Released on Friday the 13th, at 13:00pm, it’s the 13th instalment by the long-running psychedelic/space-rock project, and the “proggiest and foggiest” Heavy Moon to date. Thirteen trips through acid-fuzzed desert doom guitars, elfin flutes, acoustic daydreams, mellow mellotrons, cosmic synths and eastern visions.
RIYL: De La Soul going lo-fi folk rock, Sunburned Hand of The Man with two turntables and a sampler, The Beatles’ White Album and Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds playing at the same time in different rooms, DJ Shadow falling far down a DMT rabbit hole
Periodically, Vancouver Island librarian Partli Cloudi emerges from the periodicals stacks and offers up another cut-up, broke-down, sideways look at the world through the textual magic of sound. Pet Smells finds PC stretching his muscles a little, in his words:
“I was purposely trying to tap into more of a Three Feet High and Rising meets Smiley Smile type of record, and questioning if humour and joy can have a place in music versus more ‘acceptable’ emotions like angst, sadness, and ironically… melancholy. I guess when i said ‘music’, i meant like boring indie/underground/experimental music… putting the mental back in experimental. Don’t quote me on that tho.”
Oops, quoted indeed, but we couldn’t have described this aural trip better ourselves.
Split Infinities ,Volume 13 of our split tapes series, features two improvised, mind-melting, long-form psychedelic and kosmische odysseys by Toronto-based cosmic rockers MOONWOOD and STARGOON on sides 25 and 26 respectively.
Toronto psychedelic space-rock jam band MOONWOOD have been playing as a quartet since 2013 (husband and wife team Jakob Rehlinger, guitar/synths, and Jacqueline Noire, vocals/synths, backed by Matthew Fava, bass, and Luca Capone, drums). Their live shows consist of a few songs with standard verse/chorus structures, but also at least one extended mind-expanding and face-melting improvised jam. Though they’ve released some of these instrumental freak-outs on live mixtapes, “Cosmic Ghosts” is their first attempt to capture one of these singular experiences in the studio. Nine months pregnant with their baby, Jacqueline’s water actually broke while recording her overdubs for the track. Once her synth parts were duly completed, they called the midwife.
Named after an imaginary paint colour created by a neural network (it’s the same banal beige featured on the cassette’s J-card), STARGOON began as a collaboration between ambient droner Heraclitus Akimbo (aka sound archivist at theMechanical Forest Sound blog, Joe Strutt) and Moonwood drummer, Luca Capone (who also records sound-collages as Radio Samson di Maria). On this 20-minute track, cobbled together from an hour’s worth of improvisations, they’re joined by Moonwood guitarist Jakob Rehlinger on bass who also recorded the session. Like the name STARGOON itself, “Bylfgoam Glosd” is taken from Janelle Shane’s AI’s list of paint names.
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?
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 Moonwoodwith 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 Stargoonwith some of the same people. And I always have too many solo studio projects, like King Pong Dub Systemwhich 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 Bushtitfor 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.
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.
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 culmination of years of time spent in the studio, BABEL presents four complete albums released on two 2xCD sets. The four volumes of kosmische drones and noise-jazz improvisation explore similar themes but follow divergent psychedelic paths to adjacent destinations. The four-disc cycle forms a cohesive whole while each volume stands own as a thematically contained album.
Active since 2006,HEAVY MOON is the instrumental space fuzz rock solo jam of Jakob Rehlinger, guitarist of psychedelic space-rockers MOONWOOD. On every #MoonMonday leading up to this release, Rehlinger has uploaded each of the previous six Heavy Moon albums to the Heavy Moon Bandcamp site.
This seventh Heavy Moon album is a collection of cosmic instrumental space rocks stolen from the planets Hawkwind, Floyd and Harmonia.
Available as three unique formats:
Cassette has exclusive cross-faded collage mixes of 9 of the tracks.
CD is presented as 10 individual tracks, including the bonus track “Schütteln, klirren und aufrollen”
Digital Download comes with it all! (Both CD and Cassette come with the full download so no one misses anything).
Ever since we started our Bandcamp site as our online shop for ease and convenience, we’ve been meaning to get the older in-print titles that predated the shop up there. Most notably the first few volumes in the Split Tapes Series and Moonwood‘s River Ghosts LP were missing (available on this site, but buried way, way, way down in the store page listings where people fear to tread).
