5 ON THE FLY Five mini reviews, and all of them odd and strange.

Blü Shorts – Repeating Myself

Blü Shorts have been around for a few years now but are better known for their wild live performances given that their recorded output has been limited. With ‘Blü Wave Music’ we finally get hear their craziness over the course of a full EP and their reputation for weird experimentation is well-born out. Despite its bubblegum-punk energy the music tends to be dark and downbeat. It’s a strange dichotomy that Blü Shorts make even stranger with the use of strange instrumentation (the wonky guitar in “Jet Pack Guy”, e.g.), a dark (often profane) sense of humour, abrupt changes in rhythm and erratic vocals, which include yelps, near-speaking and sudden about-faces in melody.

Rest easy, Blü Shorts are as weirdly great as people have been saying they are.

Prime Cut: “Jet Pack Guy”

Usse – 231

On ‘231’ Usse throw out everything from experimental ambience (“Angel of the Revolution”) to eerie kosmische with post-punk vocals (“Ayler Zung”). But the Saint John, NB crew really kick it up when they get a groove on and roll with it. “Cancelled Crop” builds slowly at first but finally hits its boogie rhythm stride and then there’s a break into a clapping part along with odd-sounding vocals made to sound “live”. The tune is a pleasant little ditty, but its message is more serious. Before you take all that in there’s another sudden break into a collapsing bass line accompanied by spurts of jazzy saxophone.

Within the broad “confines” of experimental electronic music, Usse demonstrate on ‘231’ that they are more than happy to sail to far flung corners of the creative ocean. Anyone with any sense of adventure will be equally happy to dive right in.

Prime cut: “Cancelled Crop”

Lo Siento – Bingo Bango

Lo Siento are Pepa Chan, Andrea McGuire and Alligita Graves, on guitar, bass and drums respectively. All members sing and it’s their singing (in Spanish) that really makes this special. Led by Chan, the band go through some vocal gymnastics, including inventive humming and exotic shouts. Chan’s lead voice is ideal for garage pop, going from sugary cuteness to riot grrrl snarl.

Meantime, the music is ridiculously infectious, with bouncy rhythms and rich beats. It’s cleverly presented surf with the odd touch of Latin flavour.

Prime cut: “Historia en el Placard”

Lavender Child – Relections

Lavender Child - Reflections

Each track on ‘Reflections’ started out as a “meditative improvised vocal loop” created by Lavender Child after spending hours experimenting with layering vocals on top of each other. The result is best exemplified by “Beautiful Landscapes”, which opens with a sonic gauze created by a (seeming) chorus of heavenly voices. Before the rest of the band Lavender Child’s main vocals come in alone, in stark, crisp beauty. Then the full group bring in a heap of atmospheric rhythms with deep resonating drums and reverberating guitars. The overall feel is ambient, and yet there is constant progression and moments of heightened drama.

But Lavender Child is no one-trick-pony as she takes other flights of creative fancy, such as on “Plutomania”, which slowly builds from gentle folk to orchestral pop, complete with theatrical vocals. As good as she is at working with the delicacies of ambience, it seems Lavender Child just can’t help getting more dramatic with her art. And aren’t we all glad?

Prime Cut: “Plutomania”

TETRIX – Cassette Romance

TETRIX is another band that likes to roam around genre-wise, while still maintaining their same aura of weirdness. That weirdness is on full display when they warp “Dear Prudence” out of all recognition with a sort of deep psych-house version. But it’s even on display when they get “romantic” on the track “Ask Me in the Morning”. The music shambles along quaintly as a male singer croons in throw-back Lee Hazlewood style. Of course, it’s self-referentially humorous with its corny lyrics, but for the most part it is oddly faithful to spirit of the proceedings. That is until later on when the vocals go a little haywire. There’s no pretence of being serious about the crooner genre on “Cassette Romance”, which sports a motorik beat and accordion. With his occasional high pitch and peculiar choice of notes, the singer can’t be taken seriously from the get-go. By the time he sings, “How long is forever?”, followed by an absurd falsetto part you feel like laughing (and you should go ahead and do so). Oddest thing of all is that the song remains relentlessly romantic despite all the vocal silliness and weird interruptions (what is that, a crowd roaring?).

At five tracks, ‘Cassette Romance’ just leaves you wanting more.

Prime cut: “Cassette Romance”