5 ON THE FLY: Five mini reviews all in one place.

Rainboard – Over Thunder Hill

Rainboard is the power duo of Tom Reimer (guitar, vocals) and Lyndon Schiewe (drums), who hail from the tiny burg of Salmo in the Kootenays of British Columbia. Their sound is as spacious and majestic as the region’s mountainous terrain, and the mood as ponderous as the almost ever-present blanket of massive rainclouds.

Despite always being creative and lively, Schiewe’s bass-heavy drumming provides the music’s anchor, allowing Reimer unlimited space to create the band’s post-rock melodies. At times the guitars ring out echoes genres such as indie (“Imaginary Monsters”) and blues (“Life Coach Pt. III”), but always tend to be woven into a very dense fabric, akin to drone. Reimer’s high-pitched vocals are deliberately buried deep in the mix, so as to create a somewhat eerie counterpoint to the thunderous guitars, rather than be the focal point.

Rainboard carve out their own niche on ‘Over Thunder Hill’; one that is as artistically impressive as anything emanating from such urban post-rock centres as Montreal, but one that retains the spirit of their rural setting.

Prime cut: “Night Thief’s Express”

Death Kart – Bedroom Sessions Vol. 1

If there was ever a band name that was completely deceiving then Death Kart must be it. No, this isn’t black metal or hardcore punk. Not even close. The members of Death Kart are actually crafty pop stylists, and ‘Bedroom Sessions Vol. 1’ nicely showcases the breadth of their talents. Whereas “Love Like Lobotomy” is disco-era pop with a smirk, “Pathways” takes that boogie, yacht rock style and adds some UK blue-eyed soul. To throw you right off, “Don’t Say That” is a faux Broadway ballad and the sparse “I-330” features mournful vocals backed with minimal instrumentation. Did I mention that these guys are crafty?

Prime cut: “Pathways”

le Renard – Self-love Project/Home Moves

It would be a stretch to say that le Renard (Isobel Gibson-Flader) takes singer-songwriter/folk into unchartered territory (is that even possible?) but she certainly puts her own quirky stamp on things and makes it sound fresh. Forgive the hackneyed reference, but she does sound a lot like Neil Young most of the time, although her nasal quality and odd quavering comes across as more idiosyncratic than even that elder statesman of Canadian folk.

She can sound dead serious, such as on “Pete Seeger” where her near-spoken vocals provide a stark realism. Then again, her humourous choice of words on “Garbage Collector” proves she has a lighter side. She even has a few surprises, such as “Hot Witch”’s burst of indie pop, which is even more unexpected given that it follows a couple of very slow, low-key folk tunes.

All in all, ‘Self-Love Project/Home Moves’ is a rock solid collection that may just make you fall in love with this well-worn genre all over again.

Prime cut: “Pete Seeger”

Best Fern – Best Fern (EP)

This 5-track EP provides a relatively brief but fulfilling demonstration of how the duo of Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield combine ambient music with dreampop vocals. They take this aesthetic to an extreme (where we like to be) with “A Way” and “Lay It On Me”, with the music being so subtle and the vocals so whispery that the entire thing seems non-existent. Elsewhere, Avina’s lovely voice is a little more substantial, although still as soft as the wind. On “Do U Love U” and “R U Well” (that’s a lot of “U”s) the music too is more in the pop vein than ambient, and there’s even a subdued beat. The harmony-rich “I Will Try” again abandons any substantial structure at first, but then picks up an instrumental pattern towards the end and a clapped beat.

Although light on sonic structure, ‘Best Fern’ is far from lacking in the satisfaction department, providing deftly produced slices of ethereal beauty.

Prime cut: “Do U Love U”

Dream Cars – Torn Vinyl Interiors

Dream Cars (or Dream Cars 1987 Nissan custom Design) are true lovers of all things motorik, kosmische and analog synth. Their genuine affection for this style of music translates into offerings that are infectious and fun. Although usually indulging in Kraftwerk-lite style electronics, their vocal leanings actually vary widely from the Beatlesque “Born to be your girl” to the dreampop “Heart of gold”, and from doo-wop surf in “Leather glue” to the post-punk, goth-tinged “Slit by thrills”. To top things off, the title track is an instrumental that sounds like a cut from a ’70s electronic prog album.

Prime cut: “Slit by thrills”