5 ON THE FLY (Weird Tuesday Edition): Five mini reviews all in one place.



The Basement Paintings offer up a cornucopia of delights for fans of drone/metal ambience. The entire affair is grounded with heavy drums and bass, with the majority of the texture and context being provided by electric guitar, which is often distorted beyond recognition. Processed field recordings add further embellishment, as does the ethereal vocals of Mikhalia Anderson. It’s a mesmerizing effect overall; at times soft and ambient, at others dark and sludgy, and yet other times metalically insistent.

Prime cut: “Oneiros”

LUNAR ATLAS – Maelstrom


God knows where Patrick Trudel gets his inspiration from but severe brain trauma or a psychotic break are the best explanations I can come up with. The Edmonton native, who records as Lunar Atlas, presents one the quirkiest records you’ll hear all year. There’s an abundance of styles – alt-country, pysch-folk, garage rock, spaghetti western surf – with the only constant being Trudel’s ability to turn the familiar into the weird. He does this with his peculiar, warbling vocals, unexpected shifts in melody, and the odd note that just sounds off (but it isn’t). There is no questioning his talent, though – just check out the rambling, 20 minute epic “Apogee”, which is a sort of garage/prog suite.

Prime cut: “Tabula Rasa”

HIGH FIVE – Pure Lava

pure lava

Matt LeGroulx returns (OK, he never really left) as High Five, and he’s as fresh and creative as ever. With ‘Pure Lava’ the music may be more guitar-heavy than his previous ventures (Expwy, Galaxius Mons, King Fang) but he is still prone to lysergic flights of fancy. His processed voice sounds other-worldly even while he impresses with the ability to expertly take on math rock (“Taking out the trash”) and grunge (“In the market square drinking memory hair”). It’s an example of how garage/psych can be given the modern electronic treatment and come out sounding new millennium.

Prime cut: “Crowded places suck”

ACE MARTENS – Palm Springs

palm springs

Somewhere out there Ace Martens is singing in a lounge backed by The Shadows, while Lady Penelope and the pilots from Thunderbirds listen in the dark smoking cigarettes. Welcome to the alternate universe of my dreams with the soundtrack provided by ‘Palm Springs’.

There is a lot to love here, from the Scott Walker/Lee Hazlewood crooner “Desert Highway” to the slinky blues rock of “Somebody Else”. Martens has a great voice – a huskier version of Bryan Ferry. And like Ferry he is very much self-aware that he is paying tribute to the baroque pop greats of the ‘60s. When you listen to the quavering sci-fi instrumentation in the Vegas-style “Palm Springs” you actually wonder whether it’s better than the real thing.

Prime cut: “Desert Highway”

HIMALAYAN BEAR – Pastoral Memoria


To say Ryan Beattie is an enigma is an understatement. He operates quietly behind the shroud of the persona known as Himalayan Bear, indulging in a genre that simply has no name and almost defies description (although you know full well I am going to give it a shot). On ‘Pastoral Memoria’ you essentially hear a man with a passion for campfire folklore set to music, and the deep timbre of his voice is a great instrument to make the transmission. However, there are so many wrenches thrown in the works that labels like roots-country and alt-folk just don’t cut it. There are field recordings, ambient electronics, baroque pop instrumentation – just to name a few things to mess up all expectations. The guy also has a thing for drone music, best exemplified here on the song “Death Trance”. But there is one constant in all of this – Beattie always delivers quality, heart-felt tunes that never disappoint.

Prime cut: “Death Trance”