Also note the prices are in CAD, so with the plummeting Canadian dollar (at time of posting this) being at a mere 68 cents on the American dollar (or €0.63) you might want to take advantage of our economic collapse and score some deals.
In addition, some out-of-stock items are now back in-stock having retaken possession of some stock from a downsizing/relocating distro, so if you thought you missed out on something, maybe you didn’t!
Along with his own sizable discography, Nova Scotia-based Andrew MacGregor, who records as GOWN, has played with several high-profile psychsters including Thurston Moore as half of The Bark Haze. He’s also toured and collaborated with with Sunburned Hand of the Man and other similar folks (including our own Partli Cloudi as the duo New Yaki, occasionally made a trio by my own presence). His solo recordings have received critical praise from internet taste-makers from Pitchfork to Weird Canada. After a period of self-imposed early-retirement from the outsider music scene, MacGregor has decided to return with Sound of Time. Unlike a certain Genesis ex-drummer, no one has started a petition to stop this.
Fifteen years ago, you would’ve found me sitting in a green vinyl chair beside the listening station at Blackball Records, a store Andrew and Jack Tieleman opened in Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island. During a nervous breakdown-induced year of unemployment, I spent almost every day there talking to Andrew, Jack and the parade of misfit toys who’d wander through. It was where I was first introduced to the ideas like: Downloading was going to change the music business forever; saying things like “That’s so gay” is a bad idea; the capitalist system is on the brink of failure; that maybe I was unhappy because I preferred adolescent drama to a healthy adult relationship.
For better or worse, that lost year hanging out at the Blackball clubhouse would shape and change me in ways I was unaware of at the time. It was there that Andrew introduced me to Six Organs of Admittance. At the time I was on a strict New Wave, Goth and Post-Punk diet and didn’t get “hippie shit” like Six Organs at all. I adhered to a misguided and misunderstood punk ethos that “the only good hippie is a dead hippie” and all psychedelia is just for old fogies.
Blackball Records probably circa 2004, L-R. Unidentified guy actually shopping, beardless Jakob, Ken Holiday (Everything Is Geometry), unidentified guy (sitting in the green chair) and Andrew.
This introduction to the so-called “New Weird America” planted a seed that would one day grow into the tree that is everything I’ve become. It’s quite true that without Blackball, and knowing Andrew, my band Moonwoodwouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. I was always a closet psych-head but Andrew was the one who helped me understand this truth about myself. Bauhaus, PiL, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cult, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth—all my favourite bands were essentially psychedelic rock bands, updated for their era. Immediately obvious or not, what I was drawn to in the band’s I loved, even something as straight-up rock’n’roll as The Cramps, were the psychedelic elements. I’d already dropped-out, now I was tuning-in.
He also introduced me to cassette culture, which at the time baffled me more than the much more prevalent cassette culture baffles people today. We’d just gotten rid of tapes in favour of the higher fidelity and easier track-cueing of CDs! Why are we going backwards? When Andrew moved to the States a few years later, it was before he would’ve seen me begin to embrace these things. The following year, he came home for a visit and he noted that my guitar playing had completely changed. I’d fully turned-on.
The conversation below is something like you would’ve heard if you’d been a fly on the wall at Blackball Records.
A few years back, after a seemingly steady upward trajectory, you quit the music business. What prompted that move?
I don’t think I quit per se.
Perhaps you didn’t quit music, but I have a vivid memory of you clearly stating you didn’t see any purpose in continuing. Not that you weren’t going to ever touch a guitar again but specifically recording and playing gigs. This was probably five or six years ago.
I could have said that. I say many things and you likely have evidence of lots of things I have said, very few of them correct. It is more based on a combination of opportunity, desire and quality of work. I think that I achieved all that I had hoped to achieve in a certain direction with The Old Line on Divorce Records and had to regroup to find a clarity of vision in order to move forward. If opportunity had arisen following the release of that LP then perhaps a direction and purpose would have come from that opportunity, however without that driving force or purpose one must dig deep and look inside, hence the time between apparent outward activity. That being said the lack of outward activity doesn’t imply that there wasn’t inward activity.
So you were still working in the music business, but behind the scenes?
