Interred Views: Sister Ray

31/08/2017

Sister Ray performing at the &Loan Gallery

Nanaimo BC’s Sister Ray were a band that shouldn’t have existed and shouldn’t have ceased to be. Circa 2007 the local underground scene was, as so many such scenes perpetually are, obsessed with loud, fast, punk-inspired indie rock. Mel Mundell and Jakob Rehlinger were both in reasonably popular loud, fast bands (The Sheds and The Clap respectively), and wanted something different. Something slow and quiet. Something the audience could lay down on the floor and nod off to. That is, if they dared lay on any of the grime-covered, pre-gentrification floors of Nanaimo’s decaying downtown venues and DIY spaces. Intended as either a challenge or an affront to their audience, Sister Ray’s somnolent tempos and soft-spoken whispers tamed the beast for a short time, earning them a loyal following and respect as one of the city’s top talents, destined for greater things. Like many bands full of promise, they broke up too soon when life tore the duo in opposite directions and different parts of the continent (Jakob to Toronto and Mel to Portland). Sister Ray left behind one album, several unrecorded and forgotten songs, and a lot of unrealised plans as their legacy.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary expanded reissue of their seminal album on Arachnidiscs Recordings, Jakob and Mel reconvened via Facebook to reminisce about the rise and fall of Sister Ray.


Jakob: It was ten years ago we started the band in Nanaimo [a small city on Vancouver Island]. What are you memories of that time and place?

Mel: I remember us both having Internet girlfriends that we were pining over. I remember walking to your apartment for practice and Nanaimo feeling vaguely desolate.

Jakob: It was a wasteland we both wanted out of. Those were the peak meth epidemic years. So much boarded-up commercial space. Between the skeleton of the abandoned Malaspina Hotel and the giant pit that would become the convention centre, downtown looked like Syria.

Mel: And I remember us playing a show at the Queens and the stage seeming ridiculously high up for some reason and it altogether being a ludicrous venue for us.

Jakob: Yeah, the Queens show was ridiculous. Probably a Tuesday or something too. I think only Adrienne and Breen showed up?

Sister Ray at The Queens

Mel: Yes, we could always count on Adrienne and Breen, our super supportive fans. I remember you being in lots and lots of other music projects, ha. Is this the case still?

Jakob: I am still in a bunch of projects. I actually just put an end to BABEL which I guess was becoming my main solo project back then. I’m in Moonwood with my wife and two nice dudes and somehow I might be currently playing bass—the one you used in Sister Ray!—in a band called Stargoon with some of the same people. And I always have too many solo studio projects, like King Pong Dub System which is credited with one of the remixes on the reissue. What about you? Have you been keeping up with music?

Mel: I played in a surf-y low-fi band Bushtit for four years or so but members moved away and I haven’t done anything since. Yikes that was like three years ago! I miss it but I don’t drink and smoke anymore, a.k.a. go to bars, so I tried joining a community choir as my new band last year. And then we sang Grease songs and I had to leave.

Jakob: Ugh. No doubt. I’d heard of Bushtit. Though did I know you were even in Bushtit? Anyway, you guys were great! I don’t actually remember how Sister Ray even came into existence. Despite being fond of each other, the idea of us just getting together to make music seems absurd to me in a way. Yet, it was a serendipitous, magical pairing. Do you remember how it came to be?

Mel: Once we formed Sister Ray I wondered why we hadn’t played music together sooner. But when did we make a set plan to do so? I have no memory of the actual logistics and I too find it hard to believe. Did someone else suggest it? Did we connect over a particular band?

Jakob: Well, Nick Cave was big for both of us. Huge. The first Grinderman album had just come out and we liked it. But, no, I think that came out well after we were playing together. We were both into Swans, I think. You got me more into Teenage Jesus at the time. But nothing that really sounded like Sister Ray, exactly. We never talked about Low or slowcore bands I don’t remember. And I don’t think we were like, “Hey what if Kim Gordon or Lydia Lunch had fronted Mazzy Star?!” Do you remember being into any bands like what we were doing?

Mel: Not really. I was definitely into all of the above, including Low to some degree, but the darkwave-y stuff much more. I think Sister Ray was derived from the mood of all the music we liked in common stripped and slowed way, way, way down.

Jakob: Way down. One of our initial intentions was to be slow and quiet, which we definitely were, at least compared to what everyone else in town was doing at the time. I think I wanted to chance to play guitar a little more atmospherically than my other bands had allowed.

Sister Ray at Fascinating Rhythm

Mel: I agree, the goal was to play music as slowly and atmospherically as possible. I wanted us to play shows where the audience was laying on the floor, I wanted us to play while laying on the floor. I wanted to be able to take a complete deep breath in between notes. I remember feeling a deep sense of calm after our practices.

Jakob: I remember us both almost falling asleep by the end of practice. We’d rate it as a success if one of us was nodding off. I’ve played a few Moonwood and BABEL drone sets that almost achieve that. In some ways I keep trying to go back to Sister Ray. Have you listened to the songs recently?

Mel: I hadn’t listened to the songs recently, but I listened to the reissue all last night finally and although I cringed at times at my own timidness, it sounded better than I remembered.

Jakob: Ha! Yeah, I think you we purposely trying to not scream like in The Sheds. I guess it could come off as timid, in a way. But I hear more tender or delicate or… a better word I can’t quite place.

Mel: Ha, it’s true! There is an understated quality to the whole project that allowed for a lot of intensity I think. The bass playing is basic beyond belief, but l hope I’ve improved since then.

Jakob: I liked the super basic almost brutalist quality to the bass playing.

