The alchemical composition of a band can be a thoroughly interesting subject. Each band dynamic has its own wrinkles; members coming and going has impact in one way or another, fundamentally altering the construct of the music generating entity. Songwriting; instrumental or other performance assignments both in concert and in the studio; personalities; any other dynamic one could imagine within a tight knit group of individuals working towards an outcome: remove one cog and constructs will morph into new shapes.
A few years ago Calgary rock band Women went through some changes, ultimately forever disbanding with the death of guitarist Chris Reimer. (Read this post for more of a primer on Women and what came next, including the start of Viet Cong) Now on their self titled LP and operating in a similar space as Women, Viet Cong author their slant on dark and brooding guitar-driven rock. It is fascinating to ponder how the intervening years and changes in band structures, with adding different musicians to form Viet Cong, has altered what is seemingly a similar band modus operandi. It is an essentially unknowable thing, but one that is endlessly fascinating.
One primary element that has not been lost in the shuffle is that of their environs seeping into the band’s sound. The concept of an album being summery is alive and vibrant. Winter albums are less a thing for obvious reasons, as I know few people who long for arctic temperatures and snow banks to obscure views at every turn. Calgary is a cold, dark place, replete with those aforementioned side effects. Should you not be inundated with snow and dreary skies when listening to this record, it isn’t difficult to place yourself in a similar space as the authors of this wintry record in a dull and forlorn place. Here in Rochester, with temperatures suffering alarmingly from a lack of degrees, no imagination is necessary.
Though I’ve always been something of a sucker for guitars – an element thankfully not lost in the basic structure changes these individuals have endured – something about the tones employed by this collection of individuals particularly speak to me. I’d be content snowed in under several feet of snow with only this record as my companion.
Foxes in Fiction’s “Memory Pools” – off 2010’s Swung From the Branches - returned to my orbit a few months back when I happened to re-listen to an old mix I’d once spent a great deal of time laboring over. Immediately entranced with the calming beauty of the song once again, much like I had been the first time around a few years back, I was unable to recall exactly why I had lost track of the song. Also unable to figure out why I hadn’t gone about my usual routine of scouring for what else the band had to their name, my prompt downloading of a bevy of releases gratis via Orchid Tapes (of which there are plenty) should henceforth correct all issues of neglect.
Since that time I’ve made further efforts to engage with the band by glomming on to various social network accounts. As such, I’ve learned that Foxes in Fiction is the name by which Warren Hildebrand creates his own music, and Orchid Tapes is the manner in which he releases music in both physical and digital manifestations for a number acts in addition to his own. From what I’ve gathered, Hildebrand and his label are both recipients beyond worthy of adulation. Based on his internet presence, it seems vitally clear that Hildebrand could easily mark both super cool and extremely nice on a personality test.
My reintroduction to the band was rather timely, considering a new album, Ontario Gothic, is due to be released in September, and a new song surfaced as a result. “Shadow’s Song” is again arresting in it’s stately beauty, with breathy vocals, and astute violin and cello work. The label is run out of Brooklyn, but Hildebrand is paying homage to his roots just north of the border with the title of his coming record. In my short time following along with the band, Hildebrand has mentioned how much a labor of love the release has been, and the results here are obviously worth the effort.
When listening to Lubbock, Texas quartet Dry Heeves, obvious comparisons to other bands shuttled through my brain. I’ll spare all five people who read this the rehashing of that tired tactic. Comparisons aside, while the Heeves are not bent on shattering the earth with groundbreaking material, the music is in fact remarkably fun. There isn’t a great deal of variance from song to song, and with this particular formula it isn’t especially necessary. They have their rhythms down and are quite good at pulling it all off again and again.
“90’s Prom Song” was my introduction to the band, and is a more sedate affair than many of its counterparts on debut full length Boogie Till Ya Puke. From the opening baseline, it’s easy to recognize this is drunken, reverb heavy surf rock you’ll just as quickly feel at home with. Perhaps it is just my personal tastes, but I could listen to Boogie as well as the band’s two previous EP’s (also available at their Bandcamp page below) and never feel close to puking.
Throughout their songs, the band has one endearing affectation: the occasional indie rock yelp littered throughout their warbles happen to be quite canine-sounding. Related to this quirk, when listening I had a stray thought that made me chuckle lightly to myself before questioning just what was wrong with my brain (please be gentle) – I give it high barks: three yips and a woof.
Dry Heeves // Bandcamp | Twitter | Facebook
The first notes of “The Other Side” lull you into the belief that, perhaps, a few extra years in age have softened the edges of Slow Animal’s familiar lo-fi punk sound. It doesn’t take long to shatter that thought. There is an added layer of maturation on a new track entitled “The Other Side,” but the rough, ramshackle effervescence of youth has not been lost. Familiar constructs are retained: melodic guitars held to a steady upbeat pace, with muddled diatribes affirming the efficacy of illicit substances and enduring pleasure; but all that doesn’t mean they’re stagnant.
Listen, I adore this band, and their set at our last ill-fated birthday show was the highlight of the evening for me. Just about anything they’ve created has been more pleasing to my ears than a luxurious q-tip insertion, and a much healthier decision to boot. They indicate this is the first single off an upcoming EP of the same name, and that a full length should be in the offing as well. One can only hope.
Slow Animal // Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr
Though he was likely the driving force of the overall sound of Manchester’s Doves, if it hadn’t been evident prior, it’s obvious now with new track “Oh! Whiskey” that Jimi Goodwin was principally responsible for the band’s folk-centered jaunts. That aspect was never my favorite, but with such a varied base of styles it provided a well earned change of pace throughout the band’s catalogue – a catalogue which any long time reader of tympanogram should be aware I am a great admirer. Despite having been released nearly 14(!) years ago, “The Cedar Room” remains in the conversation (perhaps its totality depending on the day) of my personal favorite songs of all time.
It’s been quite some time since there’s been new music from the on-hiatus Doves, so it was with great pleasure that I learned of Goodwin’s debut solo album, Odludek. “Oh! Whiskey” exercises those folk muscles at the onset, with an extended harmonica solo, familiar rolling guitars, and Goodwin’s rough around the edges vocals centered on heartache and drinking. I’ve yet to listen to the remainder of the record, but Goodwin has described it as a “mad mixtape” and “eclectic as fuck,” meaning it’s surely as deftly varied as I expect.
While I hold out hope that Doves will reunite and give us another effort on the level of “The Cedar Room” or “There Goes the Fear,” I’ll be happy to take in the rest of Odludek for the time being.