I’m not sure I was ever in the business of making music. Making music or art—or most labours of love—are rarely a break-even financial equation hence the business of making music is something I know very little about and likely would be fairly useless at. I don’t understand how most folks make a living making or playing music. And I would imagine that, in terms of financial return for time/energy invested even at the higher ends of success, it’s way worse than I could ever fathom. I got lucky with some opportunities and whatnot but the process was never that different than playing at home. I’ve made music on a continuous basis for over 20 years or so and have really always made it in the same way. I’m able to express my ideas in a more concise and fully formed way and am very lucky to feel that way after 20 years. I feel the music I delivered to you is the best I’ve ever made.
I’m inclined to agree. Does the probable lack of financial return inform your decision to make art?
I’ll always make art or something that I think of as art. I don’t really think that I was ever closer to that financial windfall than I am today. That said I believe it to be virtually nil. I am constantly moving forward with ideas, thoughts and whatnot and feel that my mind is working with ideas that stand a chance of being better constructed and more fully formed than they have been in the past and hopefully that trajectory will continue. I believe The Old Line was the apex of a certain trajectory and is a solid representation of a journey that continues. Where it leads is unknown however it hasn’t and won’t stop as far as I know. Whether the “art” exists in the world beyond the sphere of my being and the beings of a few others is less important to me than it was in the past…. that being said we all like to be validated.
So, is validation part of the motivation for coming back with Sound of Time?
I guess this comes down to opportunity. We’ve known each other for over half our lives and you offered—which you may regret at this point, maybe you were just being polite?
Putting out your tape is a real expensive way to be polite. Even by Canadian standards. No, I genuinely think your music should continue to be made available and promoted, even on a small scale like this.
You are one of the people who has to endure me periodically sending you my art for validation and you offered. If you didn’t offer you would still receive things at likely the same clip and be forced to validate me in some fashion. I can’t help it. I can’t explain why I have come back because I am neither sure that I went away, nor am I sure that I was there.
You and I have a long, strange history of sending each other stuff for validation when I think we both kind of don’t quite “get” each other’s music on some level. Not that we can’t objectively appreciate each other’s talents. It’s sort of like we’re positioned on the same table, but at 90-degree angles. You know like how the only record we both could really agree on back in the day was Love by The Cult.
I guess the question is does anyone really get another human… truly? I mean the past is littered with musicians at 90 degree angles, Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, Sonic Youth and the Swans, you know what I mean. That’s sort of what leads to something else, participating but not totally understanding might lead to some sort of growth. I try to source different opinions from different sides of the fences and I very rarely agree with everything anyone says, however I believe I am more informed. I don’t really believe in one single set of rules or one reality, everything is possible and nothing is the whole truth, the whole reality. If everybody liked the same things as all their friends or peer group shit would be boring and uninteresting, plus there would be no exposure to anything new just the same old shit recycled. Sort of what occurs now to some degree.
Yeah, it seems like we’re either living in a time of complete creative stagnancy—mass conservatism where people only adhere to the fixed ideals of existing forms, be they jazz or post-punk or psychedelia or hip-hop or any genre really—or possibly it’s the brink of a new renaissance age. Where do you see the pendulum swinging?
I’m really not sure where the pendulum lies at this point. Based on what I hear on satellite radio, it’s totally messed up. Lots of the stuff on XFM, which is supposed to be the underground, alternative, whatever, sounds like Michael Damien’s “Rock On” and Taylor Dayne or some shit might be the next song in the playlist. I really don’t have much knowledge of what is going on now, especially in the underground. Most of the things I hear [that are] new are on satellite radio [are] pretty bland and really makes older stuff more interesting. Or at least the popularity of bands I didn’t previously enjoy more understandable and likeable.
I honestly don’t think it matters, I am sort of generally disinterested in “our generation.” Myself included to some degree. We as a whole have continued on the path set by those before us and are leaving a bigger mess behind than what we came into across the board. Here is where we go down the negative rabbit hole, however it isn’t bad to realize reality and call it out for what it is…
The negative rabbit hole is where I live. I mean, I am of the grunge generation.
In 1991—that was the “year punk broke”—I was 16 you were 18, there was so much opportunity for revolution and change, instead in the 25 years since, those opportunities have become commodities and packaged so they could be sold back to us, or our children, or the following generations, in a timely fashion. The internet is completely counterproductive in terms of change, as it is controlled and monitored to the point that by implying any sort of actual change in the way things are done, you are likely to experience a knock on your door and worst case scenario… disappear.
