Masstransfer << Rewind: The Electrosonics

This article was originally published in the second issue of Masstransfer, 1998.

Vancouver’s Electrosonics have emerged from a succession of lineup changes to release “Rampion”, the follow up to their 1996 self-titled debut EP, on Drive-In records.

The band coalesced three-and-a-half years ago with a nucleus of Eric White (vocals, bass), Heather Campbell (guitar, keys) and Clare Kenny (vocals, guitar). They put a musician’s ad in a local paper, which caught the attention of Curtis Hobson, who had recently quit a band which included an “alcoholically-challenged guitar player”, while Wendy Young joined in December 1997 to fill out guitar and vocal parts. Michaela Galloway was recruited in February 1998 after Clare left the band to return to university.

The Electrosonics debut EP features Clare on vocals and is reminiscent of early 90’s guitar based dream pop bands such as Lush and Slowdive, although Heather also lists the Monkees, Tears For Fears, and the Stray Cats as influences. However, this band adds an ever more textural mood to the mix. They utilize effects processors and obscure synths, such as the Jupiter 8 and the ARP Axxe, to build an emotional climax to their tracks. The last song on their first EP, “Star Scream”, is 8 ½ minutes long and captures groups penchant for slow-building epics.

The band also has a philosophical view regarding the future of music and how they fit in. As White explains, “popular music is a strange amoeba…just when you think it’s atrophied as much as it conceivably can, it stagnates further. Then it starts munching at fringe music. Then it digests it. I don’t really see that process changing. For the short-term though, it looks as though droney and more experimental bands are starting to tinker with structure and dynamics. The opposite is also happening, which is pretty cool. Honest and beautiful music will always exist. Maybe in the new millennium more people will be motivated to find it.”

Featured Band: Zelienople

If you‘ve been reading the blog for a bit you’ll notice a pattern in most of the bands covered here – they’ve been around for awhile and they continue to create evolutionary sounds and music. This month’s featured band, Zelienople, is no exception.

They emerged from a scene in Chicago in the late 1990’s roughly centered around the Loose Thread record label, headed by Melochrome frontman Pramod Tummala. He introduced me to many new bands and artists, but the first few Zelienople albums, along with Western Automatic (a solo project from the band’s singer and guitarist Matt Christensen) especially stood out. The band released 12 full-length albums up until 2015’s Show Us the Fire, after which they took a 5-year hiatus.

The New Album

A few weeks ago, Zelienople released their latest album, Hold You Up which continues their exploration of sparse soundscapes and hypnotic bleakness which began almost 20 years ago. I had the chance recently to talk with Matt, just as this coronavirus quarantine was starting to take shape. The emotions that the current situation evokes, those of loneliness and isolation – the ill-effects of social distancing – drive the sparseness of their sound and form a basis for lyrical content. “I’m also working in mental health. I’ve been dealing with a lot of communities that are impoverished”, says Matt, “a lot of the stuff that I write about deals with poverty and marginalized people. I also, you know, I have anxiety. Depression. Got a pretty messed up family. I write from that perspective a fair bit.”

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Dallas

This article was originally published in the third issue of Masstransfer, 1999.

Many circumstances inspire people to start a band. For Dallas, it was the ability to actually perform music after 50 years of Soviet domination in their homeland of Estonia. Having been isolated for so long, this group has ridden the explosion of musical elements both native and imported. Formed in 1992 to contribute a track to an Estonian Independence compilation, Dallas has since become the darlings of the scene in Tallinn (capital of Estonia), although certain music charts label them as imports due to their English lyrics and general western flavor. Having been compared to early Cardigans, Stereolab, Pram, etc, this group of spunky youths prove themselves as musically independent as their homeland. They recently found a home on Toronto’s High Park Records, and their debut full-length CD was released in North America earlier this year.

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Au Revoir Borealis

This article was originally published in the fifth issue of Masstransfer, 2002.

“local Detroit shoegazers that seem to have come out of nowhere to become the most talked about band in town”

Once in awhile, a band comes along that catches you by surprise, both by the quality their music and their ability to walk right into a scene and make an impact. Such is Au Revoir Borealis, who after only releasing 1 EP, has many people interested in following their progression.

