FUSE

with Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Attitudes in Error, and Ramzi August 15 @ Vancouver Art Gallery

Disruption was the theme of the 10 year anniversary of Fuse. Doubling with the occasion of the first installment of the International Symposium of Electronic Arts (ISEA) in Canada since Montreal in ‘95, the entirety of Robson Square was converted from its ordinary public functions into a concentrated and accelerated art party. Among the numerous installations, there were workshops packed into the VAG’s multiple levels and courtyard. The stairs to the ice skating rink doubled as an amphitheater for several music performances. These adaptations had been thoughtfully curated as the first new… form… of New Forms Festival, which recently splintered off into a series of events after last year’s takeover of Science World.

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White Visitation

with Minimal Violence and Nervous Operator
July 25 @ Avenue Upstairs

Immediately before the arcane entrance to Sacred Sound Club’s Saturday night event, Nervous Operator was banging out the back alley. It was a nice material reminder of the crass thrum that discordant beats possess, before ascending upstairs to an interior space where noise is love. Inside the decor was conscientious, with ample room in what ought to be a tight spot cordoned off with opaque tarp.

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Twin River

Should the Light Go Out (Light Organ Records)

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In the three years since their first EP, Rough Gold, Twin River have undergone some significant changes. The first is a new-and-improved lineup: adding Malcolm Jack, Rebecca Law Gray, and Dustin John Bromley to the guitar-and-vocals twosome of Courtney Ewan Bromley and Andy Bishop. The second is an almost complete genre overhaul. Though some tracks hearken back to the muted, twangy, country-folk guitars of their first release, Twin River have approached full-length Should the Light Go Out from a very different angle, incorporating wiggly atmospheric synths and fast-paced pop-rock with occasional doo-wop vocals and surf rock guitars.

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NAP

Uncharted (1080p)

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1080p have a reputation for delivering genre-defying electronic music that teeters between the boundaries of experimental and dance-inspired rhythms. NAP’s debut album Uncharted manages to preserve the ‘1080p sound’ while also providing a breath of fresh air to the local electronic scene in Vancouver.

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The Backhomes

Tidal Wave (Self-Released)

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The title and album cover of the Backhomes’ sophomore release is a perfect pairing to the mood and tone of the band’s latest set of songs. An impending eclipse over a vast oceanscape that adorns the cover reflects the sense of otherworldly grandeur and mystery enclosed within.
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Adrian Teacher and the Subs

Sorta Hafta (Self-Released)

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There is no genre of music safe from Adrian Teacher‘s ever-widening reach. As his new project, Adrian Teacher and the Subs, effortlessly proves with the no-second-wasted EP, Sorta Hafta, Teacher is just as adept at tackling the softer sides of folk and psych as he was the art-punk veil of Apollo Ghosts or the funk-infused frenzy of COOL TV.

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Toe

with StarRO
July 6 @ Electric Owl

“I’ve waited ten years for this!”

There were obviously many in the crowd at a surprisingly packed Electric Owl on a Monday night that thought seeing legendary Japanese post/math-rock band Toe was never going to happen. The band, who have never been to Canada before, let alone Vancouver, was talked about with hushed reverie before their performance, like a temperamental ghost or rarely-seen royalty was nearly in their midst. The latter was most certainly how they were received after their awe-inspiring performance.

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Dada Plan

The Madness Hides (Self-Released)

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Malcolm Biddle’s more experimental side is alive and well with Dada Plan’s sophomore record, titled The Madness Hides. Flirting with free jazz elements and a psychedelic pop backbone, Malcolm Biddle (a.k.a. Malcolm Jack) shines the infamous blue light on the subject of our obsession with personal devices, again. And in keeping with the precedence set from their debut, the Vancouver 5 piece have created another work of equilibrium, smartly balancing accessibility with artful, bizarre noise. Oh, and there’s the doom and gloom which is appealing to be sure.

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Khatsahlano Festival

July 11 @ W 4th Ave

The Abramson Singers || Photos by Brandon Lai

The Abramson Singers || Photos by Brandon Lai

Currently, the property standing at 1982 West 4th Avenue is listed for sale. The storefront is better known as Zulu Records and it – one of its two rooms, specifically – is currently up for grabs. Though Zulu may end up downsizing, the Vancouver arts scene is no stranger to loss.

Over the past several years, the city has seen departures from venues such as Mesa Luna, the Starfish Room, and the Zoo Zhop, to name a few. The weekend of July 11, however, was a celebration of the local arts, with the fifth annual Khatsahlano street party stretching across 4th Avenue from MacDonald to Burrard. With six stages and over fifty artists playing this year, Vancouverites had the chance to partake in a variety of free music and entertainment, with much credit owed to Zulu Records for curating the event.