Personally I very much doubt there is reason for doing much anymore in terms of culture other than removing oneself from it as much as one can. The commoditization of almost everything is fairly incredible really and that has cut into all activity that used to take place on the margins as far as I can tell. The margins have been pushed further out as all sorts of sub cultures have been packaged and sold in little packages so people can easily feel part of a group.
I am certainly rambling here and will likely regret most of what is said…
Expect that knock on your door. But speaking of mass surveillance and NSA-style data snooping, you spent a few years in the States. How do you find the underground music scene in Canada differs from the one you were involved with in Northhampton?
I’m not sure of what makes up any scene at this point. I’d say that in general there’s a number of good people who work hard to make sure something exists for others to enjoy. This is likely the same for almost anything really, food, sports, art, business regions, politics on a grass roots level, almost anything really. I’d imagine that passion drives most people involved. I think in Canada the [geographic] space in combination with the lack of population makes things a challenge in terms of reaching a level of involvement that’s easier to reach in Europe, the States, etc. I would imagine you would find much the same thing if you examined most grass roots community groups. Although “scenes” are far less organized in terms of rules and positions but often no less hierarchical.
Is there a scene in your part of Nova Scotia that you’re just blissfully living outside of, or does it not really exist?
Blissfully outside. There are folks I respect and admire in the region but the time of active involvement has long passed me. I very much doubt my opinion is needed, nor would it be appreciated…
I somewhat doubt that.
I feel like I am a bummer, although I don’t personally feel that way. The talk of having a peer group or a number of cultural touch stones with whom to identify has made me wonder where I am in that mess…
This morning I was listening to Mark Maron’s WTF podcast—I listen to a lot of podcasts, baseball, football, gambling, exopolitics, economics and Maron—and always find it brings a smile to my face. Not because he is funny. He is a comedian, but I don’t find his stand up that funny, sometimes it is, but not overall. But the joy in which he approaches each interview and general excitement in the conversation.
I enjoyed his Thinky Pain stand up movie a lot. But I can’t really listen to WTF. He’s too enthusiastic for my tastes. Even when he’s talking to another famous curmudgeon like Steve Albini—too enthusiastic.
Anyways, he seems to get flack for being a downer, bitter, but I find it quite the opposite. Maybe I am being marketed to, led to identify with Maron.
We both are. Middle-class raised, plaid-wearing, 40-something, neurotic white dudes.
Again I am not saying I am any better at this shit… just sort of pointing out the obvious that somehow in the last 25 years the margins have become commoditized and marketed to us on almost every level. Think: foodies, farmers markets, craft beer, coffee, indie movies etc… Again where is the revolution? Where is the underground? Maybe just so far out that I can’t even recognize where it lives anymore, maybe it is in hiding so it can’t be sold…
I don’t know if I am trying to make a point or not, or if I should just avoid all the references to revolution…
I don’t really think there’s going to be a knock on your door if you say the word “revolution” here.
Intrinsically I believe that music, sound, is a gateway to change. As teenagers our minds got expanded by exposure to new approaches, new ways of having dialogue, new ways of existence through sound. Unfortunately maybe those doors close at some point or maybe those things don’t happen for most people—now or then—with or without music. I guess that Sound has always been commoditized. It might be the speed at which it happens now that I find alarming… and maybe once it enters that realm it doesn’t provide the same opportunity for change because by become a commodity it intrinsically becomes part of the system and therefore the problem.
Maybe listening to Jefferson Airplane combined with the recent world events has finally blown me into a reality where I’m incapable of coping with the current overwhelming narrative.
My main point is that I’m wondering whether the underground—and other non-mainstream expressions and activities—has been neutered by the fact that all culture that exists on the margins can quickly become a commodity. I wonder if that coupled with the fact that most methods of communication can be monitored, recorded, preserved and held against individuals as evidence of crimes or thoughts which are against the “greater good” has stopped any chance of a needed “revolution” both cultural and societal. My disappointment lies with the fact that it has been our generation which has come of age and relative control during this time. Maybe by stepping outside the systems as much as possible that is a revolutionary act… don’t know
At this point I would clearly say that I have no role in any scene, really the only scene that I played a role in was the “scene” or number of scenes in Nanaimo where we’re both from.
That Nanaimo scene of the late ’90s was oddly fertile. For such a small group of people, it seems like an unlikely high percentage of us carried on to varying levels of national and international notoriety. Be it in the form of Apollo Ghosts or Tough Age or Elfin Saddles or Brodie West or you or whoever. What do you think it was about that scene?
