Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Above The Clouds - Cognitive Dissonance

Above The Clouds

For the past few days, I've been racked with the kind of strength-sapping stomach virus that makes remembering my own name a chore, but I've had to punch-drunkenly slug away at my job - the one that pays the bills I wish writing this kind of thing would. To aid in that task, I've needed musical assistance, a one album I've been through a few times is Cognitive Dissonance by Above The Clouds, which is the moniker of Ottawa(?) multi-instrumentalist James Hancock.

I became aware of Hancock after reviewing the latest album from Canadian indie hip-hop outfit Kwiz Massturrz, Talkies Ruined My Life In The Pictures. I liked that album pretty much right away, and the lush, mature production on the album was a big reason why. So when Graham from KM mentioned that James had an album of his solo material, I was keen to check it out. My keen-ness was rewarded, as Cognitive Dissonance is a excellent "organic-electronica": a blend of live instrumentation and carefully selected loops, sprinkled with the occasional obscure sample.

It's good stuff, and a perfect companion for my current condition as it's engaging enough to take my focus off of how crappy I currently feel, but it doesn't overpower my weakened synapses. I could toil in the mechanical dreamworld created on The Rise and Fall of Thinking Machines all day - dubby percussion mixed moody synth waves makes a good mix in my humble. And there are plenty of enjoyable contrasts to be found on this EP's seven songs, as the guitar and handclaps groove of Acedia doesn't really match anything else, but it still fits in.

But enough of my belly-aching (Hi-O), James still has this album available as a free download on his site, so go ahead and sample it for yourself.

MP3:: Above The Clouds - Secret Identity Theft

Labels: Above The Clouds, electronica, Instrumental,

Posted at 1:39 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quick Hitters:: Kwiz Massturrz

Kwiz Massturrz
I like Kwiz Massturrz. I do not like their name. I have already mis-spelled it in an impressive number of incorrect variations considering the few times I've actually written it. So I guess it's not their name I dislike as much as the spelling. However, we aren't here to discuss my spelling frailties, we're here to discuss this Ottawa/Montreal/T.O. based trio and their last album, Talkies Ruined My Life In The Pictures, that I've been meaning to shine some of that hill cyber-light on since last fall.

Since I came right out the chute telling you what it is I don't like about the Kwiz Massturrz, I'll dive right into what it is that I like about them. For starters, the production values on the album feel incredibly high hip hop for an indie hip hop release. Brothers Kwes and Owel Five handle the lyrical duties, but the production from James Hancock lured me in right away. It's lush, layered with what sounds like plenty of live guitar and other instruments, but easily maintaining a hip hop feel. As for Owel & Kwes, the thing that caught my ear was their brand of lyricism - their actual lyrics, concept and delivery - brings late 90's/early 00's underground hip hop to mind (catching a line like "I've been blazed High & Mighty for eons, you peons" certainly re-inforces that), and with everyone and their mom putting on some tight jeans & big tongued nikes to try and get their indie crossover-electro rap on, I have to respect anyone who makes the kind of hip hop they are passionate about.

And really, if you can make a conceptual hip hop song about Canadian silent-film star Mary Pickford as interesting and memorable as the Kwiz-krewe has, then you deserve some propers. But I don't mean to give you the impression that Talkies is all rap-nerd concepts, as there's plenty of good, old-fashioned backpacker hip hop, as the opening 1-2 punch of Avant Garde Rails and Baggage Claim, or the dual-flow goodness of Nintendo can attest. The speed-stutter of Dwarf Planet Rock is a perfect example of an electro-influenced beat that works perfectly, as it seems to suit the MC's to a T. The group is equally adept at more melancholy fare too, as songs like Knots Landing are also pretty engaging.

Listening to this album again reinforces my initial enjoyment, and makes me think I should have got to it sooner. But no matter, I'm telling you about it now aren't I? Hopefully the Massturrz of Kwiz are hard at work on new material, but if you're in the market for some quality hip hop that hearkens back to a time when Anticon or Def Jux were likely the most relevant labels for hip hop fans who weren't up in the club, I'd give these fellas a go.

