Coming from metal act Assimilation, Vancouver’s Matt Chanway has a lot to live up to on his self-titled solo record. The record shows a lot of amazing ability that metal heads will love and has enough of the style that made greats like Chris Broderick, Greg Howe and George Lynch influence artists like Chanway over the years to prove he’s got something up his sleeve.
The machine gun like rhythms, particularly from the drums on opening track “Evidence of the Arcane,” conjure up a dark vision of Chanway’s world. The overt technicality is almost too much on this track, and some of the switches from vicious rush to unnerving chug make a track that constantly keeps you on edge. “The Receiver of Wisdom” offers a brighter backing to its endless barrage of beats. The flurries of notes are broken up with much more groove driven sections that give more context and room for the thrash to play on and the playfulness of the outro is strangely fun.
The heavy crush returns on “Harbinger 2.1” which starts on a pulsing intro before launching into its mix of intentionally choppy guitars and drums, and some juicy licks from guitar to guitar. The song is truly at its best when the drums and guitar have room to open up and move freely, creating feelings of release every time it happens. It’s fire from the get go on “271114” where Chanway is a bat out of hell just pushing his relentless beats and riffs until almost halfway through the song where only some space is given every few notes. This said it almost feels to relentless and continuous as by halfway through the track the feeling is too familiar and the lack of shifting moments in the track, let alone room to breathe make it feel repetitive.
The dynamic shifts make “Eyes in the Sky” a unique beast on the album, with the stops providing the thrashings return with more reason. The freestyle guitar that flutters over the slashing rhythms are as frantic as they are apocalyptic, and are as impressive as they are fast. The song’s final rush feels like a race to the finish also crafting a mini-melody within itself that leaves the listener wanting more. Closing track “Lucidity” fits in some of the most satisfying drums on the record, a disturbing mix of guitar lines and some of the finest melodies on the record. The voicing Chanway pulls out on his guitar in place of vocals are a welcome replacement and make the track feel like it offers even more than the songs before it.
Matt Chanway‘s self-titled record is a technical showcase for the ages, and crams every last note into its composition. With this however, the tracks feel tiring in their relentlessness at times and until “Lucidity” feel to samey, more from a lack of variation within each track than to suggest each track sounds the same. If Chanway can channel the originality of his closing track going forward though he’ll have something powerful in his hands for the future.
It takes a lot of talent to keep acoustic music interesting but the gems that manage it are saving the lighter side of folk. On Thirsty Hearts, the new album by Whitehorse musician Thorin Loeks, he manages to take ideas from Mumford and Sons, Kathleen Edwards, and parts Kim Churchill, as well as Gordon Lightfoot for an album both beautiful but also brave and intriguing.
There’s driving thump to “Thirsty Hearts” that gives its crisp guitar a movement to make it more than background noise. The rhythmic changes bring listeners to unexpected places and bring in some subtle additions that elevate the track. Flowing into “Bare Bones” Loeks doesn’t even need a drum to keep his song flowing, pounding bass strings while playing delightful melodies over the rest of the guitar, even using the body as an instrument at times.
The dark reflections of “Crossroads” carry some of the heftier emotional tone on the record. The continued use of surprising rhythmic changes in each track shows a fearlessness in Loeks’ composition but at times it can add a disjointed feel to some songs. Fingers dance on the guitar on “Burst Like A Bubble” creating some delicious melodic hooks, and although it works together, many parts feel generic at times on their own.
On the other hand, on the relentless push of “These Crazy Days” there’s an intriguing guitar hook that zigs when it seems like it would zag and subtle violins and down-beat chords give it a unique feeling and depth. Despite a forgettable verse section on “Break Free” the shift in mood on its choruses is powerful and is on a whole other plain sonically in sophistication.
Piano joins in on “For Love” where Loeks explores the depths of his sound in the background details of the track, adding little nuggets for devout listeners to find and dig into on repeat listens. There’s one last look at the darker side of Loeks on “Warmer World” with its gritty southern twang and sombre vocals. Double-toned vocals and the creeping use of effects on the choruses make the song one of the most sonically diverse and powerful on the record, and tease listener of what’s to come.
Even with some light repetition and overly straightforward delivery, Thorin Loeks manages to find a myriad of ways to make simple guitar folk relevant and interesting with his fearless sense of musicianship and composition.
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It’s rare for technical bands to also be the quiet ones, but some pull it off. Waiting For Sunday bring a smooth yet brooding sound on their record The Windsor Effect, with songs ranging from a Counting Crows feeling to Coheed and Cambria without the distortion on some of the riff heavy tracks.
There’s an instant air of mystery to album opener “Pebbles Become Stones” with the exotic tones to its many flourishing guitars. The band showcases a broad reach of technical talent in one song that sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The bass goes into overdrive on “Last Call For Safety” with licks and grooves alternating every phrase of the song. The song’s percussion heavy bridge gives it an even more exotic feel that brings it back into the main groove excitedly.
“The Love Is Gone” takes a much darker feel, choosing to go for a brooding build instead of the sprint of the record’s start. Despite some anti-climactic choruses the frenzy of rhythms that end the song make for a passionate end to the song. The band switches to an acoustic-pop sound on “Tell Me That You’re Mine” which at times also means a few cliché lyrics as well. However the hit heavy switch to distortion gives final chorus of the song enough oomph to keep it from feeling out of place.