It’s conceivable that it was fertile to a point, as the “notoriety” you speak of was achieved after leaving for the most part.
Yeah, none of it happened while any of us were still living in Nanaimo.
Perhaps it was a fertile incubator. In many ways it was a safe place to experiment, find ones footing but didn’t really lend itself to reaching for that “next level”… or whatever you want to call it. Maybe leaving was reaching for the next level. Maybe now with the internet being what it is that next level is a little easier to achieve with higher levels becoming more difficult. It’s hard to say. To me the reason that the Nanaimo scene was fertile in someways is the lack of homogenization, the fact that the town was marginalized to some degree and so were a lot of us. That led to lots of support for lots of things that didn’t really make sense to the folks that were supporting them. Of course everyone had a different reason for being involved but basically all you had to do as an artist or whatever was to create something and you were likely to find support for a certain period of time.
Another thing that made it work at a point was infrastructure. A good and supportive record store [Fascinating Rhythm, still one of the best record stores in Canada]with a good staff, who had liberties from the owner to take chances on stock. A number of people who laid the groundwork for shows and later venues which allowed shows as long as folks drank…
Ha! I was just talking with someone about how they can’t put on noise shows anymore because the audiences don’t drink. They just go in the alley and smoke pot. And the music drives everyone else away. Scenes need supportive spaces.
One major part of me staying in Nanaimo before Blackball opened was the Jazz Vanguard which was sort of mythical when I was in high school [The Vanguard was a firetrap in the basement of a hotel on the waterfront. Piled to the low ceiling with old furniture and debris, it was the home of free-jazz and experimental shows. A place of magic.] and later was a great practice space and venue that really fostered the stranger side of things for a period of time. Having a space to practice and whatnot. Without that, my level of frustration might have bubbled over and led to me being a stockbroker or some other silly thing in my early 20’s. I wonder if things would have developed in such a way if one of those things was missing?
I think any scene is probably an organic system reliant on all the parts.
I know I am likely missing something, someone—because I historically have—but I wonder if enough credit is ever given to those who exist before things happen, and I say “happen” very loosely.
The people behind the people behind the scenes rarely get credit. Anyway, not to keep harping on this theme of you leaving and coming back, but I’m going to touch on it again. Something I’ve noticed myself is each time Moonwood or BABEL or Arachnidiscs reaches another milestone on the road to success—whatever the hell “success” might be in the scenario—the feeling of pride and accomplishment lasts about five minutes. And then I’m back to feeling like I haven’t achieved anything and it’s all been a waste of time. Or that none of it really matters and reaching the next level is also meaningless. That it’s all smoke and mirrors. Like the very idea that “culture” is seen to be worth something is itself a capitalist construct. That none of this so-called culture humanity has created has intrinsic value and we’ve been duped into believing it does so that it can be commodified and sold to us. Anyway, where I’m going is: was achieving a certain level of success a similar experience for you?
Even now over 25% of my lifetime—in terms of years—my identity was derived from music and my involvement in music. As what could be determined as the last half of my life enters its first decade I have a far more healthy relationship with sound and what I need from it in order to feel a purpose in my existence. I’m not sure as to how to describe certain levels of achievement. In retrospect I am very happy and proud of what I produced in the past 20 years. I am not sure that any group of events, releases or milestones are the focus of that pride.
Touring, the act of playing a number of shows in a row, leads to a level of exhaustion which is very much part of the experience, however that really puts a haze over the whole elation with playing shows that in retrospect seem wonderful. But how much of that was pure mental and physical exhaustion, I can’t say. I think that playing a show in a city in Belgium is much the same as playing a show in a youth center in Nanaimo, it’s a love/hate sort of thing and I find it somewhat satisfying that if I had to list my 10 favourite shows, I would put both those events on my list for different reasons. After one particular show in which I was in at my worst. Not musically but attitude wise. I am sure you know that mood from me…
Oh, yeah. [memories surface of a gig at the university SUB where I was playing bass in Andrew’s band and he leaped onto a table to harangue the audience for not paying attention to us, and possibly the way they were living their lives, while I tried to fade into the back of the stage area].
