Colin Cowan & the Elastic Stars

May 22 @ China Cloud

The release party of Spring Myths celebrated eleven days of hard work, Sun Ra and Cowan’s birthday, and the three quarter completion of Cowan’s seasonal themed project, “Seasonal State-of-Mind Tetralogy.”

The tiny, mystical space that is the China Cloud can only be found by going through a black, unmarked, Downtown Eastside door, and up a steep staircase. The glow of the low lights transformed the space into a wishing lantern floating in space. Scattered with overstuffed furniture, art, and candles, the China Cloud resembled a bohemian uncle’s eclectic attic living room.

I felt like I was crashing a family birthday party. There was an ambiance of intimacy, but that was ok, because the vibe definitely induced a warm, communal show.

Cowan’s incredibly lush music created a shared heartbeat. Seemingly renewed after living through the Eye of Winter, Cowan & the Elastic Stars seemed to bask in the new sunlight of changing seasons. His heavier songs, like “Yesterday’s Millionaires,” connected with the audience. Something about those sweet psychedelic guitar melodies encouraged some spiritually charged dancing. It was enjoyable to see a band that seemed to actually like jamming with each other, and relaxed enough with the audience to do their own thing and really groove.

Stacked beside sideways amps, a Califone record player was set on a green heart shaped chair. Controlled by Gaucher, the drummer, it was mysteriously spinning, the vinyl changing halfway through the show. Why it was there I can only guess, but I assume it’s connected to whirring, and what perhaps sounded like train effects.

Slightly d.i.y., a pot was utilized for additional vocal reverb.

Cowan ended the show by playing a lilting acoustic solo piece, finalizing the release by the lyrics “Don’t you stop.” Although abrupt, the ending was fitting for a show that felt like one long connected lullaby.

Although a small-scale show, this springtime mellow performance was yet another chance for Cowan and his Elastic Stars to create and share a world seen through rose tinted glasses.



Keep It Together (Bonerattle Records)


Where else but in Vancouver can you see jousting bikes (in Grandview Park) or a herd of unicyclists heading up Mountain Highway? Where else but here could you find a band like SWANK?

On Keep it Together, their fourth album, SWANK unleash their full West Coast energy like a force nine gale. These 11 gems will get you up on the dance floor and never let you sit down. I’ll put Spencer McKinnon’s rock star voice up against any talent you care to name — he’s got the goods and charisma to burn. Surrounded by a monster band, and set off by Marc L’Esperance’s crackling production, this new release serves notice that SWANK are ready to take their place at the very top of the bonfire.

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Suuns & Jerusalem In My Heart

Suuns & Jerusalem In My Heart (Secret City Records)


When I first learned that Montreal’s dark synth-rock outfit Suuns was digging up some collaborative tracks from a 2012 session with Constellation’s Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, of Jerusalem In My Heart, I didn’t know what to expect. Suuns is a hybrid of modern rock ‘n’ roll song structures and pummelling industrial and electro — and Moumneh is best known for his Lebanese-infused experimental synthesizer jams and drone art. The end result, as complicated as it is, is mesmerizing.

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Sacha McKenna

Poor Boy (Self-Released)


Poor Boy is written, performed, mixed, and produced by Vancouver artist Sacha Mckenna; former member of local punk group, Sisyphus. The album is a surreal, harrowing journey through the gradual inward withdrawal of a grieving artist. As Mckenna writes on his Bandcamp page: “Caroline is Poor Boy’s Muse. Caroline ends her life and Poor Boy is left without the will to create.” With track titles like “Heads Filled With Strange Things” and lyrics like “How do you breathe in air?” Poor Boy is a poetic and despairing narrative told through a fog of haunting vocals, hypnotic guitars, and ambient cityscape sounds.

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Purity Ring

Another Eternity (4AD)


The second album from dream-pop darlings, Purity Ring, is distinct from its predecessor in ways that are difficult to pin down. Almost three years have passed since the summer of 2012 saw Purity Ring’s heavily-lauded debut release, Shrines, released on 4AD. At that time, their sound was still pretty novel; a few months earlier, label-mate Grimes had released her seminal LP, Visions, and a significant cultural threshold seemed to have been crossed where underground electronic dance music was joining in a particular way, with organic-feeling pop songwriting sensibilities.

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Noontide (Hybridity Music)


Noontide — the first long play record from Vancouver electronic duo Humans — delivers a fresh taste of indie electronica. Despite it being their first long play release, Peter Ricq and Robbie Slade have been treating local audiences to their unique dance music since 2009. The duo met when Ricq was doing merch for Slade’s band at the time. Ricq brought an ESX-1 sampler to play with at a merch meeting, and Humans were born.The duo have been refining their sound ever since, and Noontide is stagnant evidence of their polished and sophisticated take on indie electronica.

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Friendly Ghost

No Way jose (Self-Released)


In the “About” section of Friendly Ghost’s Facebook page, there is a link to a WikiHow article on creating your very own Best Friends Club. Fitting, considering their recently released EP, No Way Jose, sounds like a warm summer night driving around with good friends. The tracks are at once present and nostalgic, mixing classic shoegaze melancholy with the bright and unexpected sounds of trumpet and bass riffs that could almost be described as cute.

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John Wiese

with Mass Marriage and Aileen Bryant
May 14 @ The Fox Cabaret

John Wiese || Photo by Joshua Gabert-Doyon

John Wiese || Photo by Joshua Gabert-Doyon

I was at The Getty last August. The afternoon hovered around 30°C: desultory conditions for tourists like myself. So, walking around the museum’s grounds, I found myself lazing on the grass. Down the hill, in a garden, with pillars of foliage gated into sprouting shapes and polite outcroppings of color, sound emerged from a hidden set of speakers. There was an uncertain cycle: a soothing drone accompanied by the creak of weather vanes, giving way to murky horns, divots of noise and the movement of hard matter. This installation, “Wind Changed Direction,” was my first encounter with American interdisciplinary and noise artist John Wiese (outside of a brief infatuation with Sissy Spacek).

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No Perfect Wave (Self-Released)


In some respects, describing No Perfect Wave in words is a similarly frustrating experience to penning a musical score to describe a poem — while the mediums may compliment each other, it seems a convoluted way of passing on ideas to one’s audience. No Perfect Wave, the third album in as many years by Vancouver’s C.Diab, is a record that forgives its listener with its opening note. Beyond an obvious structure and template lifted from his past two releases, Beacons and Interludes, there is no simple way to relate the beauty and wisdom contained within this latest release without recounting the vast personal journeys and intimate memories that No Perfect Wave seems to so closely soundtrack.

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Notta Comet

Success With Houseplants (Self-Released)


While technically their debut album, Notta Comet’s new self-released LP, Success With Houseplants, acts as a semi-logical continuation of their prior musical releases. Originally a moniker for guitarist/vocalist Alex Williams’ spoken-word endeavours, Notta Comet has morphed and shifted away from lo-fi, electro-jazz backed poetry readings into its current state: a math-, art-, jazz-, indie-, bike-rock trio making some of the strangest and most original music coming out of Montreal today.

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