Tag Archives: Music Gallery

Concert review: Not The Wind, Not The Flag feat. William Parker (X Avant New Music Festival) @The Music Gallery | Oct. 17, 2013

Local improv duo team up with New York free jazz bassist for 75-minute concert jam

Not the Wind, Not The Flag's Colin Fisher at the Music Gallery as part of X Avant New Music Festival on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

Not the Wind, Not The Flag’s Colin Fisher at the Music Gallery as part of X Avant New Music Festival on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

As an improvisational duo, Colin Fisher and Brandon Valdivia have been pacing out a new sonic universe and a new sonic history for years. In Not The Wind, Not The Flag (NTWNTF), their flirting with music styles and instruments from around the globe is exceedingly involved in destabilizing the structural compartmentalizing of our lifeworld, consistently blurring the lines between genres as well as geographical and temporal frames with every performance. But on Oct. 8, the pair took things a leap further in an X Avant New Music Festival-curated coupling with New York free jazz double bassist William Parker for a special performance at the Music Gallery.

While NTWNTF has gained a reverent following in the Toronto underground improv community and Parker is a legend to a much larger (if still wittingly esoteric) circle of listeners, some might have suspected this collaboration to play out as a first thought, best thought inflation of the latter’s freestyling. Rather, the collaborators opted for NTWNTF’s working formula, with all three building off of each other in a constant, 75-minute dialectical improv journey.

With the repeated sounding of a gong, Fisher initiated the process as if it were a sacred ritual. Valdivia chimed in on his kit cymbals, and Parker responded with some bent notes on his double bass.

While Parker stuck to his bass for the night, bending notes while walking and sliding up and down its neck and even breaking out his bow for some arco play, the night saw the trio delve into spacey atmospheres, noisy discord, and even virtuoso rock solos as Fisher used whistles, his pedal-jacked guitar, and even a hulusi while Valdivia sat consistently behind his kit.

The climax of the performance saw Fisher pick up his sax as a guitar effect played on into what seemed like infinity. Meanwhile, Parker bowed his bass while Valdivia played a shakahuchi flute. Soon Fisher knelt down to eliminate the effect mid-sax drone. What followed was a sax solo that blossomed into some real cushiony stuff that Parker returned with some pretty bass harmonics.

Wandering off into an overwhelming drone, Parker slapped his strings with some final breath bow strikes and Valdivia spun his sticks in spirals around his drum skins and cymbals. You could tell they were winding down, but it wasn’t any less mesmerizing.

For a second, Valdivia went silent, shaking his head as he watched Parker. He eventually got back into it with his cymbals, but in that brief moment, he mirrored everything the audience had felt the entire set: complete and utter awe.

Photos:
Not the Wind, Not The Flag's Colin Fisher at the Music Gallery as part of X Avant New Music Festival on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Not the Wind, Not The Flag collaborating with New York jazz bassist William Parker for a special X Avant New Music Festival-curated performance at the Music Gallery in Toronto, ON, on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Not the Wind, Not The Flag's Brandon Valdivia (left) and free jazz bassist William Parker at the Music Gallery as part of X Avant New Music Festival on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Not the Wind, Not The Flag's Brandon Valdivia at the Music Gallery as part of X Avant New Music Festival in Toronto, ON, on Oct. 17, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

Weird Canada is getting behind cassettes in a big, $50K way

Canadian indie music website to use FACTOR grant to distribute music, champion technological accessibility

Cassettes overflow a KFC bucket display atop a table for Sonic Boom’s Cassette Fair held Sept. 7. The event was held in honour of the first annual international Cassette Store Day, where Weird Canada spoke of plans to feature cassette releases in its upcoming FACTOR grant-funded distribution service. Photo: Tom Beedham

Cassettes overflow a KFC bucket display atop a table for Sonic Boom’s Cassette Fair, held Sept. 7. The event was held in honour of the first annual international Cassette Store Day, where Weird Canada spoke of plans to feature cassette releases in its upcoming FACTOR grant-funded distribution service. Photo: Tom Beedham

On Sept. 7, a hefty serving of audiocassettes filled a KFC bucket to the point of overflow atop a table in the Annex location of Toronto record supermarket Sonic Boom. Ripe for consumption and low in calories, what’s been dismissed by some as a stale format for decades, the audio cassette has seen something of a revival amongst recording artists in recent years, this year prompting an inaugural, international celebration of the medium – labeled Cassette Store Day (hence the format’s prominent situation at Sonic Boom on the Saturday).