And a veteran of the music scene came up to me and said he has been watching his friends play “that kind of music” for years and never quite got it, but after watching me something clicked. That felt good, not good enough to turn my mood around at the time but now I’m very proud of that. What I do is a little different it would seem than what people expect even amongst a certain crowd. I guess even at the time I knew how lucky I was to have any level of success, you know standing in front of a crowd and doing exactly what you want, what comes into your mind exits through your actions and into the eyes and ears of a crowd… That is an amazing feeling. Creating something in the moment and having an audience respond is truly joyous feeling. I remember another musician having concern for me because I appeared angry…
I don’t know if you’re referencing the same person, but Kristjanne (of Everything is Geometry) once said to me, “Whenever I see Andrew play, I feel like he hates me. Like he wants me to go away.” You had that kind of aggressive intensity. Mesmerizing, but also uncomfortable. Like you were pure bottled anger.
When nothing could be further from the truth about roots of my sound and performance.
It’s something I always appreciated.
Perhaps it’s the reason we both felt marginalized and could recognize that in each other’s work—and of course the fact that The Cult are pretty great.
They’re the best.
SOUND OF TIME releases on Dec. 4, 2015 and can be ordered HERE.
Out now! Desert Ghosts by Toronto psychedelic space-rockers MOONWOOD.
“Like Moon Duo hopped up on pure wormwood extract, the Toronto-based improv space-rock outfit known as Moonwood have plucked another full-length jewel from the ether. Drawing on a cornucopia of worldly throwback psychedelic influences from the Middle East, Asia and Germany, Desert Ghosts is a relentless assault on your psyche, bound to blow your consciousness out the back of your skull and into a kaleidoscope of interdimensional possibilities. …. The first half of Desert Ghosts is noted as ‘Earthbound desert rock,’ a voyage through the deserts of the American West with fuzz rock and cosmic surf grounded by motorik rhythms, and the second half is a Trans Arrakis Express suite, signifying the arrival on the fictional desert planet from Frank Herbert’s famed 1965 sci-fi novel Dune. The change in sound is audible; the first half propelled by frontman Jakob Rehlinger’s incendiary guitar and Luca Capone’s impertinent drums, while the second half is more meditative and mystical, featuring more of bassist Matt Fava’s violin. Both sides are united by filtered synth drones and Jacqueline Noire’s mesmerizing vocals.” ~ Exclaim!
Transparent purple vinyl, first 150 copies come with limited edition 12×16 risographed print.
Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, LERO (aka Ben Dyment) is a solo project in operation since 2012. Shiftless, transient – secret gardens, slow drones and static hiss/hum, influence into expression. Plain hymns honest with pure truth airs. We’re releasing his album Trichomes on August 28th, 2015, so we had a chat about The Hammer vs. The Big Smoke, inspiration and suede desert boots. You can order the limited edition CD HERE.
Arachnidiscs Recordings: Trichomes strikes me as having a ’90s bent. Perhaps not in the way many people think of ’90s music, but in the abstract dream-pop style of a band like His Name Is Alive or Labradford’s ambient post-rock. And, to me, “Cattleya” has bit of a Mellow Gold era Beck feel. Are you influenced by that era or those kinds of bands?
Lero: Not at all, but I find it really interesting that you’d make that connection. A lot of my influences from that era are probably closer to that general assumption of ’90s music, actually — bands like Unwound, Royal Trux, Joan of Arc, etc. I think I get where you’re coming from with Mellow Gold on “Cattleya” though, but for what it’s worth at the time I recorded that I was listening to a lot of SMiLE-era Beach Boys.
ADR: I’d be pretty surprised if Beck wasn’t listening to a lot of SMiLE-era Beach Boys back then, actually.
Lero: That’s a good point, yeah. I think everybody goes through a SMiLE phase at some point.
ADR: I’ve never gone through a SMiLE phase. Or Pet Sounds, even. I don’t get the Brian Wilson worship at all.
Lero: I think if you strip Brian from the band identity and really view his work during that mid ’60s period, you see someone with a lot of the same ideals that you find in current tape culture/weird music scenes. All the improvisational and avant methods that say you or I might employ in our work, he was doing in a studio setting with a full group of professional session musicians and a major label budget at his disposal. He tried to advance pop music into a higher art, but it was too complicated — his audience wasn’t willing to move with him in a way he understood, and I don’t think he even fully understood where he was looking to end up. What appeals to me about his music is that sense of abandonment; he’s pushing as hard as he can to get somewhere further away from his origins and closer to his ideals, and when it works it’s fantastic.