Sister Ray news paper clipping

Mel: I’m glad. I liked it too just think it needed to be rougher and more defined with effects maybe. Playing with you was a dream come true. Sister Ray is my favourite project I’ve ever been in. It’s the music I’ve always wanted to make.

Jakob: . It’s one of the most pure things I’ve ever done. We were really making music for ourselves, no concessions to genre or popularity, almost throwing two fingers up at everyone else at the time playing uptempo punk-inspired music. But everyone loved it. I often wonder if we’d have kept it pure or what would’ve happened if we’d carried on. I know you wanted to put down the bass and start playing guitar and I was really nervous about that. I think now, it’d have been the right choice. Get rid of the drum machine too. But will we ever know?

Mel: I wonder that too. Sister Ray was a very healing project for me and playing that way did feel more about a personal need and a lot less about popularity or accessibility. In terms of where it could/would have gone? I honestly feel like we had 10 more albums in us, ha. I can hear the drum machine holding us back at times, but I also think it kept us awake at others. I think more confident bass playing or guitar on my part would have worked. Your playing, for me, is guitar at its best and we would have needed to keep that. Reunion show! I need a project like Sister Ray in my life again. Now wish me all the luck finding a Jakob in Vancouver.

Jakob: Good luck. I’m one of a kind! As are you. Hopefully we can work together in some capacity someday.


The reissue of Sister Ray releases on 9/11 2017.

 

 

 


SEMEN PRIEST: Third Testament

01/04/2015

SPTTtapeshot

C50 – High-bias tape, toxic green shell. $6.66! (plus regional shipping)


⇒CLICK HERE TO ORDER⇐


THIRD TESTAMENT is, fittingly, the third album by Canadian post-punk/electronic duo SEMEN PRIEST. Evolving from the “industrial vapor wave” of their debut, the duo’s previous tape, Disco Horribilis, dallied with EBM tones. On their latest outing Epididymis Rex and Zsa Zsa La Borg dilly with a harder-edged sound inspired by classic ’80s and ’90s Wax Trax! records bands.

CALL IT: Post-Punk, Disco, Industrial. Electronic, Vapour Wave
SONIC COUSIN TO: PiL, Revolting Cocks, Underworld, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

“Toronto’s Semen Priest make some of the best gothic infused disco/post-punk this side of Silent Shout favourite Femminielli. Those of you who follow the blog know that a comparison to the Montreal italo-disco king is one of the highest honours that we can bestow on a band, and ‘Person Suit’ hits all the notes: an epically long song, half-sung spoken-word vocals over funky synths and a bass-line made for a late-night after-party … This album is an excellent foray into a dark underbelly of Canadian electronic music.” ~ Silent Shout

“Spraying us with another blast of sludgy … ‘Wrong Number’ is a crunchy post-punk stomper … “ ~ Quick Before It Melts


Clara Engel: Ashes and Tangerines

11/04/2014

C56 / 11 tracks § edition of 50 § smokey cassette shells § burlap sleeve § stamped and numbered tags § fold-out poster/lyric sheet § download code

Release date: April 28th, 2014

Order here: $8.00 (+plus regional shipping)

Burlap. It conjures the innocent fun of potatoes sack races. It evokes the scents of coffee beans or even its own rustic spice. And it haunts us with the cruel tragedy of kittens, drowned in a sack at the first light of dawn.

Clara Engel‘s enchanting Ashes & Tangerines is infused with the dark heart of the Nick Cave, the gruff sensuality of PJ Harvey, and the storied lyricism of the Cohens and Dylans of the world.  It was a pleasure to put together the packaging for this album; an album which is every bit as smokey as the noir-tinted cassette shell and coarse and earthy as the burlap it comes wrapped in.

“Clara Engel’s voice comes to me from that deepest of all places, imaginative space, from which she visually retrieves an inner landscape converted by breath into the rock equivalent of poetry. Rarely has a voice sounded so authoritative, so unapologetic in its disclosures, so sure of its direction in going home into song.” ~ Jeremy Reed (UK poet) 

“The album’s production blends Clara’s poetry with her music, so as to produce a very interesting mixture of strong senses. “Ashes and Tangerines”; destruction and reboot. Now and never. Everything exists in her fantasy, inside the forest of the tale where she landed, stayed and perceived, among other stuff, the rare blending of fantastic and real things … She introduces herself and invites you to enter the world the way she perceives it. It is a fairy tale experience for grownups. One you definitely should not lose.” ~ Metacapsule Says


SEMEN PRIEST RELEASED

06/08/2013

362898JF_Semen Priest jp1-OUTSIDE

C40 // w/DOWNLOAD // $6.66 (CAD +$3.34 int’l shipping)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER (Direct Paypal link)

Or HERE w/instant DL (Bandcamp)

Electro-funk, post-punk dystopian dub nightmares. Chilled psychedelic pop daydreams. Futuristic streams of anime unconsciousness. Gothic bubblegum doom fantasies. Romance. Violence. Action. Wealth. Decay.

SEMEN PRIEST came to our attention when we received a demo package, mailed from somewhere in Canada, containing a blood-filled condom and a vaguely threatening letter (You should do our tape. xoxo Semen Priest. PS- We know where you live.”). Easily the most unusual demo-package the label has ever received (full story HERE), the CD-R of SEMEN PRIEST’s album that accompanied it prompted us to sign the band instead of notifying the RCMP. Even if we still don’t know who they are. Worst case scenario: Doing a run of pretty awesome cassettes is relatively inexpensive way to ensure your house doesn’t get burned down.

tapes-angle


%d bloggers like this: