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

Sick Boss – Sick Boss

It has become something of a habit around here to be discussing yet another stellar release from the boutique label Drip Audio. It’s not a habit we intend to break. This time around it is composer/guitarist Cole Schmidt at the centre of things, even though there are many of the usual suspects, such Peggy Lee, JP Carter and Tony Wilson.

‘Sick Boss’ is an incredible whirlwind of experimentation, improv and freeform. Even on the softest pieces, such as “See You Out There” featuring the lovely voice of Debra-Jean Creelman, things never stay on track, as all these fine musicians are just itching to let loose and fly. And they all get their chance.

The album is a bold work that melds jazz, post-rock, folk and pure ad lib spontaneity. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the end result is a satisfying personal message to the listener even though it sounds as if the members of Sick Boss had no eye on the end result as they gleefully floated off on their own creativity.

Prime cut: “Amadman”

Late Spring – Trembly Fog

KC Wei and company return with more of their wicked mix of dark shoegaze and electric mayhem. And “wicked mix” is how you might describe the production work here. Compared to last year’s ‘Invisible’, things are a little less sharp and distinct. This works to Late Spring’s advantage because the melding together of the shards makes for a more moody mix. However, there is one thing that you cannot meld into the rest and that is Wei’s voice, which swoops and dips with abandon, and with that distinctive warble that borders on the mystical.

Prime cut: “Here”

Julie Arsenault – softness

At the heart of ‘softness’ is “Just To Please You”, a very stark country-tinged ballad. Arsenault’s voice is intimate and endearing, and none the less impressive as it slips easily up from hushed confessional to forceful troubadour. This truly is the heart of Arsenault the artist — the rest of the tracks are just variations on a theme. Variations you will want to check out, from the more lushly arranged “The Softness” to the more twangy “Hit the Brakes”.

Prime cut: “Just To Please You”

Not You – Misty

Not You have a great game of bait’n’switch. So good that you don’t even mind when they get to the switch part. First you are enthralled with beautiful dreampop sung by angelic voices. You could die there and be happy. Then, things start getting heavier as we head into noise pop. But, just as you are getting into that groove they kick it into lysergic overdrive and into glorious psych rockdom.

In fact, you don’t even mind that not every song quite follows that formula.

Prime cut: “Mabel”

CO/NTRY – Cell Phone 1

CO/NTRY are the inane duo of Beaver and Dave, who have Newfoundland roots but now reside in Montreal. Their off-kilter humour plays into their approach to their music. Playful, to say the least. So you get the outrageously tortured vocals on the synth-fueled, post-punk “Second Life”. You get “Living in a Body”, which sort of sounds like Radiohead doing the b-side to that Top Gun song. And you get “So Get a Baby”, a slinky, groove-wave number, in which the singer croons “Baby” unabashedly. He needn’t worry because there is a great heft in the relentless rhythm and inventive electronics.

They do take their music seriously, but the tongue is firmly in cheek.

Prime cut: “Living in a Body”