ADR: See, that’s what people always say. I’ve tried to listen to his music from that angle for years but just don’t hear it. It makes me feel like part of my brain is missing. Because all these people whose opinions I respect can’t be completely off-track, right? I think it’s something basic like I just don’t like his chord progressions and melodies.
Lero: I know what you mean. I think with Brian and musicians of his stature most people insist “you HAVE to like them!!!” which is the wrong approach.
ADR: Any other ’60s musicians you particularly respect?
Lero: There’s a lot of people [from that era] that I like. I listen to a lot of East Coast and West Coast bands from that period on an equal level, which is still seen as taboo by some people — the whole ‘if you like the Velvets you have to hate the Airplane’ bullshit. It’s my favourite decade for jazz, too — people like Pharoh Sanders, John and Alice Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler. Impulse is one of my favourite labels, and almost everything they put out then was great, which is a pretty impressive track record.
ADR: I didn’t know I was supposed to hate Airplane. That hip-hop feud goes back further than I thought. But yeah, that 1966-72 period for exploratory jazz is pretty infallible — whatever the record label. It’s hard to go wrong just randomly buying a jazz record with that copyright date on it. The profile photo on your Bandcamp is a picture of your guitar with an Impulse sticker on it. I noticed because I have one on my guitar too.
Lero: I was actually going to bring the sticker up — I saw yours when I was looking up Arachnidiscs online a while back.
ADR: We’re like sisters. I don’t hear a lot of actual “jazz” on your recordings. Does it represent more of an approach for you?
Lero: I think it represents more of an inspiration and influence on my thinking than my playing, and usually when it filters through it’s in a way that no one else would probably notice. Jazz makes up a large degree of my daily listening though, and the exploratory approach that you find in a lot of those records is something I try to always follow in my work, even if I’m not playing in an overt jazz style. “Ayler” is one of those tracks for me, how it sort of moves without a clear path and doesn’t wait for you to pick it up right away, hence the title homage. “Trellis” on Eye Hospital is another of those. I do want to get into a stronger jazz area with my work at some point, but I’d have to do it with other people—I wouldn’t be able to fully express myself in that way right now on my own.
ADR: When you’re recording, how conscious of influences are you? Is there a target you’re aiming for or do you just throw stuff against the wall?
Lero: I’m really conscious of influences when I’m recording, because I derive a lot of direct inspiration from whatever I’m soaking up at the time. There’s very specific targets, though I let them evolve as the process grows. I do try to keep each album fairly specific in its intent. If I come up with an idea that’s strong but really dissimilar to the other tracks, I’ll save it for a later project rather than force it in. I hope that the albums I’ve done carry the same sense of individuality in them that I feel when I’m making them.
ADR: Your Bandcamp displays a prolific output. In fact, you’ve released three albums since Trichomes. Are you one of those guys who’s never far away from a recording device?
Lero: You got me [haha]. I like to maintain a steady stream of output when I can. I’m the type of person who gets pretty obsessive with their interests, and I get inspired pretty easily, so I try to get as much as I can out of each area and see how I can adapt it into my own identity.
ADR: How do you see your identity?
Lero: I see identity as being something just slightly out of grasp, you know? If you reach too far it becomes intangible, but if you let it be it can surprise you with its strength. I hope that my music comes across as possessing some inherent traits and a healthy sense of personality at its core. Whenever I have to put down a genre I say ‘left-field folk’, which for me is a point of reference to the pure, weird sounds of Early American music. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music compilation that he made for Folkways is an eternal well of influence for me, and it’s arguably the best source for what I’m talking about. Listening to those songs, you can hear everything filtered through the strange introversion of each performer. Each person sounds true to their own spirit, and that’s an element that I directly take as a guide for my own sense of self. The ‘left-field’ comes in with everything else that surrounds my music; you’d have to have a pretty obtuse sense of humour to take my lyrics as protest songs, and a lot of where I’m coming from is more Saturn than rural America, but that feeling of inward sustenance is what I strive for, no matter where I seem to be pushing the music towards stylistically.
ADR: Speaking of the American Folk tradition. In Canada it’s been an inescapable shadow since the 1950’s. Do you see there being a distinct Canadian musical identity?
Lero: Somewhat. I think it’s purity is usually either exported and distilled or else turned into a niche. I’ve never really been sure how to determine it, honestly. Do you see a clear identity?
