Monday, January 9th, 2012
Del Bel, The Hollow Earth, Persian Rugs, and RLMDL at The Garrison in Toronto
Frank YangI like a break as much as the next guy – believe me – but coming up on two and a half weeks since I’d been to a live show and with the January concert calendar looking pretty sparse by any measure, I was getting pretty anxious to go and see something. Happily, it was Wavelength to the rescue. I hadn’t been to a showcase in almost two years – certainly not since they wrapped the weekly series and went to the intermittent schedule – but their first presentation of the year was just about what I was looking for, with a good blend of the familiar, unknown and intriguing.
On paper, there was a fair bit going against RLMDL (pronounced “role model”), the stage name of one Jordan Allen of London, Ontario – self-identifying as “chillwave” chief among them, the vowel-less stage name and trying to make a compelling live show out of the one-guy-with-a -table-full-of-samplers-and-effects-pedals not far behind – but to his credit, especially considering this was one of his first live shows (if I heard correctly), he did pretty well. Sure, he had an aesthetic of loops and synths that may age badly and an inherently uninteresting visual presentation, but those were secondary to the fact that he had solid melodies, confident vocals, and added a reasonable amount of physicality to the proceedings. In short, he had songs, and if you’ve got songs you’re doing alright. Not every electro-tinkerer artists deserve to leave their bedroom studios; Allen does.
I’d seen Persian Rugs back in October and while I’d been pleased to see the former Airfields/Diableros back in action, they didn’t seem to have fully cohered and while their jangly indie-pop was certainly friendly enough, it mostly just made me remember how much I liked their former outfits. Happily, the months since seem to have done the unit a world of good as they had a much better foot to put forward this time out. The formula remains the same – classic pop with hooks made of jangly guitars and vintage-y organs – but rotating through their three lead vocalists emphasized their individual and collective strengths and just coming across much more assuredly than that Parts & Labour show made for a much better performance. There’s still room to improve but it would seem the hardest part – the coming together and sounding like a cohesive band rather than echoes of their past projects – seems to be behind them.
How new a band is The Hollow Earth? So much so that a short feature in this week’s issue of a local alt-weekly is now the top online reference about them. But while they’ve got no Facebook/Soundcloud/Bandcamp presence, the folks in the band have been operating in local bands for many years (Pony Da Look, Beethoven Frieze, Blood Ceremony) now and the sound they’ve come together to create is hardly new, either. As one might discern from their name, they work an unabashedly ’70s-influenced mine of inspiration which you could reasonably describe as any or all of stoner, prog, psych, or metal with a bit of goth or folk thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t quite heavy enough for headbanging but plenty of nodding and being entertained by Gaven Dianda’s extended guitar solos and Amy Bowles’ interpretive dance moves.
Relatively new Toronto collective Del Bel came to my attention late last year when The Toronto Star included “Beltone” from their debut album Oneiric in their year-end mix of some of the best in Canadian music for 2011. High praise, and a few listens to Oneiric confirmed that it was deserved; it’s moody and atmospheric, yet very raw and real in its way largely thanks to singer Lisa Conway, whose vocals can come across as ethereal or bruised depending on where one stands in the combination caberet/carnival/antique shop run by David Lynch that seems to define their musical world. Live, they were a nine-piece which in this town typically means some sort of racket, but instead all the horns, strings, keys, and percussion that filled the stage were unified in their mission to set the scene, sonically speaking. That said, they sounded more ramshackle live than on record – deliberately, I should point out, in a Tom Waits sort of way – but still compelling in their balance of discomfort and beauty.
Photos: Del Bel, The Hollow Earth, Persian Rugs, RLMDL @ The Garrison – January 7, 2012
MP3: Persian Rugs – “Always All”
MP3: RLMDL – “Just My Luck”
Stream: Del Bel – “Beltone”
Stream: Del Bel / Oneiric
Stream: RLMDL / Just My Luck
Weakerthans frontman John K Samson could spend January 24, the day his solo debut solo album Provincial comes out, anywhere – his beloved Winnipeg comes to mind – but instead he’ll be hanging out at Soundscapes around 7PM playing some songs for anyone who might care to listen. That should be you. Yes, it’s free. He also plays The Great Hall on March 22, but that’s not free.
Trust may currently be best known as the extra-cirricular project of Austra drummer Maya Postepski, but with the February 28 release of their debut album TRST they should be able to stand on their own merits as another impressive Toronto-based electro-dance act. They’ll play a record release show at Wrongbar on March 3.
Great Lake Swimmers have revealed details about their next album via Exclaim. Their fifth album New Wild Everywhere will be out April 3 and a cross-Canada Spring tour will follow, including a June 2 date at The Music Hall in Toronto.
Video: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”