5 ON THE FLY – Five Mini Record Reviews In One Place
SHAUN WEADICK – seer//renewer
Although guitarist Shaun Weadick is a part of other musical endeavours (Loosestrife, with Claire Lyke) ‘seer//renewer’ is a completely solo project and a personal statement. The message is one of hope, but with the proviso that hope can take its time coming and you don’t get there without suffering some pain along the way.
There are no vocals on the record – everything is communicated through Weadick’s guitar. Through slow, dirge-like progressions, it expresses the agony that one can suffer (“dry spells”). With a repeated plucked rhythm like a heartbeat, it reminds us that we are still alive regardless of anything (“us beating hearts have to live”). And in melodic, acoustic form it represents the beauty of the hope that we ultimately find.
For an instrumental record, ‘seer//renewer’ gets pretty intimate, but the universality of the message is something that we can all relate to.
THE MOAS/SUSAN – Skid Fiction (split)
Many album or EP splits seem to have no point or serve any purpose (So you guys are friends? That’s nice). Then there are splits like ‘Skid Fiction’. Ultimately, both Susan and The Moas end up in the same neighbourhood – a place where serious, guitar-based indie rock respects its ’80s college-radio heritage. But they come at it from different directions, making the album an interesting exercise in contrasts.
Of course, there is the obvious difference that The Moas has female vocals whereas Susan has a male singer, but that’s superficial. The Moas guitar work is more free form, particularly in the intros. However, when the airy vocals kick in they send you off into the clouds and leave you there. Susan opts for more structured patterns for their instruments. In fact, things get downright mathy on songs like “Fine Lines”. The primary difference, however, lies in the fact that with Susan the vocals never quite take centre stage – the instruments (primarily guitar) keep interrupting by changing things up and wandering down different musical roads.
Best track for The Moas: “Jovian”, where the vocals float but are anchored by some gritty guitar and psychedelic leopards.
Best track for Susan: “Stranger Fiction”, where the vocals sound like CS&N with attitude, but are upstaged by a lengthy duel between guitars and bass.
TERRA – Couldn’t Save This
From the heart of the prairies comes an artsy blast of grunge garage rock. “I Fold” introduces us to Terra’s signature murky brew, which is penetrated by a guitar break shining through like a glint of sunlight in the clouds. Later on “Forest Lawn” kicks things into full gear. It’s hard driving lo-fi rock with proto-punk vocals. The final cut “Incurable Condition” is the track that perhaps best brings all of their elements together. It is more upbeat than the rest of the album but it still has that grinding garage vibe. Plucked electric guitar strings keep things rolling.
The standout, however, is the title track. The grimy base is offset by singer Chris Kessler’s processed vocals and an eerie, evocative melody. A synth line rises up above the grungy rhythm. Hope? Not likely. When you hear Kessler repeatedly intone, “Jesus Christ couldn’t save this”, you realize there’s no relief from despair to be found here.
DEVARROW – The Great Escape
Devarrow (aka Graham Ereaux) is what you’d call bi-coastal – originally from New Brunswick but now living in BC. He’s seen a lot more of this country than most of us will ever hope to see. At times he sounds road-weary, but for the most part he’s an undying optimist. Even on the song “Heroin and Rain”, involving a subject that is invariable tragic, he is convinced that, like the rain, his friend will rise again. It’s a refreshing breath of hope in a world of disillusionment.
Ereaux doesn’t exactly explore new musical territories with his folksy, sometimes even rootsy, offerings. But he has a commendable amount of verve, and he frequently adds some lively stomp with the use of drum pedals (even though it’s actually electronic). On the song “Vancouver” he even gets down right urban with a clap and groove beat/rhythm.
Even if you are not a fan of indie folk you are bound to find something to like on this nicely composed and varied record.
TONY WILSON 6TET – A Day’s Life
The fact that ‘A Day’s Life’ is inspired by the plight of the homeless and drug addicted in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is not something that you really need to know to appreciate the emotional depth of this record. The music speaks for itself. And it speaks in a language that is referred to as jazz, but that’s only for convenient reference. It’s experimental. It’s adventurous. It speaks emotional truth, and has no real need for categorization.
The sextet (Tony Wilson: guitar, Jesse Zubot: violin, JP Carter: trumpet, Peggy Lee: cello, Russell Sholberg: bass, and Skye Brooks: drums) take Wilson’s compositions and bring them to life in a variety of ways. “Good-bye” has folk roots in the acoustic guitar, but takes on a mournful air in the strings and muted trumpet. In “The Long Walk” Wilson establishes a math-like structure, around which the rest of the band freely roam with jazzy freedom. “It’s About Time” is highly experimental, both with Brooks’ percussion and some electronic treatments courtesy of Carter. “A Day’s Life” is cocktail lounge cool. The list here just goes on.
‘A Day’s Life’ is diverse, honest, heartfelt, and it is performed by some of Vancouver’s most accomplished musicians playing at the top of their game.