Lazer Sword’s Bryant Rutledge (left) and Lando Kal crank out the sci-fi hip-hop beats at the Drake Friday.
Wed, Dec 31
OPTICAL SOUNDS NYE PARTY at St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Rating: NNNN
This past year saw the birth of the Optical Sounds imprint as well as the label's quick rise to the forefront of Toronto's Brit/shoegaze/psychedelic scene. Local signees the Disraelis and the Hoa Hoa's released great records on OS, and this party inside historic St. Stephen's Church was a chance to catch both bands in grandiose style.
While old films screened on a massive exposed-brick wall, the Disraelis hammered out a solid set of moody, retro-sounding guitar rock that included tunes from their Demonstration EP, plus a very promising new song.
The Hoa Hoa's - whose Sonic Bloom LP was one of T.O.'s best psych records of 08 - showed off a developing penchant for more accessible songwriting. Their too-short set drew in a large peacoat-wearing congregation.
Totally Wired DJs punctuated the countdown to 2009 with floor-filling Happy Mondays, New Order and Cut Copy tracks.
Label head Robert Gibson says to watch out for a new Hoa Hoa's LP in 2009 as well as singles from the Disraelis. The two bands will also tour together, playing parties at SXSW and dates in the UK and Holland.
Fri, Jan 2
LAZER SWORD at the Drake Rating: NNN
Things weren't looking so good when San Francisco electro-hop live remix duo Lazer Sword got ready to take the stage. Most of the sleepy post-NYE crowd had fled during opener DJ Alias's set due to an unfortunate technical mishap causing deafening blasts of white noise that went on way too long before they solved the problem.
But the headliners' first blast of dubbed-out slow-motion synth licks and reworked hip-hop samples immediately made us glad we'd stuck around. There aren't many comparisons for the sound these dudes are rocking. Montreal's Megasoid are the closest thing to hit town previously, and they're very much off in their own weird little niche.
Don't be surprised if these guys soon move away from bootlegs and onto legal remix work.
Sat, Jan 3
CATL at the Dakota Rating: NNNN
The Dakota hit capacity early for this sweaty night of bass-free blues punk. Opening act Speaking Tongues also left the four-string at home in favour of a minimalist guitar and drums set-up, but their take is more muscular and hard-rock-influenced, while CATL's reference points are more along the lines of outsider rock 'n' roll madman Hasil Adkins than the stadium garage rock of the White Stripes.
Until recently, CATL were a drums and guitar duo, but they're now joined onstage by former Shitt Hott frontwoman Sarah Kirkpatrick on organ, percussion and backup vocals. However, it's the original lineup who've been captured on their upcoming debut album, ¿Adónde vas? A Ningún Lado (Coletrain).
Droning lo-fi noise blues doesn't sound like an easy sell, but judging from the enthusiastic following these guys are developing there's more of an audience for this jacked-up juke-joint sound than you'd guess.
BLOOD CEREMONY, LULABYE ARKESTRA, SAFFRON SECT, KEEF, WYRD VISIONS at Sneaky Dee's Rating: NNN
A belated release party for Blood Ceremony's self-titled debut album was reason enough to pack Sneaky Dee's on a chilly Saturday night while hockey fans watched the Canuck juniors school the overly confident Ruskies in a shootout.
After some doze-inducing psych foolishness from Wyrd Visions, refreshingly unpretentious stoner rock crew Keef raised the volume and energy level with a relentless barrage of irony-free pummelling wrought from endless hours of basement listening to Kyuss while watching each other's facial hair grow. The soft psych lovers of Saffron Sect were left with no choice but to crank up their amps, and they gamely delivered a scorching version of the Pretty Things' classic S.F. Sorrow as if to prove they didn't need to lower themselves to fussing with drop-D tunings to rock a party. Likewise, Lullabye Arkestra turned up the noise for an impressively slamming set of nasty thud rock that got fists pumping, devil horns flashing and the stage-front floor bouncing. It was going to be tough for Blood Ceremony to follow all that, but the Hammer-horror-happy crew seemed ready for action.
Although their recordings suggest a strong influence of darkly twisted Italo-prog like that of Goblin, the requisite menacing bloodlust didn't come across onstage. As heavy as their Zeppelinesque riff rock certainly was, red-caped singer Alia O'Brien getting all giggly between songs about witches, covens and toads unfortunately undercut the evil vibe, to say nothing of her incongruously cheery flute-tooting.