Skinny Kids || Photos by Brandon Lai

Skinny Kids 

To start the day, local outfit Skinny Kids took to the Vine stage. Even before beginning their set, lead vocalist Trevor Gray admitted he didn’t think anyone would be up this early in the morning to make it to their show. Early, in this case, was just a little after 11:15 a.m.

By the looks of the makeshift breakfast comprised of a bag of chips and a carton of OJ left standing on the stage, perhaps the members of Skinny Kids were still waking up themselves. Nonetheless, the trio kicked off the festivities on a high. Bringing with them their surf-punk vibes, the lo-fi rockers charmed a modest crowd with a set full of infectious bass lines, fuzzed out guitar riffs, and discordant vocals, all drenched in a tasty reverb. Throughout, Gray was casual while constructing these deliciously angular riffs around standouts tracks like “Cool Fetish Girls” and “Real Lost.” Even though the skies remained overcast for the majority of their show, the sun soaked songs of Skinny Kids did more than enough to warm up festivalgoers for the coming acts.

Colin Cowan & The Elastic Stars

Colin Cowan & The Elastic Stars

Later on, Colin Cowan & The Elastic Stars took their audience on a cosmic journey through their particular brand of psyched out folk-noir. Toasting to the “cool, crisp, and manageable Vancouver skies,” Cowan ventured far past our atmosphere into otherworldly soundscapes through an amalgamation of spaced-out guitar and towering, pointed vocal harmonies. Highlights included sweet tune “Beyond The Moon” and the drawn out introspective jam “Psychedelic Lido Heaven.” As Cowan & The Elastic Stars wrapped their set and eased listeners back down to Earth, plenty of audience members were left lingering around the stage, whether perplexed or wanting more was anyone’s guess.

 

The Courtneys

The Courtneys

Over at the Burrard Stage, The Courtneys cranked out a series of short but undeniably sweet anthemic summer tunes to a crowd that was ushered close to the barrier. Jen Twynn Payne’s frenzied drumming and vocal chants, paired with the fuzzy guitar of Courtney Loove and droning bass of Sydney Koke came together to create rolling waves of noisy twee-punk heaven, proving The Courtneys could have been imported straight from the ‘90s.

In the middle of their show, Koke paused to thank a member of the audience who had emailed in a request for the band to play their older song “Insufficient Funds,” to which they happily obliged. The tune, which laments life on minimum wage, was easily the climax of their set, with the trio deftly proclaiming the hooky repetition of “You can work for yourself!” as the crowd danced away. Even though their performance was cut short due to Payne adamantly not wanting to play a mystery cover, The Courtneys still brought their lo-fi shine to Khatsahlano.

 

The Belle Game

The Belle Game

Closing out my day was The Belle Game. While sound checking, keys player Katrina Jones called out to the crowd to ask if the ‘For Lease’ sign hanging out in front of half the Zulu Records space was fictitious. It isn’t. Obviously disappointed, she urged the audience to support the Vancouver art scene, particularly our local record stores.

Currently working on their next album, The Belle Game churned out ten unreleased songs during their set. Sonically, the band had noticeably shifted into uncharted territory. Getting away from the baroque pop and orchestral swells on Ritual Tradition Habit, the quartet’s set moved in between sparse and heavily textured electronic space, filled with a newly beefed up backbone of blown out synth. Still, the essence of The Belle Game remains grounded in the powerhouse that is Andrea Lo’s vocal prowess. Whether clean of effects or wrapped and layered in ribbons of lush reverb, Lo’s voice soared throughout their performance. Though their new material was a welcome treat, it was their moody reworking of fan favourite “River” that garnered the largest cheers from the crowd.

Over the past five years, the Khatsahlano Street Party has quickly become a staple in the Vancouver community. Imagining what the festival, let alone the neighbourhood, would look like without Zulu Records feels hollow. Support your local record store; we won’t know how good we had it until it’s gone.

 

Island Eyes

S/T (Legwarmer Records)

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There is something curiously magnetic about it: pushing the play button for the debut album of Island Eyes (formerly Wand) manifests an auspicious premonition. And it is one that proves to be more than rewarding. Ιsland Eyes seems like a topographical prototype; the artist carves his landscape with dream-pop lines and coats it with phosphorescent powder of electronic frequencies. Moreover, Derek Janzen’s dramatic vocals, layered with their distinct trembling and sobbing texture, and also his intense lyrics, contribute the three-dimensional element of outbreaks in this otherwise demure scenery.

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