THE HYLOZOISTS CD release party at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (June 17), 9 pm. $8. 19+. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
If you see anything written about the Hylozoists, the vibes-enhanced instrumental orch-pop ensemble is typically characterized as a "supergroup" involving members of the Weakerthans, FemBots, Tricky Woo, Cuff the Duke, Heavy Blinkers and the Sadies.
While that's true enough, it's somewhat misleading since the thrilling/ chilling mood-elevating music those players create together under the direction of multi-instrumentalist/producer/arranger Paul Aucoin sounds nothing like what they do with their own bands.
In fact, the Hylozoists' gorgeous new La Fin Du Monde (Boompa) disc comes off more like what you might get if Stereolab recorded the soundtrack of a Jean-Pierre Melville heist movie scored by Lee Hazlewood, which is about as far as you can get from Cuff the Duke or the Weakerthans while still using guitars and drums.
"I don't mind if a writer mentions the players involved with the Hylozoists and discusses what they've done with their own bands," explains Aucoin. "That can make for an interesting story in itself, and people can form their own opinions about the music all those individuals make together.
"It's also fine if people put the references to the other bands in proper context, like, say, if you enjoy the moodier side of the FemBots, the more orchestrated side of the Heavy Blinkers or the Morricone-esque instrumental side of the Sadies, then you may find the Hylozoists interesting.
"But I think simply stringing all the various group names together in ads or promotion for the Hylozoists just confuses people, because none of those bands have anything to do with each other stylistically, nor do any of them sound like the Hylozoists.
"Hopefully, with this new album the Hylozoists can just be a band that's judged on the basis of the music we make, not by who happens to be playing the various parts.."
Whether Aucoin likes it or not, until the Hylozoists' lineup becomes more consistent and they begin playing more shows so people can associate a real, live group with the sound, they'll continue to be thought of by some as a vanity project for moonlighting musicians with too much time on their hands.
"We've been touring lately as a nine-piece. But the reality is that, although the shows have been really well received, we're not making thousands of dollars each night, so we'll need to be able to go on the road as a seven-piece."
The lineup, though, is solidifying with Aucoin on vibraphone, Patrick Conan on vibraphone and percussion, Wayne Petti on piano, Paul Lowman on bass, Matt Faris on drums, and either Jeremy Strachan or Dale Murray on guitar, along with Julie Penner on violin or Monica Guenter on viola.
"It can swell up to a 12-piece when busy people like Jason Tait of the Weakerthans are available for special occasions like this release party at the Horseshoe."
Of course, the other way the Hylozoists can raise their profile as a working ensemble is to hire themselves out as a self-contained backing band for ambitious singer/songwriters. It's apparently something that Aucoin, who saw the benefits of such cross-genre collabos first-hand as a member of the Sadies, has been giving serious consideration.
"Oh yeah," says Aucoin, "we'd love to back up some creative singer/songwriter on a recording project - just name the style you want us to play. I've already had a few interesting offers, so I'm really looking forward to the time when we can start taking people up on their ideas."