I asked guitarist Steve Swartz how long it took them to break into the biz. “Well, we’ve actually been together for years, but only as a band for about 3 or 4 years. I (Steve) met Michael Carian, our drummer while in college. We shared a common obsession of music and went to tons of shows almost on a weekly basis. Through Michael, I met Justin VanSlembrouck who primarily plays bass in the band. Justin and Mike sort of grew up together.

Now at this point, I had been actively playing music for about 10 years. Justin had only been actively playing for about 2 years and Michael had never played drums actively ever. He always wanted to play drums, but never really had a chance to dig in. One day, Justin called me and wanted to get together and just jam out for a while. When we did, I think we played for about 8 hours straight! It was crazy! We had so much fun though. Justin and I kept playing for kicks. Michael eventually wanted to join the fun and Justin happened to have a drum kit in his basement. That’s basically how Au Revoir Borealis formed.”

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Perplexa

This article was originally published in the third issue of Masstransfer, 1999.

PRE

It has been said that in order to produce a great work of art, the creator must struggle and suffer to achieve the breakthrough that will make their art unique. If this is true, then Perplexa’s new CD is a masterpiece, representing a leap forward in both song quality and musicianship. Sustained by guitarist Rob Schurgin and drummer Jon Wald, Perplexa has survived 4 years of personnel changes, studio relocations and a general life of poverty in order to truly express the music within them.

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Malory

This article was originally published in the sixth issue of Masstransfer, 2003.

I couldn’t pass this one up – going to another country to see a band from across the Atlantic, one of my favorites at the moment.  Sure going to another country was actually just crossing the tunnel to Canada, but since the band was Malory, I would have gone to Mexico to see them!  Their sound, which blends early 90’s shoegazing (a la Slowdive) with modern mechanics and technology, is instantly engaging.  That said, I was really surprised that hardly anybody showed up!

Malory was playing shows in North America this year as part of the Alison Records tour, that included Skywave, Mellonova, and about five other bands.  They played in Windsor, Ontario, at a place called The Diesel Lounge – somewhere that Ratt or Poison likely played at the week before.

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Yellow6

Yellow6, aka Jon Attwood – circa 2016

This article was originally published in the fifth issue of Masstransfer, 2002.

With textures that drift in and surround you like a dense fog, Yellow6 has the ability to sound both fragile and thick at the same time. At the moment, Yellow6 and it’s human-form, Jon Attwood, is quite the prolific artist, appearing here and there (and here on the Masstransfer:05 compilation), constantly refining his unique style. Y6 came to being in 1995 as a home-recording project, and has evolved to the digital realm, as well as to the live stage.

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Masstransfer << Rewind: Seely

This article was originally published in the first issue of Masstransfer, 1997.

With a style that fits somewhere in between the math-rock time signatures of Polvo and the dreamy textures of Windy & Carl, Atlanta’s Seely has opened eyes on both side of the Atlantic. The band was formed two years ago by the nucleus of guitarists Steven Satterfield and Lori Scacco, with the rhythm section of Joy Waters and Eric Taylor being added shortly after. They recently played at the venerable Lounge Ax in Chicago with a set consisting of 9 songs. Seely opened with “Exploring the Planets” off their latest album on U.K.’s Too Pure label, “Julie Only”, an album that had me mesmerized from start to finish. Prior to “Julie Only”, the band had released an album entitled “Parentha See”, on the American label Third Eye. That project stirs mixed feelings from the band because of friction between them and the label’s owner. Most of the tracks from that album were re-recorded in Chicago with the help John McEntire, ending up on “Julie Only”. They followed with some songs off their forthcoming album: “Adios”, a mellow instrumental; “Love Letters to Rambler”; “Consumer Pet”; “It’s Your Day Karen”; “The Sandpiper”; “How to live Like A Kings’s Kid”, another track from their current album; “San Salvadore”, an unreleased track to be included on an upcoming compilation CD; and finally, “Like White”.

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