to gather a scene here first and then go and take over the world.”

Songs for Change

Mbongseni “Bholoja” Ngubane wasn’t always an internationally revered musician. By profession, the soulful songwriter hailing from the kingdom of Swaziland was once a mechanical engineer.

“To me, music is a calling,” Bholoja explained, hours before taking the stage at this year’s Bushfire Arts Festival in Ezulwini, Swaziland.

“It’s not all about being doctors or engineers. I was an engineer, but I’m an artist today.”

Flash Palace

If a never-ending laser beam were unleashed inside the Taj Mahal, would it make a sound?

Though they have no scientific evidence to back it up, all four members of Flash Palace are willing to bet it would sound like an intricately woven post-rock jam with carefully hidden Josh Groban samples. At least that’s the soundscape bassist Ellis Sam described while discussing his band’s debut EP Some Misinterpreted Sunsets.

Black to Basics

Though Vancouver may be a comfort zone for hometown heroes Black Mountain, the band has proven they’re willing to make leaps and bounds outside that space—and luckily, it’s playing off.

Reached from the Black Mountain tour van en route to Austin, Texas, bassist Matt Camirand opened up about their new album, new tour, and new approach to rock and roll.

Beach Boy

If life is a beach for Wavves frontman Nathan Williams, the last two years have brought soaring swells along with some gnarly riptides.

Back in 2008, equipped with a Macbook and lack of better things to do, Williams unwittingly set the music blogosphere abuzz with a few irreverent bursts of lo-fi stoner pop. His eponymous debut received nods from the scene’s most respected tastemakers, catapulting Wavves into indie fame before the 24-year-old even had a chance to move out of his parents’ San Diego home.

REVIEW: Tyrana horse — ghostwolf mother hawk: prarie unicorn lion lioness

As both the band name and album title might suggest, Tyranahorse’s debut record is the deformed lovechild of many musical creatures. Though elements of rock and indie folk are perhaps most prominent, it’s the seemingly unscripted ventures into vintage psychedelia and noise that make ghostwolfmotherhawk: prarieunicornlionlioness such a majestic and untamed beast.

REVIEW: The Magician and the Gates of Love – The Singles

The Magician is a far cry from the balding “illusionist” that probably showed up at your eighth birthday party. Though he has been known to bust out a card trick or two at his live shows, Nathan Moes (and his new backing band the Gates of Love) are the real deal.

Drawing noticeable influence from Belle & Sebastian, the Unicorns, Ben Folds and the Flaming Lips, the Langley quintet’s follow-up to Moes’ debut EP Who Will Cut the Grass When I’m Gone? is a work of honest showmanship, sans smoke and mirrors . . .

REVIEW: Jaill – That’s How We Burn

Creative spellers and Milwaukee four-piece Jaill sound like the type of band that “practices” rather than “jams.” Every song on their big label debut That’s How We Burn fits into a cohesive garage-pop aesthetic; the riffs are watertight, the drum licks indestructible. Never mind improvising — everything from lead singer Vincent Kircher’s conversational melodies to the subdued hints of Wisconsin twang — feel polished and calculated . . .

Sleepless in Salmo

Contrary to what you may or may not have been told, Shambhala Music Festival is not held in outer space. But considering its remoteness, heart-stopping volume and 10,000 sparkle-encrusted attendees, it may as well be.

It’s a place where crystal healings and beatboxing tournaments happen in confusingly close proximity; where entire rivers are inexplicably dyed fluorescent green; and where motorized couches pass as entirely reasonable means of transport. Hosted on a 500-acre cattle ranch near Salmo, B.C. — about an eight-hour drive from Vancouver — Shambhala is a dance party destination for those craving spooky encounters of an electronic kind . . .

Shad

It was daylight outside, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the subterranean lighting inside the Biltmore Cabaret. Hip-hop wordsmith Shad and I shared a red velvet booth, while his bassist Ian Koiter absent-mindedly grooved in the background.

A few minutes before soundcheck, we were contemplating the finer points of the 1984 video game Tetris.

“I play a lot of Tetris on my computer. It calms me down in a weird way,” he said. “There’s definitely a rhythm to it. I find it relaxing.” . . .

Ultraviolet

Twisted Sister

A little internet hype goes a long way.

Of all the buzzworthy artists floating around the blogosphere, this is especially true for Kid Sister. Within two short years, the Chicago MC went from selling baby clothes and stealing microphones at basement dance parties, to collaborating with Kanye West and performing at Coachella’s main stage. All this—plus a BET award nomination—went down before she released a debut album . . .

REVIEW: Arctic Monkeys – My Propeller

The third single to follow up last year’s full-length album Humbug, My Propeller solidifies the band’s departure from its faster, more furious roots. Gone are the days of upbeat, angular party songs about scummy men. Instead, the Arctic Monkeys have crafted a croony collection of melancholic commentary on shitty bars, wasted evenings and arguably frontman Alex Turner’s penis . . .

REVIEW: Delhi 2 Dublin – Planet Electric

Depending on your perspective, Vancouver-based Delhi 2 Dublin is either a brilliant free-thinking experiment in ethnomusicology, or a confused jumble of all things “other.” Mashing up languages, instruments and styles from several far-flung corners of the globe into one electrified melting pot, D2D’s sophomore release Planet Electric ranges from slowed-down dubby atmospherics to hyperactive bhangra marathons . . .