Posts Tagged ‘Ostrich Tuning’

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Memoryhouse, Foxes In Fiction, Volcano Playground, Ostrich Tuning and Heartbeat Hotel at Twist Gallery in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThat I’m a fan of the once-celebreated, then-maligned, now-celebrated-again genre of indie rock called “shoegaze” is no secret (if this is news, then welcome – you’re new around here). But if you think that gives me a soft spot for bands who invest more than is reasonable in effects pedals, you’d be right but also wrong.

Sonic architecture was only part of what those British bands in the early ’90s incredible – they also wrote fantastic songs and that’s something that some of their followers either forget or unable to replicate. Far too often I’ll come across bands that seem promising on paper with all the right RIYLs and while there’s plenty of sturm and/or drang, there’s a woeful lack of hooks or, live, they’ve made the mistake of going so far as to emulate their forebears’ onstage social anxiety disorder.

So Thursday night’s “Wintergaze” mini-festival out at the Twist Gallery in Parkdale was met with both anticipation and trepidation; here we had five acts who were ostensibly among the top new dream-pop purveyors in the greater Toronto area with only a couple sort-of known to me and the rest total unknown quantities. Never been to the venue before, either. A night of mysteries awaited!

Lead-off hitters Heartbeat Hotel weren’t quite a mystery – I’d written up them and their debut album Fetus Dreams back in July but had never seen them live. Most of the pros of the record were present live – songs with a good balance of catchiness and atmospherics and equal dexterity at poppers and drifters. None of the songs were immediately memorable but they had a good sound that good things will come of it.

Ostrich Tuning come by their name, attributed to Lou Reed circa the Velvet Underground, legitimately. Their music utilized a tidal approach, with VU-styled dirges building, cresting and ebbing with the occasional melodic or chordal shift to keep you on your toes. There were vocals but they were buried – probably deliberately so – and while I would like to see their melodic side attended to, their sense of dynamics was impressive.

Volcano Playground‘s set may not have been the most polished but they more than made up for it with an impressive mix that melded synthetic tones, danceable rhythms, emotive vocals and an innate pop sensibility. There was still the sense that there were maybe too many ideas in play for them to juggle effectively but the potential contained in what they’re doing is immense.

Warren Hildebrand, who operates under the name Foxes In Fiction, apparently hails from my own hometown and it seems I have to reconsider my long-held notion that Oakville is a artistic black hole from which nothing of value can emerge. The one-man band, who looked as though he’d been plucked straight out of his bedroom and onto the stage (not that there was a stage), was armed with a guitar, sampler and array of pedals and used the tools on hand to deliver a well-orchestrated if dynamically-limited set of slow-motion dreampop that has more than a little Deerhunter-ish value. It wasn’t hard to see why his debut Swung From The Branches has put him in the radar of sites like Pitchfork.

By the time Memoryhouse came to close things out, things had run well behind schedule and in addition to general exhaustion, the attached dance club was in full swing and the gallery was resonating to the obnoxious dance beat from downstairs. Not the best situation to immerse oneself in their hazy, nostalgic pop but having waited for some time to see them live, it had to be endured. And dance leakage and bouts of feedback aside, they did not disappoint. Performing as a three-piece with an extra guitar augmenting Evan Abeele’s piano and guitar and Denise Nouvion’s vocals, their crisp, clean textures and country-tinged vocals weren’t the standard sonic implements of shoegazing but the net effect of their approach was just as dreamy. They mentioned that this was an unusually stripped-down show for them, and while I’d like to see/hear/feel them in a presumably louder configuration, this was pretty nice. And while on the topic of “wants”, a full album would also be welcome – I suspect that as good as they are with singles, a complete song cycle would be even more impressive.

In the end, any fears of being disappointed by those who’d claim to be worshipping at the alter of Creation were wholly misplaced. None of the bands on the bill were trying to be the second coming of Ride – even the labelling of them as “shoegaze” seemed inaccurate and not giving them nearly enough credit. They’re making new and interesting, atmospheric rock music and if you feel inclined to look at your feet while you listen to it, then that’s your business. Just make sure you listen.

eye was also on hand and has a review.

Photos: Memoryhouse, Foxes In Fiction, Volcano Playground, Ostrich Tuning, Heartbeat Hotel @ Twist Gallery – December 16, 2010
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Troisieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Gian Lorenzo Bernini”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “School Night”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “Flashing Lights Have Ended Now”
MP3: Foxes In Fiction – “15 Ativan (Song For Erika)”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”
MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “Fins Of A Shark”
MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “Walls Of Dry Clouds”
MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “The Hello Barrel”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Heirloom”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Bonfire”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
Video: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
Myspace: Memoryhouse
MySpace: Heartbeat Hotel

Their sold-out show at Lee’s Palace last week now in the books, it can be announced that The Rural Alberta Advantage will be playing the New Year’s Eve party at The Tranzac alongside the likes of Hooded Fang, Laura Barrett, The Wilderness Of Manitoba and more. Tickets $15 in advance.

PitchforkTV has got videos of Dan Bejar previewing songs from the next Destroyer record Kaputt, due out January 25.

Spinner interviews John O’Regan of Diamond Rings. He opens up for Robyn at the Sound Academy on January 26 and NYC Taper is sharing a recording of his show in New York earlier this month.

Owen Pallett is giving away an EP’s worth of demos, collectively entitled Export, over at Soundcloud. Today Online also has an interview.

Torontoist interviews Mitch Fillion, the video session auteur who runs Southern Souls.

