5 ON THE FLY, Avant/experimental issue: Five mini reviews all in one place.

Ghostkeeper – Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks

The appealing thing about Calgary’s Ghostkeeper is that they have badges of “normalcy” scattered in amongst their avant work. There’s indie folk tunes on tracks like “Oceans”, although those tunes get a little strangled on cuts like “Cold Hands”. Heck, “Dandelion” even has the audacity to actually incorporate gospel blues into the weird mix. But make no mistake, these guys are not “normal”. They are, however, a hoot if you like to venture into experimental waters but still keep the shore in sight.

Prime cut: “Cold Hands”

Dálava – The Book of Transfigurations

Ostensibly a work of ambient folk, ‘The Book of Transfigurations’ is actually a somewhat avant tribute to Moravian folk music. Or perhaps one should say “interpretation”. It is fascinating in that we can relate to Dálava (singer Julia Úlehla and guitarist Aram Bajakian) on the level of general roots music and the rock/jazz music leanings, but this also opens our ears to expected and unfamiliar sounds (some of these due to the duo’s experimentalism, but some go back to the music’s Moravian footing).

Vocalist Julia Úlehla has a very attractive voice but she sounds too determined for her voice to be called pretty. In fact, on the rambunctious “Dyž sem já šel pres hory/The rocks began to crumble” she sounds down-right menacing. Aram Bajakian’s finger-work, in the meantime, easily glides from icy and eerie to warm and gentle and then to joyous and raucous.

Prime cut: “Před naším je zahrádečka/Red violet”

Jessica Moss – Pools of Light

Best known for her work with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra , violinist/composer/singer Jessica Moss creates a masterwork in three parts. “Entire Populations” unfolds at a sombre pace, the violin alone at first, then joined and eventually overtaken by Moss’s spacey and minimalist singing. Electronics enter the scene but they in turn are replaced by gently swelling strings. “Glaciers I” starts out with a very eerie, and somewhat atonal, self-harmonized chorus, which is followed by a period of synth ambience. Finally, “Glaciers II” completes the tale with psychedelic violin, some drone and an extended, calm outro. A fascinating journey for anyone interested in ambient post-rock progressive music.

Prime cut: “Entire Populations, Part 1”

Nearly Dead – Weathered Meat

From the city of the newly wed comes the Nearly Dead in all their dizzy, mad glory. The songs (if you can call them that) swirl with metal chords, dashes of horns, and squirts of lead guitar. Throughout it all the singer remains detached and even disdainful of the whole affair. Each track buzzes with its own off-putting vibe and, even though the instrumentation seems haphazard, there’s a unique melodic stamp on every one of them.
If you can tolerate the mayhem and put up with a heavy rock grind in your ear (bring it on, we say!) then Nearly Dead stands as yet another example of excellent noisy post-rock emanating from BC’s capital city.

Prime cut: “Morphine Sunrise”

Construction & Destruction – Noli Timere

Construction & Destruction (Colleen Collins, and David Trenaman) surprise the listener from track to track, never sounding the same twice. “Unfinished Horses”, for instance, sounds amazingly like PJ Harvey, both vocally and stylistically. Elsewhere, however, they can sound like The National (“One of These”), Jane Siberry (“The Anchoress”) or the Pixies (“Engines of Radiation”).

Of course, C&D just sound like themselves, but it’s difficult to describe just what that is. One thing for certain is that they have found a “sweet spot” — a musical territory where experimental threads can wend their way freely because overall the duo remains eminently listenable.

Prime cut: “Event Horizon”