While Sonic Boom’s locations are most revered for the breadth of music they offer consumers through vinyl media, its Annex shop spent the day housing a “Cassette Fair” at the front of its store featuring offerings from cassette-release toting labels Arachnidiscs, Artificial, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Bennifer Editions, Burger, Buzz, Daps, Feather Hat Guy, Healing Power, Heretical Objects, Hosehead, Inyrkdisk, Kinnta, Mathematic Recordings, Medusa Editions, Not Unlike, Optical Sounds, Pansy Twist, Pleasence, Reel Cod, and Telephone Explosion.

Also tabling at the event were representatives of renowned indie music website Weird Canada, a publisher about to get behind cassettes in a big, $50,000 way.

After a stressful grant application process that had Weird Canada Executive Director Marie LeBlanc Flanagan up late writing (and rewriting) a proposal to the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) on Valentine’s Day earlier this year, in the spring, Weird Canada was informed it would receive a $50,000 FACTOR grant to build an online store and distribution service.

“Basically what we’re going to try to do is connect record stores with bands, with fans, with labels, and send these cassettes all over Canada,” Flanagan told Burden of Salt while taking time out from speaking with consumers and those curious about the table she was working at the fair.

But why cassettes?

“Well, I feel that we as a culture, and our generation, really desire a physical medium,” said Flanagan. Speaking on the subject at a bustling record store, it was a suggestion that preached to the choir, but it didn’t yet clarify why people should be interested in what some now call an archaic recording medium.

Flanagan went on to explain that people should look to cassettes because they open doors for artists that other physical media cannot.

“We desire something physical that we can touch and collect and keep as a symbol of our music, but it’s really hard to release physical media,” Flanagan elucidated. “It’s expensive; it’s complicated; cassettes are the cheapest, easiest, actual physical, tangible media that we can access. The accessibility of technology means a lot.”

In deed, Weird Canada founder Aaron Levin has had some personal experience dealing with pressing records to vinyl.

“I put out a record and, yeah, it’s really expensive,” said Levin, leaning in front of Flanagan to get a word in. Levin also commented that the fallout from pursuing that particular physical medium can become intrusive. “When [records] don’t sell you have like 300lbs of stock that you have to live with.”

He calls cassettes “a very viable and accessible option for people who can’t release vinyl.”

Putting its money where its mouth is, Weird Canada will even roll out some cassette releases. After recording a Wyrd Fest showcase the publication threw at Toronto’s Music Gallery, the website has been granted release permissions from the venue to sell 100 cassettes of the concert, which featured performances from Jennifer Castle and Colin Bergh covering each others’ material, Zachary Fairbrother Feedback Guitar Orchestra, and Soul Sisters Supreme. They also have a project called The Weird Canada Releases, which will give rise to some cassettes.

While some have railed against the reemergence of cassettes as signaling cultural decay favouring an inferior recording medium and consumer exploitation, pointing to how less of the information recorded in a studio can be heard from cassettes when the medium is held against other formats like vinyl, Flanagan and Levin stand by the medium and say the “audiophile” argument is pushing a moot point.

“These cassettes aren’t taking away from records that would’ve been, they’re creating room for music to emerge that wouldn’t be without the cassette,” said LeBlanc. “This is a space in between for people that can’t [afford to] press a record.”

The argument also falls victim to deflation when it is brought up that most contemporary cassette releases come packaged with download cards linking the purchaser to digital recordings of the same music.

“But people don’t just want the download card, they want the cassette,” stressed LeBlanc. “They want the art and they want to touch it.”

“I think people want things to sound good, but most importantly they want the result of their creative expression to exist in the world and to be enjoyed by people. And tapes are right now the best format through which to do this,” said Levin.

Weird Canada’s distro is set to arrive in January 2014.