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

CONTEST – Wintergaze Festival @ Twist Gallery – December 16, 2010

Photo via MyspaceMyspaceWho: Memoryhouse
What: The Wintergaze Festival is a year-end celebration featuring some of the city’s (and outlying regions’) finest sneaker contemplaters and drone merchants.
Why: For the breakout Guelph dream-pop duo, they’re celebrating the release of their new “Caregiver” 7″. For everyone else, why not?
When: Thursday, December 16, 2010
Where: The Twist Gallery in Toronto (19+)
Who else: The rest of the lineup features Foxes In Fiction, Volcano Playground, Ostrich Tuning and Heartbeat Hotel
How: Tickets for the show are $10 in advance, but courtesy of Gold Soundz, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away for the show. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to Wintergaze” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, December 12.

MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Troisieme)”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Gian Lorenzo Bernini”

Monday, November 29th, 2010


The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Leif Vollebekk and Olenka & The Autumn Lovers at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThursday night’s bill at The Horseshoe was both a repeat and an inversion of a show at The Garrison last October – that show was an introduction of sorts for the newly-buzzy Toronto folk outfit The Wilderness Of Manitoba and a final show for a while from London, Ontario’s Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, who were coming off an extended tour and were turning their attention towards a new album. Thirteen months later, The Wilderness had converted their buzz into some genuine success on the back of their debut album When You Left The Fire while Olenka and company just released their new record And Now We Sing, which I was most eager to get my hands on.

And all I’ll say about the record for the moment is that it’s really good, and that I will hopefully offer more thoughts on it in the future. It melds folk, country and pop with a touch of rock while sounding equally old world and new; not a description that necessarily makes it sound particularly unique, but Olenka Krakus’ distinctive, dusky voice goes a long way in establishing their personality. It was that voice that would carry her opening set this evening as she was playing without the Autumn Lovers and while members of The Wilderness sat in for a few numbers adding harmonies and atmosphere, I missed their string, horn and percussion contributions. That said, there was no denying that the solo configuration allowed the plaintiveness of her songs to come across even stronger and made for an affecting set of material new and old and including a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen”.

Montreal’s Leif Vollebekk drew the middle spot on the evening’s dance card and in contrast to Olenka, the usually-solo performer opted to bring a rhythm section along for this performance. Stylistically, he owes more than a little to mid-’70s Dylan – a fact he acknowledged with a cover from Blood On The Tracks – what with his penchant for conversational melodies that seem almost ad-libbed. This fit well with his rather random on-stage persona, and so while what he did wasn’t especially original – the one left turn was a looped and layered version of Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues” that ended up sounding like Vollebekk’s own stuff – it was delivered with enough style to be entertaining.

If I have a complaint with Wilderness’ When You Left The Fire, it’s that it’s too successful at creating an immersive, consistent mood. If you’re are craving what they do, then their gentle, prettily drifting, harmony-laden folk can be like manna, but if you’re not in the mood then it doesn’t have quite enough to keep one’s interest. Happily, in a live setting they don’t try to recreate the campfire ambiance of the record, balancing out the ethereal with earthiness and offering enough added energy and dynamics to make the performance engaging, no matter what your mood. With most every member rotating through a selection of instruments throughout the show, they ran through an hour-long set of material from Fire and their debut EP/mini-album Hymns Of Love And Spirits that managed to rouse and sooth, though seemingly more the former for some of the more excitable of the couple hundred people in attendance. I didn’t get the same jolt out of the show as they did, but still appreciated seeing one of the city’s up and coming acts continuing to take considerable strides forward.

NOW has an interview with The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Ottawa XPress talks to Leif Vollebekk while CJLO has audio and video from a radio session featuring he and Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon and Southern Souls has posted a video session with Olenka recorded across the street from the ‘Shoe the night of the show.

Photos: The Wilderness Of Manitoba, Leif Vollebekk, Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Horseshoe – November 25, 2010
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”
MP3: Leif Vollebekk – “Northernmost Eva Maria”
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”
Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “November”
MySpace: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers

In advance of their two sold-out shows at Lee’s Palace in support of the re-release of Shakespeare My Butt… on December 3 and 4, The Lowest Of The Low will be playing an in-store across the street at Sonic Boom on December 4 at 3PM. CTV has an interview with frontmen Ron Hawkins and Steve Stanley while Chart recounts the band’s history and importance.

MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “Bleed A Little While Tonight”
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “Subversives”
Video: The Lowest Of The Low – “Eternal Fatalist”

More details on that upcoming December 16 Memoryhouse show at the Twist Gallery, reported on a little while ago, have come out – they’ll be headlining an evening called “Wintergaze” which will feature a lineup of the city’s finest dream-pop purveyors. In addition to the Guelph duo, there will be sets from Foxes In Fiction, Volcano Playground, Ostrich Tuning and Heartbeat Hotel (introduced back in July). Tickets are $10 in advance. And incidentally, Memoryhouse just released a new video.

MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “Fins Of A Shark”
Video: Memoryhouse – “Heirloom”

Southern Souls has posted a video session with Rebekah Higgs, who has been added as support for The Rural Alberta Advantage’s sold-out show at Lee’s Palace on December 16.

The Wild Honey Pie recorded a video session with Forest City Lovers on their recent visit to New York City.

NOW profiles Suuns.

CBC Radio 2’s Concerts On Demand is streaming in its entirety Stars’ show in Calgary at the start of the month.

Metro, The Guardian and The Independent talk to Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.

The Wolf Parade fansite has confirmed, via Dan Boeckner, that the rumours of Wolf Parade’s impending indefinite hiatus are true. Aside from a few live commitments next year, the band have no plans to reconvene or record a fourth album anytime soon. Fans will have to make do with one of their 4000 side projects, some of which they detail to Spinner.

The Toronto Star talks to Peter Moore about recording the Neil Young and Sadies cover of “This Wheel’s On Fire”, from the just-released Garth Hudson Presents A Canadian Celebration Of The Band.