MP3:: Kwiz Massturrz - Mary Picford

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Posted at 2:21 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Exclusive:: Chris Page MP3 + A Date With A Smoke Machine Review

Taking a day off from the Best-of (tomorrow will be the EPs and TRUST ME, you will want to tune in for a bucketload of unreleased/new songs) to give Kelp rocker Chris Page some much deserved love. Every few months, I randomly get upset that the Pager hasn't delivered a new Camp Radio record in a few years, tweet the label like a smart ass and get on with my day. About a month ago, Jon replied with some news: Page has a new solo record and the new Camp Radio record is getting worked on as we speak. So, as excited as I am for more killer jams from CR, Chris' solo work is more than just a stop gap for fans.

A Date With a Smoke Machine is a stripped down effort that is essentially Page with his trusted axe, a sense of nostalgia and a freedom not often found in song writers repertoire. Sure, Page adds some harmonies, some well placed cymbal washes (Unwind, Unwind) or the occasional epic, slow build (Coax the End of the Day), but you could strip away everything but his voice and his guitar and the songs would still hit you the same way. They would still make you breath, make you bounce, force you to remember and help you to forget.

Whether it's the punchy rebellion of youth (Two Twenty-Twos) or the longing that overcomes you on the touching, Irish bar ready Quit While I'm Behind , Page presents his emotions clearly and succinctly, but always lets you run with your own thoughts. It's hard not to let your mind drift as you digest the slows strums of Hello Danger Bay or feel a little Ponce De Leon-ish when you pogo around your room (Fall Back Morning), but I guess that's what makes Page such a talented song writer. Every song forces you to listen, but he never bombards you with an onslaught of the sames. He touches on your sadness, but follows it up with an optimistic nod to life and the possibilities. Sadly, every beginning has an end, but every end can be a new beginning.

So, even though the single is the terrific TTT, Page is letting us offer up a new version of Slideshows. It's a fleshed out take on a demo from 5 years ago, but fits perfectly in this ever moving time capsule.

Slideshows (demo video)

MP3:: Chris Page - Slideshows

Labels: , Kelp, , ,

Posted at 8:21 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Reviews:; The Balconies self-titled

It seems lately, Ottawa is trying to defend its title as capitol of Canada. To most casual observers, our nation’s capitol is lousy with back office deals and parliamentary debates, but no one really talks about the music scene. That’s probably because as of late the number of independent acts gaining notoriety passed the frozen waters of the Rideau have been limited (hell, even the great stable of artists on Kelp are constantly overlooked).

But with the rise of bands like Giant Hand, Amos the Transparent, The John Punch Band, and That’s The Spirit, it seems the scene is doing better than most outsiders think. That being said, when it all comes down to it the Ottawa outfit that gets the most attention is one that doesn’t even call the city home anymore. The Balconies are a power popping trio with a nice pedigree, tons of energy and the songwriting chops to make their self-titled, self released debut one to hear.

Veterans Jacquie Neville and Liam Jaeger both bring different sounds and influences to the table and Jacquie’s brother Steve fits nicely into the mix, but no matter who takes the lead, almost every track on this record is a firecracker. The trio delivers dance floor boomers, snotty garage rawkers, experimental textures, guitar freak outs, punchy rhythms, and straight ahead pop tracks. For a less talented band, the ambition and effort might fall apart and seem disjointed, but they handle the constant shifts well. On every song, you can't help but think how tight the band is already, only 18 months after starting this endeavor and that has a lot to do with the strength of the vocalists.

When Jacquie lets her voice dominate, like she does on the infectious Ghost Fever, you surge forward with the talented front woman, but she holds your attention on the moody slow jams too (The Slo). When Liam puts his stamp on a track (Lulu and Skinny Dipper), The Balconies move more towards the blissful melancholy and snarls we expect from bands across the pond, but the trio works best together. They trade vocals nicely on Serious Bedtime and the casually cool Smells Like Secrets, but it’s the album’s closer that really showcases this band's true talent. Rest Up shows the trio darting around the space, trading vocals in a rock opera like fashion and it’s one of the best tracks on the record.

MP3:: The Balconies - Ghost Fever

MP3:: The Balconies - Lulu


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Posted at 8:48 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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