ADR: I think it used to be more of a thing. Like Great Big Sea sound really Canadian. There’s no mistaking them for an American or UK band, even playing sort celtic music, they’re super Canadian sounding. And someone like Bryan Adams sounds distinctly Canadian somehow compared to his American counterparts Springsteen or Mellencamp or Tom Petty. But now it ‘s harder to pick out a Canadian artist out of a pile of new releases. So I don’t know anymore. I think that’s why I asked.
Lero: I agree with that a lot, yeah. A label like Arbutus is distinctly Canadian in its roster, but Braids or Grimes or anyone on there never really sounds ‘Canadian’.
ADR: No, Braids don’t sound Canadian. They sound Icelandic to me. Specifically, they sound like Björk.
Lero: Yeah, that’s an immediate relation to my ears as well.
ADR: Since we’re on the topic of geography, you’re based out of Hamilton, Ontario. For a few years now The Hammer’s been hyped as the “next Portland”, a sort of artistic oasis on the rise for creative types from Toronto who need to move somewhere less expensive. Does it live up to that hype yet?
Lero: I don’t think anyplace can really live up to its hype, especially when it’s coming from outside. To me there’s a clear delineation between the mindset of most people directly involved in the arts community here, and those just outside or far removed from it. The first group is focused on simply maintaining a level of creation/creativity, while the latter is eager to capitalize on it but a bit misguided (like when you have people proclaiming James Street North as an ’emerging arts scene’ for nearly 10 years now). It’s like any other city of its size, really — there’s a handful of good venues and good artists and a dedicated community to keep it going. I have noticed an influx of Toronto influence seeping into the general environment over the last few years, which can be a bit of a grey area, but then again there’s always been a bit of a complex relationship between Hamilton and Toronto.
ADR: Yeah, anywhere there’s always the capita-A “Arts” and then everything else that’s actually going on. In Hamilton is the scene the sort that allows for anyone who’s interested in taking part by just getting out there an doing it? As opposed to, say, Toronto where due to the sheer amount of competition in a huge city it can be pretty hard for a new band to get gigs when they start out. Is Hamilton a tough nut to crack?
Lero: No, nowhere near what Toronto seems to be like. Anyone can generally get something going here pretty easily, and people help each other out on a regular basis. What’s great is when the ‘weirder’ bands play bills together out of necessity/overlap and you get shows with a lot of diversity, rather than seeing 18 hardcore bands that all sound identical.
ADR: The other problem with Toronto—here’s where I inevitably get on my negativity soapbox—is there seems to be about a pool of 200 people into the weird music scene (perhaps more for the bands that skew punk). Recognizable faces you see at all the shows. But any given night there’s no less than three great shows drawing from that pool so everyone ends up with 17 attendees. Especially if you have the bad luck (or lack of foresight) to have your show booked the same night as something like Feast In The East. My feeling about smaller centers is maybe there’s fewer heads in the scene but you get them all out to your show because it’s the only thing going on that night. Or maybe I’m looking back at small-town life with rose-tinted glasses.
Lero: It’s true that with a smaller area you tend to get a higher concentration of people to each show, but there’s still a lot of times I’ve been at shows with 17 people here too. I think all those little factors that have nothing to do with the music, like the weather, day, venue, hype, etc, have more of an influence than we’d like to admit.
ADR: I don’t know about Hamilton but the slightest bit of rain in Toronto means you go down from 17 to 10 or less. But I wouldn’t know. I try not to leave my house for anything so I don’t go to shows if it’s raining. I’m pretty ecstatic if it starts to rain. “Yes! I don’t have to go!” But maybe people congregate to get out of the rain. So, I guess I wouldn’t know.
Lero: Yeah, there’s a bit of that here too. I get that excuse mentality sometimes when I’m going to Toronto for shows, when distance is an added factor. Rain’s good once you accept it, or if you’re not wearing suede desert boots.
ADR: Having grown up on the west coast, I actually kinda love rain. I just use it as an excuse. But speaking of desert boots, what’s on the near or distant horizon for Lero?
Lero: I just finished up an album last month entitled In Sunset a Glow Glory that’s largely improvisational/instrumental and plays as a soundtrack of sorts. Beginning work on a new album called Sapid Origin that might bring out some new sounds to the melting pot. There might even be some live Lero on the horizon too, which could be pretty interesting…
ADR: Live is life.
Interred Views is a series of interviews with Arachnidiscs Recordings artists. This interview was conducted by Jakob Rehlinger.