“Long Live The Strong” runs on an attitude filled riff that’s matched by its vocals. The song has boasts a spine-tingling cut before the solo, and the race to the bottom at the end of the solo builds the song’s excitement perfectly. There’s a sombre cloud over “Wanted” with the hushed vocals and almost muted way the guitars are stroked. The bridge adds an emotional set of violins to compliment the added vocals create a climactic middle to the track.
“Borderline” opens with quiet xylophones, almost sounding like the Madonna track of the same name in the process. What follows however is a drum-thudding song that lets its instruments build slowly and push the emotional heft of the track. After a harmonic-heavy intro, “Chasing Youth” flows into a classic blues jam, so classic however that it could be any blues track. The stripped-back bridge is a nice touch but the song’s lack of originality keeps it from standing out without the energy of a live performance.
“Seasons Are Dire” nails its acoustic tone beautifully, with each note ringing perfectly, with each additional piano and banjo just adding to this beauty. It does suffer at times from its lack of variety giving little to keep you hooked beyond its great sound. There’s a vibrant joy to “Details” especially as it lands on each of its powerful choruses, kicking the energy up again and again.
“Oh, The Night” mixes some of the album’s best riffs and grooves on a very stripped back track, resulting in a track that almost feels like an acoustic version of a much more exciting track. Nevertheless, the vocals are catchy and the grooves drive the track well. The organ hovering over “My Scripture” fits the tone perfectly, elevating the track’s dark and serious sound.
The Windsor Effect is an impressive outing for Waiting For Sunday, the band have a technical prowess and smooth sound that make their songs easy to enjoy. At times however some repetitive verses, and a lack of variety hold the album back from being a consistent listen. It would also be interesting to see the band experimenting with other sounds as the mix of keys and pedals that open and close album make for its more interesting moments.
Not often does a band’s name and their music seem to have so much in common. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Familiar Wild is inspired by the well-known, yet sometimes threatening, urban environment of the cities that have cut a swath through the lush and tempestuous landscapes surrounding their region. Recognizing that surviving in the urban labyrinth is often akin to surviving in the dense forests, Familiar Wild’s music captures the melodies of the wild and brings them forth into civilization.
This interweaving of environments is in the forefront of the latest single “We Better Run”. The track is just a taste of what audiences can expect on the upcoming album Things We Forget, set for release this fall.
Feeling like you are slowly stalking along the hot and heavy sidewalks of a city, “We Better Run” begins subtly with soft pulsating electronic rhythms. The song then morphs into a vocal and electronic effect, reminiscent of blaring sirens wailing past. The lyrics then begin with the unsettling “We better run / We better run / From this city on the hunt” and suddenly the urban landscape feels dangerous and intimidating. The increase in the beat feels like it’s on the verge of breaking into an all out run, and audiences may feel themselves on edge, awaiting the bursting climax of the song. But Familiar Wild keeps it going with an entrancing rhythm and melody, slowly mesmerizing and lulling listeners into a false sense of safety. Then when the song abruptly ends, listeners are left with a slight feeling of apprehension, not wanting to breath or move, just in case.
“We Better Run” comes out on June 12, and if it is just a preview of what audiences can expect from Familiar Wild’s upcoming album then listeners should be very excited to hear what awaits on Things We Forget.
Vancouver’s Klezmer-Punk singer/songwriter/accordionist/novelist Geoff Berner is playing on Jan. 23 in Toronto as part of a full Canadian tour supporting the release of his latest album.
Out now in Canada on Rae Spoon’s Coax Records, and internationally by Oriente Musik of Berlin, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians is the Berner’s first album of original material in four years. It follows in line with the artist’s involvement in the Klezmer Bund movement – radical Jewish artists that reject orthodox and ultra-Zionist conservative notions of Jewish identity, and seeks to connect with the deep roots of left-wing Jewish thought in a way that’s entertaining and accessible for everybody. Berner claims that WAGTBTBM is “meant to be powerful cheering-up medicine that you don’t have to turn your brain off for.”
“We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians” is a reference to the old German folk tale about elderly farm animals threatened with death, who run away from their masters in the hope of achieving freedom and becoming Town Musicians. It’s an absurd tale of irrational hope and optimism in the face of horror, and that’s where the story connects with the songs on the album. “I would describe the record as a compendium of strategies against despair,” says Berner.
WE ARE GOING TO BREMEN TO BE MUSICIANS TRACKLIST:
01 Swing A Chicken 3 Times Over Your Head
02 Dance And Celebrate
03 When DD Gets Her Donkey Everything Will Be Alright
05 Es Brent
06 Ikh Krakh Tomid Arayn In Der Zelber Mashin
07 Thank You, No Thank You
08 When Chanukah Comes To Town
09 I Don’t Feel So Mad At God When I See You In Your Summer Dress
10 We Are On Our Way To Bremen
11 Slouching Towards Bremen
January 21/16 – Montreal, QC – Vitrola
January 22/16 – Wakefield, QC – The Black Sheep
January 23/16 – Toronto, ON – The TRANZAC
January 24/16 – Peterborough, ON – The Garnet
February 05/16 – Lethbridge, AB – The Slice
February 06/16 – Edmonton, AB – DV8
February 07/16 – Calgary, AB – The Ironwood
February 19/16 – Vancouver, BC – Lanalou’s
February 20/16 – Vancouver, BC – Lanalou’s